Active travelers looking for outdoor adventures Down Under will love this exciting 21-day tour of Australia and New Zealand. You'll combine sightseeing highlights with various outdoor activities such as hiking, nature cruises, snorkeling, and even the more extreme: bungee jumping and jet boating. Start in Sydney and travel to Northern Queensland before hopping across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where you'll traverse both the South and North Islands, from Queenstown to Auckland.


  • Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for epic city views
  • See underwater life on a snorkeling excursion of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Take in the stunning beauty of Milford Sound / Piopiotahi on a cruise
  • Sip your way around wineries in Marlborough and Waiheke Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney (Australia), Sunset Dinner Cruise Sydney
Day 2 Day Trip to the Blue Mountains & Hiking Tour Sydney
Day 3 Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise, City Highlights Bike Tour, Bridge Climb Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Cairns, Explore Cairns
Day 5 Full-Day Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour Cairns
Day 6 Kuranda Scenic Railway & Skyrail Cairns
Day 7 Fly to Queenstown (New Zealand), Walter Peak Farm & Barbecue Dinner Queenstown
Day 8 Day Trip to Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, Nature Cruise & Scenic Flight Queenstown
Day 9 Hike the Routeburn Trail Queenstown
Day 10 Bungee Jump, Shotover River Jet Boat Ride, Evening Onsen Bath Queenstown
Day 11 Drive to Wānaka, Lake Wānaka Cruise & Nature Walk, Optional Skydive Wānaka
Day 12 Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier Lake & Hooker Valley Hike Aoraki / Mount Cook
Day 13 Drive to Christchurch, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 14 Day Trip to Arthur's Pass via the TranzAlpine Train Christchurch
Day 15 Drive to Kaikōura via Waipara Valley & Hanmer Springs, Sunset Kayaking Kaikōura
Day 16 Whale Watching Tour, Drive to Blenheim, Optional Wine Tasting Blenheim
Day 17 Wineries & Marlborough Sounds Day Tour Blenheim
Day 18 Fly to Auckland, America's Cup Sailing Experience Auckland
Day 19 Full-Day Hobbiton Movie Set & Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour Auckland
Day 20 Waiheke Island Winery Tour & Zipline Adventure Auckland
Day 21 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney (Australia), Sunset Dinner Cruise

Welcome to Sydney
Enjoy views of Sydney Harbour after your arrival

Welcome to Australia! Your driver will meet you upon your arrival at Sydney Airport and drive you to your hotel in the city. Often mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), Sydney feels like the country's central metropolis thanks to its iconic sights, historic neighborhoods, world-class culinary and nightlife scenes, prime waterfront location, and pristine beaches (well over 100).

After you've had time to drop your bags off at your hotel and freshen up, visit Sydney Harbour and enjoy a drink at a waterfront bar with stunning city views. Then, board a sunset cruise to take you out onto the water. Watch the setting sun color the city as you enjoy your first relaxed meal in Australia.

Day 2: Day Trip to the Blue Mountains & Hiking Tour

The Three Sisters , Blue Mountains
Hike to the lookout over the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

After a good night's sleep, get active on a full-day tour to the Blue Mountains, a scenic area just west of Sydney. Your first stop will be at Calmsley Hill, a working farm home to kangaroos, emus, and wombats. Next, visit one of a range of stunning outlooks over the Jamison Valley, just the first of many scenic views you'll enjoy today. Arrive at Eaglehawk Lookout, a remote lookout point away from the crowds, for panoramas of the famous Three Sisters rock formation. 

Next, head to Evans Lookout, where you'll be given your packed lunch and instructions on the hiking trail you'll follow. Cross several valleys and ridges as you hike from Evans Lookout to Govetts Leap, all the while looking out across Australia's answer to the Grand Canyon, the forested Grose Valley. The hike concludes at one of Australia's most famous lookouts: Govetts Leap. You'll need moderate fitness to enjoy this hike. 

Before you return to Sydney, stop at the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, where you can check out the local flora, including the ancient Wollemi pine. 

Day 3: Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise, City Highlights Bike Tour, Bridge Climb

Take a relaxing lunchtime cruise on Sydney Harbour

Get to know Sydney better today with a range of active adventures. Start with a leisurely late morning cruise, coinciding with lunchtime. Relax at your table as you pass the iconic sights around Sydney Harbour, such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. You'll enjoy a multicourse Australian barbecue lunch (beer and wine included) as you sail. Listen to insightful commentary about the history of Sydney Harbour along the way, and participate in a range of activities from the boat if you like, such as fishing, kayaking, and even swimming.

