Take on two of the world's most naturally stunning countries on this 13-day trip across Australia and New Zealand. Start in Sydney and explore the iconic Sydney Opera House before heading north to Queensland for snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and a cable car ride through Daintree National Park. Then fly over to New Zealand for a little bit of everything the country has to offer, from the busy streets of Christchurch to the frozen landscape of Franz Josef Glacier / Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere.


  • Cruise in Sydney Harbour and tour the Sydney Opera House inside and out
  • Take a guided snorkeling tour of Undine Reef in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Ride a train from coast to coast of New Zealand's South Island
  • Land on top of a glacier in a helicopter tour 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Guided Tour Sydney
Day 2 Cruise Sydney Harbour, Tour Sydney Opera House Sydney
Day 3 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Port Douglas, Explore Port Douglas
Day 5 Visit Mackay Coral Cay & Snorkel in Undine Reef Port Douglas
Day 6 Take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to Kuranda Port Douglas
Day 7 Fly to Christchurch (NZ), Explore Christchurch
Day 8 Train Ride to Greymouth, Visit Franz Joseph Glacier & Glacier Hot Pools Franz Josef Glacier
Day 9 Helicopter Tour of Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Franz Josef Glacier
Day 10 Drive to Queenstown, Explore Queenstown (NZ)
Day 11 Jet-Boat Ride Through Mount Aspiring National Park Queenstown (NZ)
Day 12 Visit Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Queenstown (NZ)
Day 13 Depart Queenstown  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Guided Tour

aerial view of sydney harbor at sunset
View of the Sydney skyline and Harbour Bridge at sunset

Welcome to Sydney! Often mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), this city feels like the country's central metropolis. This is due to its iconic sights, historic neighborhoods, world-class culinary and nightlife scenes, prime waterfront location, and an array of pristine beaches (well over 100). Get to know the city with the help of a dedicated tour guide. Start in one of Sydney's oldest neighborhoods, The Rocks, home to centuries-old buildings and hints of Australia's past as a penal colony. Then, explore the central business district, Sydney City, before heading to Darling Harbour, home to several popular markets, parks, and museums.

From here, you'll travel northeast along the coast, passing Double Bay, Rose Bay, and Watson's Bay, to arrive at The Gap, cliffs with gorgeous views of the Tasman Sea. As the tour wraps up, take a short break at Bondi Beach and head back to the city center through Paddington, known for its Victorian terraced buildings and upscale shops. 

Day 2: Cruise Sydney Harbour, Tour Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House in the harbor with ferries sailing by
Explore the famed Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour on tour today
Today is about Sydney Harbour, part of the larger natural inlet of Port Jackson. Start with a two-hour cruise of the harbor over coffee and tea. Once you've been acquainted with the area, take a tour of the famous Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and icon of the city. During your one-hour tour, you'll get to know the history of its unusual sail-like design and even have a chance to explore the inside of the venue. After the tour, you'll have the afternoon to yourself.

Day 3: Free Day in Sydney

Cityscape with sun beam over the skyscraper and Botanic Garden
Stroll through Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden on your free day

Spend your last day in Sydney exploring the city at your own pace. Visit the iconic harbor for a ferry ride or enjoy a drink at a waterfront bar amid stunning city views. For something more nature-inspired, visit the tigers, gorillas, and koalas at the Taronga Zoo or take s troll through the 74-acre (30 ha) Royal Botanic Garden.

If you're feeling adventurous, take a surf lesson at famous Bondi Beach, or, for a calmer pastime, swim in Coogee's tranquil waters. And when the sun goes down, book a table at one of Sydney's delectable five-star restaurants before taking on the city's legendary nightlife.

Day 4: Fly to Port Douglas, Explore

Aerial view of Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas
Opt to lie out on the palm-fringed Four Mile Beach

This morning, catch a flight from Sydney to Cairns, where a private transfer will take you north to your accommodations in Port Douglas. Located on the coast of the Coral Sea, Port Douglas is a resort town and base for excursions to Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef. It's also a great destination in its own right, perfect for travelers who want a tropical escape in a relaxed environment. 

You can spend the day browsing Port Douglas' charming boutiques, dining in its al fresco restaurants, and taking excursions to the postcard coral cays (islets) of the nearby Barrier Reef. Also, a visit to Four Mile Beach is essential. Here, you can laze on the golden sands of this palm-fringed crescent beach without a care. Port Douglas is also a popular base to explore the Wet Tropics of Queensland, the Daintree Rainforest, and the scenic coastal headland Cape Tribulation.

Day 5: Visit Mackay Coral Cay & Snorkel Undine Reef

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef
Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef
A visit to Far North Queensland wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef! Catch a ride on a yacht in Port Douglas to make your way to one of Australia's most iconic natural wonders. Your destination today is Mackay Coral Cay, a white-sand islet along the outer reef, but the journey is half the fun. Admire views of the Queensland coastline, including the verdant Daintree Mountains, before you arrive on the islet for a guided snorkeling tour of the nearby Undine Reef.
Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to Kuranda

The Kuranda Railway train traveling along the largest bend in the track
The Kuranda Scenic Railway
Head into Cairns to ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the Karanda Scenic Railway to take advantage of Port Douglas' proximity to nature. The Skyrail covers 4.7 miles (7.5 km), about 13 feet (4 m) over the Barron Gorge National Park treetops, with stops at Red Peak and Barron Falls. Your last stop is Kuranda, a small village within the forest where you'll board the railway for the return journey. You'll see stunning waterfalls as you head back to sea level through the trees. 

