Stylish and friendly Melbourne extends a warm welcome to your epic tour (flights to arrive prior to 12pm). You’ll soon see you’re staying right in the heart of the action on the banks of the Yarra River, the perfect springboard for your time in the city. After settling into your hotel, get to know your Travel Director and fellow travellers over a Welcome Reception at The General Assembly. Perched on the Yarra River’s South Wharf, this modern pub is a great introduction to Melbourne’s cosmopolitan vibe. Relax and tuck into a three-course dinner with specialties such as Fisherman’s bend pie, schnitzel, and mac & cheese croquettes, washing it down with your choice of local wines and 15 beers on tap.
Delve into the city this morning on a private walk with your Travel Director to discover the little lanes, arcades, and café society of stylish Melbourne. View its famous, edgy street art–in the striking contrast to federation buildings and churches that Melbourne is known for—and immerse yourself in the city’s robust coffee aroma, admiring the exquisite Victorian façades lining grand boulevards. After your orientation, you have the rest of the day to get a feel for the city strolling or finding a spot on the Yarra River to grab a drink, taking advantage of the time to do a little souvenir shopping, relaxing back at your hotel, or choosing an optional experience such as the popular viewing of the daily sea-to-shore trek of the tiny, adorable penguins on Phillip Island. This rare wildlife encounter is a fascinating look at the penguins’ life and one you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
Get ready for a change of scenery and “locals” today as you fly north to Cairns. Then get right in the action meeting a Local Specialist for a private wildlife encounter at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures on a boat cruise through where the crocs are the stars of the show popping up from the murky waters or lazing on the bank. Safe in your boat, your local guide will give you the inside scoop on the life and habits of these Cairns’ area locals. Inspired by your introduction to wildlife, you’ll love your next experience helping take part in a Rainforest Restoration project to protect the natural wonder of the nearby Notophyll Vine Forest, an area older than the Amazon. Your helping-hand planting trees supports the protection of this rare type of dry rainforest from development and restores it to its former glory as an important wildlife corridor rich with native birds - a mission you’ll feel good contributing to. Back in town, enjoy your evening on your own sampling some of the city’s famous seafood around the Cairns Marina or visiting the Cairns Night Markets where you’ll find it hard to take your pick of over 70 open-air stalls of local specialities.
No matter where you hail from, today is a bucket list experience exploring the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef as we set sail on a high-speed catamaran —and you have a full day to do it. Kick the day off, then don your mask and fins for a snorkel (equipment provided) exploring this underwater wonderland up close. You’ll think you’re inside an aquarium as you wind your way through the rainbow of reefs and fish. Or, stay dry in your semi-submersible, air-conditioned craft with an underwater observatory to view the tropical species that live in the world’s largest coral reef system. Your local guide shares all their insights on the reef and its ecology. Learn about the colourful fish and plants that call the Reef home and why it’s so important to protect this beautiful and fragile ecosystem. Refuel with lunch and afternoon tea and coffee under the glorious Aussie sunshine before you cruise back into the city, all smiles after an amazing day.
Soak up the atmosphere of sunny Cairns with a free day to explore the town, head further afield, or relax by your hotel pool. You can also choose to join a popular Optional Experience aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway through a lush forest past gorges, ravines, and waterfalls to Kuranda 'village in the rainforest.' Explore this quaint village of trails, wildlife sanctuaries, shops, and markets within a World Heritage rainforest before returning to the lowlands soaring above the canopy on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Tonight, join the group to trade tales from the day at Ochre Restaurant. With views of the inlet and mountains, watch the boats come in over the Harbour Lights’ boardwalk as you enjoy Australian cuisine featuring the best local produce. Try their dry old Tablelands beef or Salt and Pepper Prawn with a craft beer, glass of wine from their extensive list, or cocktail highlighting their largest selection of Australian spirits in the region.
We’re only six days into our Australia and New Zealand tour and the journey continues leaving the golden beaches of Cairns behind and heading to Sydney, Australia’s largest city, harbour, and fun-loving metropolis. Settle into your hotel in lively Darling Harbour - the best location when visiting Sydney - before exploring it from the water on a sunset Harbour Cruise Regional Dinner. With spectacular views all around, you’ll watch day turn to night from their spacious decks or inside expansive windows as you enjoy dinner on the water. From Circular Quay and Shark Island to magnificent waterfront homes, beaches, and parklands, you’re starting your time in Sydney in the best - and most relaxing - way. Soak in the beloved Opera House illuminated against the night sky and Sydney Harbour Bridge stretching across the harbour like a diamond necklace.
