Embark on an epic 18-day adventure through some of Australia and New Zealand's most iconic landmarks and astonishing landscapes. See Sydney's famous sights before heading into the outback to witness Uluru set aglow at sunset. Spend a night on the Great Barrier Reef, then fly over the ditch to Auckland, where you'll set off to discover Rotorua's geothermal activity, immerse yourself in Maori culture, cruise across Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, and take a heli-hike up Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier.


  • Visit quintessential Sydney landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge
  • Watch the sunset over Uluru in Australia's rugged outback
  • Take an overnight snorkel trip on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Feel the geothermal power at Rotorua's hot springs and geysers
  • Experience the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi and do a heli-hike on a glacier

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney (Australia), Sunset Dinner Cruise Sydney
Day 2 Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach & Taronga Zoo Tour Sydney
Day 3 Full-Day Blue Mountains Excursion Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 5 Uluru Field of Light, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Sunset Camel Ride Uluru
Day 6 Fly to Cairns, Dinner Cruise Cairns
Day 7 Great Barrier Reef Overnight Sail (Day 1) Cairns
Day 8 Great Barrier Reef Overnight Sail (Day 2) Cairns
Day 9 Fly to Auckland (New Zealand), Sky Tower Dinner Auckland
Day 10 Full-Day Auckland Bush & Beach Tour Auckland
Day 11 Drive to Rotorua, Glowworm Tour Rotorua
Day 12 Rotorua's Geysers, Te Pā Tū Māori Feast & Performance Rotorua
Day 13 Hell's Gate Experience, Fly to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour   Queenstown 
Day 14 Jet Boat Ride, Nevis Bungy, Onsen Evening Session Queenstown 
Day 15 Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Full-Day Adventure Queenstown 
Day 16 Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier, Heli-Hike Franz Josef 
Day 17 Drive to Greymouth, Train to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 18 Depart Christchurch  

Detailed Itinerary

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

Welcome to Sydney
Welcome to Sydney and its glittering harbor

G'day and welcome to sunny Sydney! On arrival, collect your luggage and meet with your driver, who will transfer you to your accommodation. Sydney is a bucket-list destination and a must-have on any Australian itinerary. Beyond the famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, the city's dazzling natural harbor, epic beaches, cutting-edge restaurant scene, and excellent live music and theater make this destination so much fun.

Use your afternoon to explore as you wish. Venturing down to the Sydney Harbour is always fun. Start with a quick walk through the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens, then grab a drink at the Opera Bar terrace for unbeatable Sydney views beneath open skies. Cap off your first day in Australia with a sunset cruise on the harbor. From the water, admire the Opera House, Fort Denison, Luna Park, and more as the sun sinks into the harbor and the city skyline comes alive.

Day 2: Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach & Taronga Zoo Tour

Take a stroll along the famous Bondi Beach on today's tour

Start your day with a visit to the celebrated Sydney Opera House. Go behind the scenes of the multi-venue performance center and UNESCO World Heritage Site. A knowledgeable guide will lead you through off-limits areas to see how the venue hosts more than 2,000 shows each year. Next, visit famous city sights like Hyde Park, St Mary's Cathedral, and the Parliament House before ending up at Mrs Macquarie's Chair. This rocky sandstone outcropping features magnificent views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Continue to the harborfront suburb of Woolloomooloo, the nightlife district Kings Cross, and upscale Paddington as you make your way to the world-famous Bondi Beach. This is one of the most visited beaches in Australia and a great surf destination. Stop here for a break and laze on the golden sands, or take a stroll along the coast. After, hop on a ferry to Taronga Zoo. This 52-acre (21 ha) zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, including tigers, gorillas, and (of course) koalas. After visiting the zoo, you'll have the remainder of the afternoon free to spend as you wish.

Day 3: Full-Day Blue Mountains Excursion

The Three Sisters rock formations, in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters rock formations in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney

Set off on a full-day adventure to the stunning Blue Mountains. Your day begins with a visit to Calmsley Hill, a working farm home to kangaroos, emus, wombats, and koalas, where you can enjoy some morning tea and wander the tranquil surroundings. The journey continues to one of the stunning Jamison Valley lookouts, where you can take in breathtaking vistas. Next, visit the remote Eaglehawk Lookout, where you can witness the Three Sisters in all their glory. Watch as the sunlight brings out magnificent colors that change throughout the day.