In the afternoon, work off that lunch on an easy bicycle tour that will take you to several must-see areas of the city. Enjoy harbor views as you pedal past Circular Quay, the piers at Walsh Bay, Darling Harbour, Hyde Park, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It's an excellent way to cover a lot of ground.

Later on, if you're unafraid of heights, you can participate in one of Sydney's most exciting activities: a bridge climb. Strap on your safety gear and harness and embark on a journey that will take you 439 feet (134 m) above sea level and up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You'll be treated to 360-degree city views, including west to the Blue Mountains. At the end of the climb, receive a photograph of your group, a personalized certificate, and a cap.

Day 4: Fly to Cairns, Explore

Check out the artificial beach at Cairns' Esplanade

Leave Sydney behind today and fly to Cairns in Northern Queensland. This tropical paradise on the shores of Trinity Bay is the gateway to some of Australia's most remarkable natural attractions: sitting just offshore is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most popular diving sites, while to the north lies another UNESCO treasure, the ancient rainforests of the Daintree National Park.

The flight from Sydney takes about three hours, so after your arrival, spend some time relaxing and getting used to the change in climate. If you want to freshen up with a swim, perhaps check out the artificial beach at the Esplanade in Cairns.

Day 5: Full-Day Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour

Spend a full day at the Great Barrier Reef

Head out into the Great Barrier Reef today on a full-day tour. Board a vessel that will take you to the all-weather Marine World platform, which caters to all activity levels. Snorkel in the sheltered coral lagoon or join a marine biologist on a guided snorkel safari. Experience the reef from the semi-submersible reef viewer, glass-bottomed boat, or underwater observatory. The boat docks next to a large, fixed pontoon, from where you can snorkel atop the reef. Be amazed by the variety and colors of the marine life here, including fish, corals, and perhaps even a turtle.

Day 6: Kuranda Scenic Railway & Skyrail

The Kuranda Scenic Rail
Ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway for rainforest views in Australia's north

Explore a completely different ecosystem today as you venture into the rainforest-covered mountains inland from Cairns. Start at the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, where you'll hop on board a gondola and ascend over the jungle canopy of Barron Gorge to the rainforest village of Kuranda. There are two stops en route where you can explore rainforest boardwalks and the CSIRO Interpretive Centre, which showcases Australian science history.

Upon arrival in Kuranda, you'll have free time to explore this fascinating village. The Heritage Markets operate seven days a week, full of stalls selling handmade arts and crafts. Optional activities include visiting Birdworld, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, or the Kuranda Koala Gardens if you have any particular interests. At the scheduled time, board the Kuranda Scenic Railway for the return journey to Freshwater Station. As you descend the mountains, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the tropical rainforest and across the sugar cane fields of Cairns.

Day 7: Fly to Queenstown (New Zealand), Walter Peak Farm & Barbecue Dinner

Ride the TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu

You'll fly southeast to Queenstown today, a mountain city on New Zealand's South Island. Upon your arrival in Queenstown, you'll pick up your 4WD rental car for the next portion of your trip, first driving into town to find your accommodation. Queenstown is on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the Southern Alps. This ruggedly beautiful region is known as the adventure sports capital of New Zealand. Here you can enjoy hair-raising thrills that include skydiving, bungee jumping, jet-boating, and ziplining; you'll get a taste of some of these in the next few days.

To kickstart your stay in Queenstown, take an evening cruise on the TSS Earnslaw steamship across Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm. Enjoy a barbecue dinner with rotisserie-cooked meats, seasonal vegetables, salads, desserts, and New Zealand cheeses. You can also watch demonstrations about high country life on the farm. After the meal, step back on board the steamship and join a sing-along with the ship's pianist. Watch the lights of Queenstown come back into focus as you sail back to town.

Day 8: Day Trip to Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, Nature Cruise & Scenic Flight

The world-famous Milford Sound
Enjoy the reflective views of Mitre Peak at Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

Take a day trip today to one of the South Island's most famous sights: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park. Admire the views of The Remarkables mountains as you leave town, as you'll be traveling in a glass-roofed coach that provides uninterrupted vistas. After a journey through lush rural farmland, you'll stop for morning tea in the picturesque lakeside town of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland.

Continue your journey along Milford Road into Fiordland, taking in the sights like Mirror Lakes, where, on a clear day, you'll see the reflection of the mountains on the water's surface. Quench your thirst at Monkey Creek, where you can drink pristine glacial water straight from the stream. Travel through the stunning engineering feat, the Homer Tunnel, carved out of solid rock through the mountains. Marvel at the Chasm, a series of uniquely shaped rocks and potholes formed by the Cleddau River rushing into a dark narrow abyss. Finally, descend through the Cleddau Valley into Milford Sound / Piopiotahi.