Relax and enjoy a late start to the day before seeing another side of the city and exploring the true local side of Sydney. Tour Newtown, a community rich with lively culture and home to numerous street art sites that will surprise you. Continue through the suburb of Marrickville, recently crowned the 10th “coolest” and most liveable neighbourhood in the world, before arriving at Dear Delicious Café to Connect With Locals. Meet the owner Greg in his bountiful, sustainable garden and learn how he’s brought urban farming to the community before enjoying a tasty Be My Guest Lunch showcasing his fresh, local produce such as beets, kale, and aromatic mushrooms. After lunch you’ll head to Batch Brewery to meet founder Andrew and join a masterclass and tasting learning how his team creates inspired limited release batches like Mole Poblano Choco Chilli Stout using sustainable practices. Make sure to try one of their specialties like Pash the Magic Dragon or Tasman Tango South Pacific Ale. After a full day of the food and drink of Sydney, your evening is free to relax or do some shopping around Darling Harbour.
Begin your last day in Sydney visiting Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay, a tranquil hideaway overlooking Sydney Harbour and the perfect place to spend your last day in town, a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience. Meet a local volunteer and learn the story of how the garden was transformed, beginning in 1992 from unused railway land at the foot of founder Wendy’s house into a beautiful, whimsical, tucked away retreat. Stroll the grounds, poking around the nooks and crannies where shrubs, herbs, and towering trees line meandering paths and find a quiet corner to enjoy a moment of peace amid a dazzling city. You’ll no doubt want to stay a while - just as the resident parrots, gulls, kookaburras and wagtails have done - but as your time draws to a close, take comfort in knowing your visit provides a contribution to the ongoing maintenance by volunteer gardeners of this enchanting garden. On your last night in town, take one last walk around the harbour before sitting down to a Regional Dinner on the waterfront saying a fond farewell to Australia before experiencing a change of scenery on the next leg of your journey in New Zealand.
Say a fond hoo roo to Australia on your Australia and New Zealand tour as you board your flight to Auckland. Upon arrival, ease into the warm, welcoming embrace of the City of Sails before meeting your Travel Director for dinner at your hotel right in the heart of the city, Gusto at the Grand. You’ll love their Italian cuisine with a New Zealand flair such as made-in-house pastas and made-from-scratch risotto and no doubt full of anticipation for your first full day in New Zealand tomorrow.
This morning, you’ll see how the city earned its name as the ‘City of Sails’ as you jump right in with a city sightseeing tour showcasing the beautiful waterfront of Mission Bay, historic overlook of Bastion Point, and spacious gardens and sunken pool at the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial offering sweeping views of Waitemata Harbour and the North Shore. You’ll even head out to the Auckland Museum located on the dormant volcano Pukekawa, meaning 'hill of bitter memories' referring to tribal battles fought on the site until 1828. Cap off your tour visiting the quaint shops and art galleries in the stylish suburb of Parnell. Pop into one of their many chocolate cafes for a treat after a full morning of exploring. Your afternoon is free to relax, stroll the waterfront, or take an optional trip outside the city soaking skyline views as your ferry takes you to Rangitoto Island, the youngest volcano in New Zealand. Climb this icon walking through lava fields to the highest point on the island where you'll be greeted with panoramic views of Auckland from another vantage point - a great way to top off your first full day in New Zealand.
Journey through the dramatic scenery and landscapes of Waikato, passing through Cambridge, on your way to New Zealand’s cultural capital, Rotorua. On Cambridge’s tree-lined main street, learn about the town’s claim to fame as the training grounds for thoroughbred racehorses and famous jockeys. Your time in Rotorua kicks off to an extra cute start with the first of two MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences today, visiting Rainbow Springs Nature Park for a tour of the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa with a Local Specialist. At this national leader in kiwi husbandry, learn about the work being done to save this rare native bird. Get up close and see kiwi eggs being incubated, the hatching process, and even newly hatched kiwi chicks - leaving you with an appreciation for those trying to save New Zealand’s national bird. This evening, Dive Into Culture at a Regional Dinner at Tamaki Maori Village where you’ll journey into the forest to a time of warriors and ancient traditions. You’ll be welcomed by their Poi and Haka dances - and have the chance to join in - before enjoying an authentic Hangi (cooked underground) dinner of kumara (Maori for sweet potato), potatoes, carrots, lamb, beef, finished with New Zealand’s national dessert, Pavlova, and live music under the stars.
Hello, Hobbit fans, today is a bucket list adventure to the charming village of Hobbiton, the movie set of the now iconic The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. Enjoy breakfast “on set” before you’re treated to guided tour through the 12-acre set stopping in the Alexander family sheep farm, past Hobbit Holes, and the Mill as your guides points out how the movie was made, famous locations, and the sets’ artistic details. Even if you’ve never seen the films or read the books, you’ll be entranced by the rolling green hills and lush landscape surrounded by the distant Kaimai Range. It’s no wonder this beautiful land has become the site of a worldwide sensation. After a full day in the countryside, you’ll return to Auckland to board your flight to Queenstown, adventure capital of the world. Settle into town and talk to your Travel Director for recommendations of the best restaurants to soak in the city views you’ve come to love.
