This fun two-week tour allows you to experience some of the highlights of New Zealand's South Island, as well as Australia's east coast. Begin in Christchurch, then travel across the mountains to explore mountains, glaciers, fiords, and the 'Adventure Capital of New Zealand', Queenstown. Traveling across to Australia, snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef, visit one of the oldest rainforests in the world at the Daintree National Park, have fun at a theme park on the Gold Coast, see the highlights of Sydney, and marvel at the unparalleled natural beauty of the Blue Mountains. This tour fits a lot of varied sights and experiences into two action-packed weeks. 

Highlights

  • Ride the TranzAlpine, one of New Zealand's greatest rail journeys
  • Cruise and kayak at iconic Milford Sound
  • Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef while staying in Cairns
  • Enjoy the convenience of a hop-on, hop-off bus tour in Sydney

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch Christchurch
Day 2 Train from Christchurch to Franz Josef Franz Josef Glacier
Day 3 Tour the Glacier Region Franz Josef Glacier
Day 4 Drive Franz Josef to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 5 Day Trip to Milford Sound Queenstown
Day 6 Free Day in Queenstown Queenstown
Day 7 Travel to Cairns Cairns
Day 8 Tour the Great Barrier Reef Cairns
Day 9 Daintree and Cape Tribulation Tour Cairns
Day 10 Travel to the Gold Coast Gold Coast
Day 11 Free Day on the Gold Coast Gold Coast
Day 12 Fly to Sydney Sydney
Day 13 Sydney Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour Sydney
Day 14 Blue Mountains Tour Sydney
Day 15 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch

Christchurch

On arrival in Christchurch, transfer to your center-city hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be a chance for you to take a walk in the city and discover some of the highlights, including Cathedral Square, the Botanical Gardens, Hagley Park, and the Christchurch Museum.

Day 2: Train from Christchurch to Franz Josef

Arthur's Pass

Travel on the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass. Regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys, it passes through fertile farmlands to rugged gorges and ice-fed streams and lakes. 

On arrival in Franz Josef you'll collect a rental car, so you have the freedom to move around as you wish.

Franz Josef is a small town set among some of the most stunning scenery in New Zealand, in the heart of the Southern Alps mountains and near a glacier of the same name.

Day 3: Tour the Glacier Region

Franz Josef Glacier

Today you'll learn all about glaciers on a remarkable sightseeing tour. Start with a glacier heli-hike. The scenic helicopter flight goes over three ice falls. Land high up on the glacier and go on a guided walk through the icy landscape, surrounded by enormous mountains. All necessary equipment will be provided, including raincoats, over-trousers, boots, crampons, woolen socks, gloves, and a hat. You'll be comfortable in this gear, and will stay safe on the glacier with your guide.

After your unforgettable helicopter ride and glacier walk, soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, an outdoor bathing complex fed by natural spring water. The waters will warm you up, and soothe any aches and pains you've acquired while traveling.

Day 4: Drive Franz Josef to Queenstown

Mountains and lake near Queenstown

Leave Franz Josef and the West Coast today, and cross the Haast Pass to Queenstown. The road winds past lakes and along the Kawarau River and Gorge, and is one of the most dramatic mountain drives in New Zealand. Visit historic Arrowtown, an old gold rush town, before arriving in Queenstown.

From your hotel you'll enjoy views of Lake Wakatipu and the spectacular Remarkables mountain range. Take a walk beside the lake this evening, and enjoy dinner and drinks with a view at a restaurant on the water.

Day 5: Day Trip to Milford Sound

Milford Sound
Milford Sound

Today, take a day trip to one of the South Island's most famous natural spots, Milford Sound. Swap the self-driving out for coach travel. The glass-roofed bus with reclining seats will allow you to relax and enjoy the views without having to watch the road.

At Milford Sound, hop on board a small-boat cruise and enjoy the scenery of the glacial fiord surrounded by high peaks and waterfalls. The sound is spectacular in any weather. In fact, rain adds to the drama as it creates more waterfalls.

Also in Milford Sound you will have access to the underwater observatory. At 64 steps beneath the surface of the water, you can experience the underwater world of Milford Sound without getting wet. If you don't mind getting wet however (just a little!) you can also enjoy an hour-long kayaking trip at Harrison Cove.