Board your small boutique boat for a cruise surrounded by stunning snowcapped mountains. Cruise past rugged cliffs covered in native rainforests, with powerful waterfalls that tumble hundreds of feet into the fjord, and look for seals, dolphins, and penguins in the waters below. After your cruise, instead of retracing this morning's road journey, you'll return to Queenstown on a scenic 45-minute flight over the mountains, fjords, and hidden lakes. 

Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Hike the Routeburn Trail

Hike part of one of New Zealand's Great Walks, the Routeburn Trail

Get active today on a day version of one of the world's top hikes, a New Zealand Great Walks, the Routeburn Track. While the full trek takes several days, you'll get a one-day taster today, so wear some comfortable shoes. Explore the valley and be rewarded with spectacular views and a picnic lunch. Surrounded by the sounds of rivers, waterfalls, and native birds, you'll feel like you've left civilization far behind. Average fitness is required as this is an easy-to-moderate trail with up to seven hours of walking. 

Day 10: Bungee Jump, Shotover River Jet Boat Ride, Evening Onsen Bath

Nevis Bungy 134 Meters
Take a leap of faith at the Nevis Bungy

Today is your chance to see why Queenstown is known as New Zealand's adventure sports capital. Start with a thrilling 8.5 seconds bungee jump at the Nevis Bungy, 439 feet (134 m) above the Nevis River. Even just getting to the jumping site is fun: the rugged 35-minute 4WD drive takes you through the backcountry of Central Otago.

If the bungee jump wasn't thrilling enough, you'll board a high-speed jet boat in the afternoon for an exhilarating ride through the Shotover River Canyon. Be prepared to get wet as your jet navigates through 46 miles (75 km) of rapids and narrow twists and turns. Don't forget to look up and enjoy the views along the way!

After today's nail-biting adventures, reward yourself with an evening relaxing in hot pools under the stars. Based on the Japanese bathing tradition, Onsen offers cedar-lined steaming pools on a cliffside overlooking the Shotover River. Enjoy an hourlong soak accompanied by a drink and snack as you take in the alpine scenery. The water temperature averages 101.3°F (38.5°C), but one of the summer pools is kept cold for those who relish an icy plunge.

Day 11: Drive to Wānaka, Lake Wānaka Cruise & Nature Walk, Optional Skydive

Cruise out to Mou Waho Island in Lake Wānaka

Leave Queenstown today and drive about an hour to Wānaka, stopping en route at pretty Arrowtown. The Otago region and the Arrow River were the sites of a gold rush in the 1860s, with miners from Europe and China flocking here. In Arrowtown, about a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, you can learn about the area's history. Walk along the Arrow River and past historical buildings. Visit the Historic Arrowtown Chinese Settlement and the Lakes District Museum to learn more about local history. From Arrowtown, you'll drive over the Crown Range to Wānaka, the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park.

After your arrival, check off a must-do Wānaka attraction: a visit to the Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. The island is one of five in Lake Wānaka, accessed via a 35-minute boat ride. It's a scientific reserve and home to native New Zealand wildlife. Mou Waho's most notable feature is Arethusa Pool. This small lake on the island has its own island within—you can catch the best views of this island-on-a-lake-inside-an-island-on-a-lake from the top of Tyrwhitt Peak on Mou Waho. You'll also get beautiful panoramic views of Lake Wānaka and the surrounding glacial mountains and valleys. 

Later, if you're feeling brave, you can jump out of a plane at 12-15,000 feet (3,600-4,500 m) on a skydiving adventure, adding the experience to your extreme activity resume. You don't need previous skydiving experience as it's surprisingly easy to jump out of a plane when there are such beautiful views to enjoy on the way down.

Day 12: Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier Lake & Hooker Valley Hike

Hike on the Hooker Valley Track and cross the white water of Hooker River by swing bridge

Say goodbye to the Queenstown-Lakes District today and drive 2.5 hours (128 mi / 206 km) to Aoraki / Mount Cook village. Passing through the  Clutha River Valley, you'll first arrive at the quaint village of Tarras, which has several boutique stores and a lovely café. Then traverse the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand's highest roads at 3,185 feet (971 m). The tussock-covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from Central Otago into the Mackenzie Basin. The towns of Ōmarama and Twizel are the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount Cook Highway along the shores to Aoraki / Mount Cook.