Day 7: Fly to Christchurch (NZ), Explore

Water fountain and building at the entrance of the botanic garden in Christchurch, New Zealand
A fountain at the entrance to Christchurch's botanic gardens

Start the New Zealand leg of your trip today, flying from Cairns to Christchurch on the South Island. Once you've settled in, spend the rest of the day exploring the country's second-largest metropolis.

Christchurch is known for its green spaces like Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens—the city's nickname is "The Garden City," after all—so a stroll through one is always a good idea. For something more history-inspired, take a tour down the Avon River / Ōtākaro led by guides in Edwardian costume, or ride one of the city's 19th-century trams past Cathedral Square and the Canterbury Museum.

Day 8: Take the Train to Greymouth, Visit Franz Joseph Glacier & Glacier Hot Pools

Aerial view of Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Kukatere
Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere

Wake up on the South Island's east coast and go to bed on the west coast, thanks to the TranzAlpine Train. Travel 139 miles (223 km) west of Christchurch to Greymouth, passing the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps, in under five hours. From here, head south to your final destination, Franz Josef / Waiau, a small town known for the huge Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere.

This afternoon, rather than freezing on the slopes of a glacier, you'll be warming up in the relaxing waters of the Glacier Hot Pools. Surrounded by the greenery of the west coast's temperate rainforest, the spa includes three main pools fed by a glacial stream. With temperatures ranging from 96.8°F (36°C) to 104°F (40°C), the pools will be sure to soothe any aches from a long day of travel.

Day 9: Helicopter Tour of Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere

Helicopter over Franz Josef Glacier / Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere
Thrill to a helicopter ride over the Franz Josef Glacier followed by a guided hike

Franz Josef / Waiau, a small town settled on the Waiho River among rainforests and the mountains of the Southern Alps, is known for the 7-mile-long (12 km) Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere. The glacier's terminal face, or endpoint, is just 3 miles (5 km) from the town, making it an easy stop while you're there.

Consider taking a helicopter tour to get closer to the glacier and even land on top of it. You'll fly over all three of the glacier's icefalls, landing for a two-hour guided trek through this otherworldly ice landscape. A guide will take you through ice caves and spot frozen pinnacles, explaining the geology and history of the glacier. You'll receive a waterproof jacket, over trousers, glacier boots, ice crampons, and woolen socks for the trip.

For a more peaceful experience in the mountains, take a guided hike and kayak excursion on Lake Mapourika, the largest lake on the west coast, just north of Franz Josef / Waiau. The calm waters of the glacial lake reflect the rainforest and mountains surrounding it. First, kayak across the lake to a kiwi sanctuary on the far shore for a hike through the lush rainforest. Have lunch among thriving plants and singing birds before returning the way you came.

Day 10: Drive to Queenstown, Explore

Aerial view of Queenstown with a paraglider in the sky
Aerial view of Queenstown
Today, hop into a rental car and drive to Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. This ruggedly beautiful region of the country is known as the adventure-sports capital of the world. Here you can enjoy hair-raising thrills like skydiving, extreme bungee jumping, jet-boating, ziplining, and much more. Besides adrenaline-pumping adventures, Queenstown is an excellent base for exploring the region's vineyards and historic gold-mining towns.

You might want to take in the sights during your free time today by hopping aboard the Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. As you rise to over 1,400 feet (450 m) above Queenstown, enjoy panoramic views of the many peaks around the lake. While up there, visit the Skyline Complex and take an exhilarating ride down the 5,250-foot (1,600 m) luge track past banked corners and tunnels. 

Day 11: Jet-Boat Ride Through Mount Aspiring National Park

A woman in an inflatable canoe on a New Zealand river
Following a jet boat ride, you'll paddle an inflatable canoe down the Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu

Head north from Queenstown into Mount Aspiring National Park for an exciting day on the water. First up, catch a jet boat ride along the Dart River / Te Awa Whakatipu. Feel the rush as an expert captain navigates tight turns, bumpy rapids, and thrilling spins as you travel down the glacier-fed river.

Your next activity slows the pace as you swap the jet boat for an inflatable canoe and listen to the river's history from a local guide. Break for lunch in an ancient beech forest before hiking into the woods to find rock pools, steams, and gorges like Rockburn Chasm. Your journey along the Dart River ends at Paradise, a small settlement near Lake Wakatipu. Admire the landscape that graced films like "The Lord of the Rings" before catching a bus back to Queenstown along the lakeshore. 

Day 12: Visit Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

A ferry approaching Stirling Falls in Milford Sound / Piopiotahi
A ferry at the foot of Stirling Falls

Today, catch a coach bus northwest from Queensland and take a tour of Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, a fjord in Fiordland National Park, located in the southwest corner of the South Island. Start with a boat tour across the fjord and enjoy views of rainforests, the 495-foot (151 m) Stirling Falls, and the steep Mitre Peak. At the end of the day, fly 45 minutes back to Queenstown in a fixed-wing aircraft and get a birds-eye view of the fjord and the surrounding peaks.

If a plane ride's not your thing, consider taking a dedicated bus tour of the sound, including a ride on a catamaran. En route from Queenstown to Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, take a rest stop in scenic lakeside Te Anau. When you reach the sound, board the catamaran for a tour. A nature guide will teach you about the flora and fauna of the area and help you spot penguins, seals, and other animals. Enjoy lunch on board the catamaran before taking the bus back to Queenstown.

Day 13: Depart Queenstown

Night sky over Lake Wakitipu
The night sky over Lake Wakatipu
After nearly two adventure-filled weeks, it's time to say goodbye to New Zealand and Australia. A private transfer will take you to the airport in Queenstown so you can catch your flight back home. Safe travels!

More Great New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other New Zealand itineraries, explore more ways to spend 13 days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


Map of Australia & New Zealand Highlights - 13 Days
Map of Australia & New Zealand Highlights - 13 Days