Day 6: Free Day in Queenstown

The shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

Today is yours free to enjoy Queenstown at leisure. The small town in a spectacular mountain setting is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and you can find out why, if you wish! Bungee jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting, skydiving, and more are accessible from Queenstown. Alternatively, take the more serene gondola up to the lookout above the city for great views. 

Day 7: Travel to Cairns

Take a cable car into the rainforest-covered hills

Say goodbye to New Zealand and fly across the ditch (aka the Tasman Sea) to Cairns, in tropical Northern Queensland. It's quite a different scene from the snow-capped mountains of New Zealand.

After arriving and being transferred to your hotel there may be time to visit the Kuranda Rainforest Village in the afternoon, to get a first look at this lush area of the country. Alternatively, rest after your travels and look forward to more activity tomorrow.

Day 8: Tour the Great Barrier Reef

Visit the Barrier Reef
Visit the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, a spectacular reef system that runs along the north-eastern coast of Australia. Today, you can enjoy the very best experiences of the reef. Take a catamaran out to the reef from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Reefs, on the outer edge of the reef system. Marine biologists will tell you about the unique ecosystem of the reef. If you like you can snorkel from the boat, with qualified instructors on had to keep you safe in the water. Snorkeling equipment will be provided. You can also observe the marine life from the underwater observatory or from a semi-submersible vessel.

Travelers with a generous budget may also wish to take a scenic flight over the reef today. This will give you a totally different perspective of the area than you get from sea level.

Day 9: Daintree and Cape Tribulation Tour

The Daintree Rainforest

The tropical far north isn't all about the reef: it's covered in rainforest, too. Today you'll enjoy a full day tour of the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Drive along the coast to Port Douglas, where you'll visit a wildlife center and see kangaroos, wallabies, endangered cassowaries and other animals and birds.

Cross the Daintree River on a cable-driven ferry, and along the rainforest-fringed Cape Tribulation Road through Daintree National Park, a magnificent wilderness region. Arrive at Cape Tribulation Beach, where you can relax or walk along the boardwalk to the lookout, as well as participate in a guided rainforest walk.

On your return journey back to Port Douglas and Cairns, stop at Alexandra Lookout for magnificent views of the Daintree River and Coral Sea. Search for crocodiles, birds and other wildlife as your guide takes you through the mangroves on a Daintree River cruise.

Day 10: Fly to the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast

This morning, head to Cairns Airport for a three-hour flight south to the Gold Coast, in southern Queensland. On arrival, transfer to your hotel at Surfers Paradise, which is near all the attractions. Chill out at the beach or your hotel pool for the remainder of the day.

Day 11: Free Day on the Gold Coast

Relax on a Gold Coast beach

There are many sights and activities to enjoy on the Gold Coast, and today is yours free to spend as you wish. Spend the day at a theme park or two, including Sea World, Wet and Wild, or Movie World, to name a few. Get up close to native wild life at the Curumbbin Sanctuary. There are also many dining options wherever you go, and some of the best beaches in Australia. 

Day 12: Fly to Sydney

Central Sydney

Say farewell to Queensland and travel south again, to Sydney, on a 1.5-hour flight. Transfer to your central-city hotel, just a short stroll to the central business district and Darling Harbour. There are many things to see and do in central Sydney. Depending on your energy levels and time of arrival, we recommend taking a walk to Circular Quay, where you can lay eyes on the famous Sydney Opera House.

Day 13: Sydney Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Shopping in Sydney's Strand Arcade

See the highlights of Sydney on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, which combines the convenience and information of a guided tour with the freedom to choose what you want to see. The open-air double-decker buses go past the Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, many famous beaches, the Rocks, Taronga Zoo, and much more. Get off the bus at any of the designated stops and spend more time exploring the places that interest you most.

Day 14: Blue Mountains Tour

The Three Sisters

Travel west of Sydney today to the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains area is an inspiring mix of rainforest, canyons, tall forests and heathlands; it's truly one of Australia’s natural wonders. Discover this wonderland of sandstone outcrops, deep ravines, pristine bushland and dramatic cliffs. Stop at the famous Three Sisters pinnacles, surrounded by bush. Then, get up-close to Australian animals, including kangaroos and koalas, at a wildlife park.

Day 15: Depart Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

It's time to say goodbye to Australia. Transfer to Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport in good time for your flight.

Map

Map of Best of New Zealand & Australia: Queenstown, Cairns, Sydney & More - 15 Days
Map of Best of New Zealand & Australia: Queenstown, Cairns, Sydney & More - 15 Days