To see Aoraki / Mount Cook's 500-year-old icebergs up close, board a cruise to sail the Tasman Glacier Lake. You'll see the country's largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier, as you weave around floating icebergs in a specially-designed boat. A guide will point out key landmarks as you glide across the water, surrounded by towering ice cliffs.

If you're making good time today and the weather is favorable, take a 5-mile (8 km) walking tour of the Hooker Valley, where you'll enjoy breathtaking views of some of New Zealand's highest and most enthralling peaks. Your guide will talk about the unique flora and fauna of the region and the local history as you trek through this stunning landscape. The journey passes over the turbulent Hooker River twice by a swing bridge, providing unsurpassed vistas of Aoraki / Mount Cook's south face and the surrounding glaciers and mountains. You'll end up at the terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier

Day 13: Drive to Christchurch, Historic Tram Dinner

Dine on a historic tram in Christchurch

Cross the Southern Alps today and head four hours to Christchurch. Leaving Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor center on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the views of the mountain. A little farther on, Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities as Lake Pukaki, with bright turquoise waters. You'll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed landmarks in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog Statue.

From here, travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley surrounding Geraldine. Continue across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch, your destination for the night. Often referred to as the Garden City, Christchurch features many trees and extensive parks and gardens, the most prominent of which is Hagley Park in the city center. 

Enjoy some free time after your arrival, then tonight, board a historic tram for an elegant dinner while making the rounds of central Christchurch's top attractions. Sit back and relax as you take in the views of the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum, and the Avon River / Ōtākaro from your window-side table. Professional waitstaff serve a welcome drink upon arrival, followed by a gourmet four-course meal. 

Day 14: Day Trip to Arthur's Pass via the TranzAlpine Train

Check out the views of Arthurs Pass National Park from the TranzAlpine Train

Head back into the Southern Alps today during a day trip to Arthur's Pass National Park. Travel across the Canterbury Plains into the high country aboard the TranzAlpine train. The train journey through the Waimakariri Gorge is particularly spectacular. Disembark at the Arthur's Pass National Park station, from where you can take short walks. Follow the old stagecoach route and view the Otira Gorge.

Visit Cave Stream, which burrows underground in an area of limestone cliffs, gorges, and craggy outcrops, and the Castle Hill rocks, unique weatherworn outcrops of limestone regarded sacred by the Māori. Return to Christchurch by car.

Day 15: Drive to Kaikōura via Waipara Valley & Hanmer Springs, Sunset Kayaking

Kaikōura is a coastal town backed by the Kaikōura Range of mountains

Head north up the Canterbury coast today. The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikōura takes you through the rolling hills in about 2.5 hours of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Stop at a winery or two for a sip and a bite to eat. Take an inland detour to Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. The large outdoor complex has a range of baths of different temperatures, which are delightful in any season. Kids can enjoy the slides and the lazy river, too. Aim to spend at least a couple of hours here.

When you feel sufficiently relaxed, continue your journey and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikōura coastline, where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive. Kaikōura draws in many visitors each year, who come to check out the abundant sea life that thrives in the food-rich icy waters. Kaikōura's whales, seals, and dolphins tend to visit year-round, so you may be able to spot them on a boat trip no matter when you visit. 

In the evening, enjoy an active kayaking adventure. Watch seals frolicking on the rocks and swimming around your kayak as the sun sets. Paddle with them as they swim around on the hunt for octopus; you may even get lucky and see them battling with their dinner. Also, keep an eye out for blue penguins, albatross, or chance encounters with dusky dolphins. This sunset kayaking trip is suitable for all abilities, and no previous kayaking experience is required.

Day 16: Whale Watching Tour, Drive to Blenheim, Optional Wine Tasting

Kaikōura is a whale watching hotspot

Take a whale watching tour in a catamaran this morning, searching for the giant sperm whales that live in the deep offshore waters. You'll likely see fur seals and dusky dolphins leaping through the waves and albatross swooping overhead. Seasonal sightings may include southern right, pilot, blue, or migrating humpback whales. 

After your tour, head north from Kaikōura. The road hugs the coast for approximately 30 miles (50 km) and offers many opportunities to view native wildlife like seabirds and fur seals. One of the best seal-watching locations is Ohau Point, where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in a waterfall a short walk from the road. As you drive, you'll have the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean to your east and the towering Kaikōura Ranges to your west.