Pause for a delicious two-course lunch at Blackheath, then continue to Govetts Leap and its mighty waterfall. Stop briefly to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine or orange juice at the delightful Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens, where you'll enjoy sweeping views across to Sydney. Then, travel down the scenic Bells Line of Road back to the city. This is one huge day of adventure, fun, and unforgettable memories!

Day 4: Fly to Uluru, Sounds of Silence Dinner

Sounds of Silence Dinner
Witness Uluru at sunset with a memorable al fresco dinner

This morning you'll swap coastal Sydney for the Australian Outback. Check out of your hotel and take a transfer to the airport for your 3.5-hour flight. On arrival at Ayers Rock Airport, a private transfer will take you to your hotel. Rest and freshen up ahead of an extra special evening at Uluru (Ayers Rock).

More than just dinner, the Sounds of Silence is a spiritual discovery of the desert plains, home to some of Australia's most sacred Indigenous sites. Sip sparkling wine and nibble on canapés as the sun fades and a star-studded outback sky lights up. Enjoy views of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the fabled Uluru monolith as a three-course bush tucker-inspired feast arrives. After dinner, gather around the fire to stargaze with your Aboriginal host. Finish with a glass of port or tea and coffee before returning to your accommodation.

Day 5: Uluru Field of Light, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Sunset Camel Ride

Morning Uluru Sunrise and Field of Light Installation
Rise before dawn to see the Field of Light Installation light up the desert

Arriving in complete darkness, in the calm quiet of pre-dawn, this morning, you'll witness 50,000 globes of light sparkle in the desert. Internationally renowned artist Bruce Monroe created the Field of Light installation specially for this space. Make your way up the hill to the viewing platform, where you will enjoy a hot beverage as the sun starts to creep up and light floods across Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta in the distance.

UNESCO-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is of special significance to the Indigenous Anangu people, and you'll delve deeper into its wonders as you join a half-day tour exploring Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)—36 rock domes that extend 3.7 miles (6 km) into the ground. Walk between the mighty conglomerate rock formations, listening to the wind. Just before sunset, climb into the saddle of a camel and take an unforgettable ride across the arid Red Centre desert plains, led by a skilled cameleer who will share stories. Return to the farm for beer and bushfoods as the dark night sky lights up with stars.

Day 6: Fly to Cairns, Dinner Cruise

The port of Cairns, gateway to Queensland's reef and rainforest

Today you'll board a 2.5-hour flight for Cairns, a tropical paradise and the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and the 100-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest. Over the next few days, you'll experience some of the most remarkable natural wonders and attractions in Australia. Check into your hotel and refresh ahead of a special dinner cruise.

End your first day in paradise aboard a catamaran. Embark on an evening of cruising on Trinity Inlet, soaking up the sights and sounds of this tropical port city as day turns to night. Grab a drink and enjoy views from the exterior decks, watching the sun fade away, and stars light up. Then sit down to a delicious three-course set menu dinner featuring some of the region's best produce.

Day 7: Great Barrier Reef Overnight Sail (Day 1)

Great Barrier Reef snorkeling
Take your pick between snorkeling and diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Picture yourself waking up on the Great Barrier Reef—then pinch yourself because it isn't a dream. Today you'll set sail on a small boat overnight cruise with access to 30 moorings at nine different reefs. You'll reach the outermost reefs around midday, stopping at a location with shallow coral gardens, reef walls, and deeper coral fields to explore—something for all levels of snorkel or dive experience. Witness an unbelievable amount of marine life, including turtles, small reef sharks, playful clownfish, and colorful reef fish, before moving to another location in the afternoon.

As the sun sets over the Great Barrier Reef, enjoy nibbles and a refreshing drink on the deck, followed by dinner with your small group. Just after sunset, you'll have the chance to jump back into the water with a night dive, where you might anything from sharks and red bass hunting to sleeping turtles, dazzling luminescence, and glowing corals. Unwind after the night dive and hear stories of the reef and life at sea with the crew. Then venture out to the deck and take in the endless night sky free of light pollution.

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

Day 8: Great Barrier Reef Overnight Sail (Day 2)

Great Barrier Reef
Awake to another day on the Great Barrier Reef
Awake at dawn and watch the sunrise over the Coral Sea, then dive back into the warm tropical waters—the ultimate wake-up! This is also the perfect time for more snorkeling or diving, as the early morning brings illuminating shards of light through the water, and the reef fish are active as they start their hunt for breakfast. Use the whole morning to snorkel and dive on the reef, read a book in the hammock, or work on your tropical tan. At midday, it's time to return to make the long journey back to Cairns.