Rise and shine journeying through some of the best natural and dramatic landscapes you'll ever experience along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and over the Devil's Staircase to Te Anau. Stroll the boardwalks of Mirror Lakes and amble through peaceful trees before watching water rush over rocks at the Chasm in the Cleddau Valley. Emerge from the hand-hewn Homer Tunnel towards Mitre Peak—named after its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre headdress—and Lady Bowen Falls before reaching World Heritage listed national park, Milford Sound. You get to the experience this treasure on a scenic cruise getting up close to sheer cliffs, white-capped peaks, and waterfalls as you watch for dolphins, penguins, and seals. Take it all in as you learn how the dramatic landscapes of Milford Sound were carved out by the erosion of ancient glacial ice. After a day of natural beauty, return to Queenstown for a free evening to stay in and wind down or dine at one of the restaurants overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
It’s your final day in Queenstown and the world is your oyster. Oenophiles will want to join an Optional Experience touring three premium boutique vineyards in the famous Otago region known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll indulge in vineyard and barrel hall tours complete with early history of the region and, of course, plenty of tastings as well as a platter lunch with the vines as your backdrop. Perhaps cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for an authentic Kiwi Farming experience complete with a sheep shearing demonstration and gourmet barbecue lunch. With more sheep than people in New Zealand, you’ll know this is the real thing! This evening, we take a step back in time with our Travel Director over a Regional Dinner at the Postmasters Cottage built in 1907 in nearby historic Arrowtown. You’ll learn how after the cottage was almost demolished by developers, it was then saved and purchased by the passionate local community and ultimately restored and embellished with verandas and gardens. Lastly, sit down to fresh, local food and wines matched with friendly service that the kiwis are known for.
Leave the alpine wonderland of Queenstown for Lake Tekapo, travelling through Arrowtown’s lovingly restored mining cottages, and Cromwell on the banks of Lake Dunstan. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside a painting as you see the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd perched on the shores of the lake and built with stones gathered within a five-mile radius. Then the night sky calls as you spend the evening stargazing in the world-renowned UNESCO Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Your Local Specialist will show you the famous Southern Cross, Magellanic Cloud, and Milky Way as you gaze up in wonder and get a closer look using a powerful optical telescope. Cap off your adventures in this beautiful part of the world with an overnight at Peppers Bluewater Resort overlooking Lake Tekapo. Experience this location known for its bountiful stars strolling the sprawling grounds or from the comfort of your room.
Watch the sun rise over the lake or enjoy a relaxed start before heading north through South Canterbury, en route to Christchurch. You’ll stop in the charming town of Geraldine, known for its boutique shops, a farmers' market and - perhaps most unusual - the world's largest knitted jersey! You’ll have time to stretch your legs, enjoy lunch in one of the many cafes, and stroll the quaint town and unique galleries and stores - maybe pop inside the Geraldine Historical Society Museum or their notable vintage car and machinery museum. And if you’re still feeling peckish, visit the original Barkers shop showcasing local jams, condiments and sauces, or Talbots Forest Cheese for complimentary samples. Wherever you explore, you’ll be immersed in beauty as the town is surrounded by mountains and ancient native forest including huge trees such as the totara, kahikatea, and matai. As you take in the scenery of this farming community, you’ll see why fishing, alpaca walking, and petting zoos are also popular in the area. After a day soaking up country life, you’ll arrive in Christchurch ready to explore the Garden City.
You’ll enjoy your last full day in Christchurch, a beautiful English city rich in history and thriving after rebuilding itself from the devastating 2011 earthquake. Everywhere you look you can easily see how it’s earned its name, the Garden City. Begin at the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral, to admire its colourful stained-glass windows and sustainable cardboard construction that gives it the nickname “The Cardboard Cathedral.” You’ll take a tour of the highlights of the city including Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Earthquake Memorial, Bridge of Remembrance, and see the English punting boaters in their striped hats along the Avon River. After your tour, you’ll Connect With Locals in the beautiful home - and former horse stables - of Tim and Isabelle Weston for a unique experience over a Be My Guest morning tea, coffee, scones, and cake. Motor enthusiasts will love hearing about Isabelle’s father John Britten’s achievements building the Britten V1000 motorcycle, built right here in the Britten Stables’ garage. After an insightful afternoon, join your Travel Director and travel mates and toast your incredible adventure across Australia and New Zealand with a celebratory three-course Farewell Dinner featuring produce from the Canterbury region.
Your adventure sadly comes to an end this morning. Before your transfer you to the Christchurch Airport, enjoy one last breakfast with your travel mates reflecting on your adventure, food, and wildlife-filled experiences across Australia and New Zealand (flights anytime).