Take your overnight Singapore Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Cairns via Singapore.
G’day, Australia! This afternoon we fly into Cairns, capital of the Tropical North and a great introduction to ‘Oz’. On arrival, we’ll transfer to the four-star superior Pullman Cairns International for three nights, with breakfast.
Today we board the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway, just a short drive outside Cairns. This breathtaking journey through a World Heritage-listed rainforest on one of the world’s most scenic train routes will take us through hand-hewn tunnels and across bridges with amazing views to the charming village of Kuranda. Full of arts-and-crafts shops and art galleries, Kuranda is a delightful spot for lunch. We then board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which will take us skimming over the pristine forest canopy to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to explore the rich history of Australia’s indigenous culture dating back over 40,000 years, making it the world’s oldest living culture.
Today we travel by catamaran to Green Island, a beautiful 6,000-year-old coral cay, for a leisurely self-guided nature walk, and then continue to the Great Barrier Reef. We moor alongside a permanent pontoon and enjoy an on-board presentation about coral reefs and a delicious buffet lunch. In the afternoon, you can explore the wonders of the reef from a glass-bottomed boat or enjoy some snorkelling (equipment provided). We return to Cairns in the late afternoon to complete a fabulous day.
We fly to Melbourne today, arriving in the afternoon. We then continue to the spectacular Eureka Tower, where we have awe-inspiring views from the Skydeck, the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere. Our hotel is the four-star Stamford Plaza for two nights with breakfast.
A morning at leisure today before driving through the eastern suburbs to Phillip Island for the early-dusk Penguin Parade: every day the world’s smallest penguins come ashore after fishing for whitebait for their young. To see them come out of the surf in small groups and waddle up the beach is a unique spectacle.
This morning we fly to Sydney. What can one say about one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Sydney’s stunning Harbour Bridge and Opera House alone would make this a world-class destination, but when coupled with the beaches, parks, amazing restaurants and fascinating convict history, this is a city like no other. Our hotel is the fabulously located four-star superior Sir Stamford on Circular Quay, right in the centre of the city and just a short walk from the Opera House. We stay here for three nights with breakfast. This evening you’ll enjoy a dinner cruise with superb harbour views.
Enjoy a comprehensive sightseeing tour taking in the historical Rocks area and the Sydney Opera House. Other highlights include colourful Chinatown, cosmopolitan Kings Cross and world-famous Bondi Beach. Your afternoon is at leisure.
Today we’ll discover the beauty of the Blue Mountains – a wonderful contrast to the hustle and bustle of Sydney. You’ll see the stunning Three Sisters rock formation and take in splendid views of the vast Jamison Valley below. A cable car 270 metres above the valley offers great views of Katoomba Falls, before a ride on the world’s steepest incline railway takes us down the escarpment to a path through lush eucalypt forests teaming with a rich diversity of plant and bird life. We return to Sydney in the late afternoon.
We transfer to the airport for our three-hour flight to New Zealand. On arrival in Auckland, we stay for two nights, with breakfast, at the excellent four-star Grand Millennium Hotel.
This morning enjoy the sights of Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’. We explore the lively waterfront area enjoying the superb views along Tamaki Drive, which runs past peaceful sheltered bays to Auckland's most expensive real estate. We drive through the Auckland Domain Wintergardens and visit the world-class Auckland Museum, which gives us an excellent introduction to the peoples of the Pacific and New Zealand, as well as the remarkable flora, fauna and geography of the entire region.
Departing Auckland, we travel north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to visit the Matakohe Kauri Museum at Otamatea, where you’ll gain an insight to the early pioneer history of New Zealand. Continuing our journey north, we reach Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands. Here you’ll take a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty House, where in 1840 Māori chiefs and the original European settlers signed the Treaty of Waitangi, the basis of the future governance of New Zealand. Our hotel for the next two nights is the four-star Scenic, with breakfast.
This morning we see the Bay of Islands in the best way possible via our luxury catamaran cruise – there’s usually an excellent chance of spotting wild dolphins! We continue to Cape Brett and hopefully make a passage through the majestic Hole in the Rock (weather permitting), before disembarking at the historic small town of Russell. The first European settlement in New Zealand and just a 10-minute ferry ride from Paihia (ticket included), Russell is an ideal place for a spot of lunch. On your return, the rest of the day is at your leisure to enjoy many of the activities the Bay of Islands has to offer.
We travel south through Whangarei and Auckland to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua, ‘the Sulphur City’. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautiful coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by the mineral-rich water. Rotorua is also renowned for its Māori cultural activities. Our hotel is the four-star Millennium Hotel, where we stay two nights, with breakfast.
This morning we visit Te Puia, where our local Māori guide will bring to life traditional Māori arts and crafts, and we’ll view the famous Pohutu geyser in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. You will have the opportunity to see live kiwi, thermal springs, boiling mud pools, native bush and the national schools of wood carving and weaving. This evening you will be treated to a traditional Hangi buffet dinner, cooked the traditional Māori way in an earth oven, and enjoy a powerful cultural performance.
Today we fly to Queenstown via Christchurch, the Switzerland of the southern hemisphere. On arrival, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Queenstown, which includes a visit to historic Arrowtown, a pretty village that now rests under shady trees but was once a rip-roaring gold rush town. We’ll ride the aerial gondola to Bob’s Peak to see the stunning panoramic views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, which really lives up to its name. Our hotel is the four-star Copthorne Hotel for three nights, with breakfast.
Leaving Queenstown, we skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu and travel via Te Anau through the Homer Tunnel into the spectacular Cleddau Valley and famous Milford Sound, arguably the most spectacular fjord in the country. A boat trip on the deep fjord waters between sheer granite cliffs rising thousands of feet affords wonderful views of mile-high Mitre Peak, one of the most photographed peaks in New Zealand, and the magnificent 500-foot Stirling Falls. Fur seals and dolphins can often be seen in these waters. In the afternoon, we head back to Queenstown.
Today is at leisure in Queenstown, one of the best places in the world for adventure activities. Experience the thrill of a jetboat ride along the Shotover River, a 4x4 safari, helicopter trips, guided walks or a cruise across Lake Wakatipu – the choices are staggering!
Departing Queenstown, we drive past the glacial lakes of Wanaka and Hawea over the Haast Pass and down to the West Coast – one of the best drives in New Zealand. We stay overnight in Franz Josef Glacier Village at the four-star Scenic Hotel, with breakfast, and see the mighty Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Helicopter and light aircraft scenic flights are available to book locally for stunning glacier views (weather permitting).
Driving north we stop at the small town of Hokitika to visit a greenstone factory and see how the stone highly prized by the Māori is crafted into exquisite jewellery. Heading inland to the small remote village of Arthur’s Pass, we board the TranzAlpine train for a scenic rail journey through the heart of the mighty Southern Alps to the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch, where we stay at the three-star superior Quality Elms for our last night in the country.
After breakfast, we bid a fond farewell to New Zealand and transfer to the airport for our flight home via Singapore.
Arrive home after the flight back to the UK.