Day 9: Fly to Auckland (New Zealand), Sky Tower Dinner

Auckland's skyline
Fly to the North Island of New Zealand and its capital of Auckland

Today you're waving goodbye to Australia and saying kia ora to New Zealand! A driver will transfer you to Cairns Airport for the 4.5-hour flight to Auckland. Welcome to the "City of the Sails," New Zealand's largest metropolis with a stunning setting surrounded by water—the perfect introduction to the country's world-renowned natural beauty and cultural diversity. Beyond its bustling urban center with chic waterfront promenades, the North Island city is surrounded by wild hinterland where you can surf at black-sand beaches, hike ancient volcanoes, and tour nearby wineries.

End your first day in New Zealand with a brilliant dinner at Orbit 360° Dining, at the top of the famous Sky Tower. The restaurant rotates once every hour, giving you endless panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf as you tuck into a three-course menu. Here the kitchen uses local and seasonal produce, with meat and seafood dishes that highlight New Zealand's cuisine.

Day 10: Full-Day Auckland Bush & Beach Tour

View of Auckland skyline and volcanoes of Devonport from the North Head mountain

Auckland is set on 52 dormant volcanic cones and between two harbors, the sparkling Waitemata and the brooding Manukau. Today you'll explore the best of the city's highlights on a full-day tour. Travel up Queen Street, through Auckland's central business district, past Auckland University, and through the inner city park known as the Domain. Continue to the Ponsonby neighborhood, with its historic buildings, before crossing the Harbour Bridge to Auckland's North Shore. Stroll along a beautiful beach before heading to the Mount Victoria summit for panoramic views of the city.

This afternoon, travel 18.6 miles (30 km) from downtown Auckland to the city's largest regional park, the Waitakere Ranges. The Arataki Center is perched high on the ridge with breathtaking panoramic views from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Admire the magnificent traditional Māori carvings before walking through lush rainforest, giant tree ferns, and New Zealand's famous kauri trees. Finally, you'll move on to experience the power of the wild and rugged west coast—feeling black sand beneath your feet as you walk along some of the most awe-inspiring beaches in the world.

Day 11: Drive to Rotorua, Glowworm Tour

A glowworm cave in Waitomo
A glowworm cave in Waitomo

The self-drive portion of your trip starts today as you pick up a rental car and hit the road. The drive south from Auckland takes you through rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures before arriving in the limestone hills of the Waitomo countryside, home to a huge underground network of caves. Experience the magic underground with a boat trip under a canopy of glowworms, take the longest underground walking tour in Ruakuri Cave, or try black-water rafting. Back on the road, continue on to Rotorua, located three hours from Auckland.

Set within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a wonderland of geothermal activity, complete with boiling mud pools, steaming geysers, and natural hot springs perfect for bathing and relaxing. Marvel at the distinctive landscapes and volcanic activity within a geothermal park, and enjoy a simple soak in a natural hot stream. Rotorua is also a great spot to experience New Zealand's fascinating Māori culture, hospitality, and food. Plus, it's fast becoming a haven for adventure-seekers and mountain biking.

Day 12: Rotorua's Geysers, Te Pā Tū Māori Feast & Performance

Check out Rotorua's geysers and mud pools
Check out Rotorua's famed geysers and mud pools

Start your day exploring Rotorua's famous geysers, bubbling mud holes, steaming vents, and sulfurous pools. Learn how volcanic activity below the ground creates a spectacular show above the surface. Take your time, relax, and even enjoy a spa moment before tonight's special feast.

This evening you are invited as a manuhiri (guest) to Te Pā Tū (Tamaki Māori Village) for a three-course feast and celebration of dancing, music, and storytelling. The themes change according to the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar), but the night always kicks off with an opening ceremony while you are served kai horotai (appetizers). Listen to stories and songs in the forest amphitheater. Follow your Māori guide to your three-course hākari (feast) with hāngī dishes. Hāngī is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food with heated rocks buried in a pit oven called an umu.

Day 13: Hell's Gate Experience, Fly to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour 

Hell’s Gate Experience (Geothermal Walk, Mud Bath, Sulfur Spas)
Enjoy spa time in Rotorua before you fly to Queenstown

Set within 50 acres (20 ha), the otherworldly Hell's Gate geothermal is the perfect place to spend your final morning on the North Island. Join a guided or self-guided geothermal walk, then soak in geothermal mud and acidic sulfur waters, experiencing the healing properties that local Māori have used for over 800 years. The warm mud will open and clear your pores, then follow up with a deeply cleansing sulfur spa that will gently exfoliate your skin. After your relaxing experience at Hell's Gate, return your rental car and catch a 3.5-hour flight to Queenstown on the South Island.

Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the Southern Alps, Queenstown is known as the adventure sports capital of New Zealand. Here you can partake in hair-raising thrills such as skydiving, bungee jumping, jet-boating, ziplining, and much more. Beyond adrenaline-pumping fun, Queenstown is a great base to explore Central Otago's vineyards and historic gold-mining towns. Kick off the fun with an evening aboard the TSS Earnslaw steamship. Cruise across Lake Wakatipu and enjoy a barbecue dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.

Day 14: Jet Boat Ride, Nevis Bungy, Onsen Evening Session

Queenstown's lakeside setting is beautiful in all seasons 

Lean into the thrills of Queenstown and kick off your day with an exhilarating ride through the Shotover River Canyon in a high-speed jet boat that seems to defy gravity. Be prepared to get wet as your jet navigates 46 miles (75 km) of rapids and narrow twists and turns. Next, take a leap of faith with the Nevis Bungy, which sits 440 feet (134 m) above the rugged Nevis River. Spend 8.5 seconds falling for a breathtaking rush like no other.

After all the adrenaline, your body deserves a break. Relax this evening in a hot pool under the stars with a session a the Onsen Hot Pools. Based on the Japanese bathing tradition, Onsen offers cedar-lined steaming pools on a cliffside overlooking the Shotover River. Enjoy an hour-long soak accompanied by a drink and snack as you take in the alpine scenery. 

Day 15: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Full-Day Adventure

Return to Queenstown by air
Return from Milford Sound / Piopiotahi by air for bird's-eye views

Known for its spectacular mountains, waterfalls, and rainforests, the dramatic landscape of Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is unmissable on any New Zealand itinerary. On today's full-day tour, you'll take a private transfer to the launch point, so relax and enjoy the drive to the gorgeous Fiordland National Park. On arrival, board a boat and set out across the fjord to enjoy views of rainforests, waterfalls, and Mitre Peak. At the end of the day, you'll fly 45 minutes back to Queenstown in a fixed-wing aircraft, enjoying a birds-eye view of the fjord and the surrounding peaks.

Day 16: Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier, Heli-Hike

Franz Josef
Land on Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier in a helicopter 

This morning you'll leave Queenstown behind as you pick up a rental car and take a five-hour drive past picturesque mountain peaks and crystal-clear blue lakes on your way to the West Coast. Cutting across the Haast Pass to the other side of the Southern Alps, you'll see the landscape of this remote and unspoiled region change dramatically as you reach the village of Franz Josef / Waiau.

Ever done a heli-hike on a glacier? Today you'll take an exhilarating helicopter ride to the top of the Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier. Look out over the staggering scenery and panoramic views of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere before you land on the ice. This is the world's fastest-moving, commercially-guided glacier, which means the features are ever-changing and no two hikes are the same. You might find yourself squeezing through narrow crevasses, winding between ice towers, sliding through ice caves, or, if you're lucky, all three! 

Day 17: Drive to Greymouth, Train to Christchurch

Trans Alpine Train
Take a scenic journey across the island on the Trans Alpine Train

Wake up and continue the adventure with a two-hour drive to the gold mining region of Hokitika. This seaside town is known for its greenstone (pounamu), and it boasts a rich history dating back to the 1860s. Take in the endless sea views before continuing 30 minutes south to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast. Drop your rental car and board the TranzAlpine Scenic Train, destined for Christchurch. Considered one of the world's greatest train journeys, travel through Arthur's Pass National Park and past dense beech forest, steep river valleys, and the towering peaks of the Southern Alps. 

On arrival in Christchurch, a driver will transfer you to your accommodation. Spend your final evening in New Zealand relaxing, or join an elegant dinner in a historic tram. Dress up and take your seat on the historic colonial-style tram that makes the rounds of central Christchurch's top attractions. Enjoy the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum, and the Avon River / Ōtākaro from your window-side table while enjoying a four-course meal.

Day 18: Depart Christchurch

New Regent Street in the centre of Christchurch
New Regent Street in the center of Christchurch

Sadly your epic adventure to Australia and New Zealand has come to an end. When the time is right a private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and drive you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight. Safe travels!

More Great Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend 18 days in Australia, or discover the best time to visit Australia.


A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of Epic Australia & New Zealand Highlights Tour  - 18 Days
Map of Epic Australia & New Zealand Highlights Tour - 18 Days