Traveling north, you'll reach Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine-producing region. Its capital, Blenheim, sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is a great base for exploring the surrounding vineyards known to produce some of the world's best sauvignon blanc. Most of the wineries are located in nearby Renwick. Perhaps you'll want to start with a tasting at Montana Brancott Estate, which boasts some of the area's best views. Then head to Wither Hills to have lunch in the garden. Finish your self-guided wine tour at Balder, a family-owned business where the grapes are still hand-picked.

Day 17: Wineries & Marlborough Sounds Day Tour

Tour the wineries around Blenheim

Marlborough has become world famous for two iconic areas, the Marlborough wine region, and the Marlborough Sounds. Enjoy the perfect combo tour through both areas on a Marlborough highlights tour. Start with a wine tasting around Blenheim, then continue to the dramatically different Marlborough Sounds: a series of sunken valleys that comprise four sounds, Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru, and Mahau.

In the afternoon, hop on board the Seafood Cruise from Picton. Learn about seafood farming, take in some stunning scenery, and enjoy fresh local seafood with a glass of award-winning Marlborough wine.

Day 18: Fly to Auckland, America's Cup Sailing Experience

Auckland's skyline
Auckland is known as the City of Sails

Say goodbye to the South Island today as you board a flight to Auckland, near the top of the North Island. New Zealand's largest metropolis is known as the City of Sails, as its surrounded by water, and sailboats can be seen everywhere. Besides a bustling urban center with chic waterfront promenades, Auckland and its surrounding area is home to 26 regional parks featuring diverse landscapes. These include everything from tropical rainforests to rugged coastlines and golden beaches. 

After you've had a chance to drop off your luggage and freshen up, enjoy a uniquely Auckland America's Cup sailing experience. The America's Cup is the world's oldest sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta, and New Zealand has won the award several times. Onboard your yacht, have a go at sailing one of these Grand Prix racers. Take the helm, trim on the grinders, or just sit back and enjoy the action as you sail through Auckland Harbour.

Day 19: Full-Day Hobbiton Movie Set & Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour

Waitomo glowworm caves
Go underground at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Explore farther afield in the North Island today. Leaving Auckland in the morning, journey through the lush farmland of the Waikato and King Country regions. Arriving at Hobbiton in the rural town of Matamata, you'll embark on a two-hour fully guided tour of this impressive 12-acre (5 ha) movie set. During your tour, step into the lush pastures of The Shire, visit 44 Hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear the secrets and stories about the making of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" movies, and enjoy a complimentary cold beverage at the famous Green Dragon Inn.

After the tour, continue to Waitomo, where you'll take a guided tour through the ancient cave system, seeing many different formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and lime columns. Descend even farther underground for a glowworm experience. Board a boat for a cruise on the underground river and look at the thousands of glowworms illuminating the cavern above you. 

Day 20: Waiheke Island Winery Tour & Zipline Adventure

Waiheke Island
Get active on Waiheke Island

Take a 40-minute ferry ride this morning from central Auckland to Waiheke Island. The island is a lush haven of walking trails, wineries, and white-sand beaches on the Hauraki Gulf. Take a hop-on hop-off bus, which stops at 15 of Waiheke's most famous landmarks, running a 90-minute route around the island. Waiheke is known for its top-notch wineries, and there are over 30 on the island; visit favorites like Cable Bay and Mudbrick Vineyard for tours and tastings. Browse art galleries and craft boutiques, then spend some time on one of the island's paradisiacal beaches: Onetangi and Palm Beach are two of the best. 

If you feel it's been a while since your last adrenaline-inducing experience, prepare for a memorable, eco-friendly adventure on Waiheke. Nature lovers of all ages will appreciate Waiheke Island's state-of-the-art flying fox ziplines and immersive forest walk. Glide 650 feet (200 m) with a traveling companion on a dual zipline into stunning original and regenerating native bush. As you walk back to the base, your guide will tell you about the local flora and fauna and the conservation of this area. 

Day 21: Depart Auckland

Sunset at Auckland's Piha Beach

Your grand Australia and New Zealand tour has come to an end. Depending on your departure details, there might be time to take one last stroll down by the waterfront or grab a coffee or lunch at the Viaduct. When it's time to catch your flight, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport. Haere ra!

More Great Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for a trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend three weeks in Australia and New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit Australia.


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Map of Active Adventures in Australia & New Zealand: Sydney, Cairns, Queenstown, Christchurch & Auckland - 21 Days
Map of Active Adventures in Australia & New Zealand: Sydney, Cairns, Queenstown, Christchurch & Auckland - 21 Days