This is the perfect trip for first-timers to Australia and New Zealand. Kick off the tour in Sydney and Melbourne with a few days to experience each city, plus nearby attractions like the Great Ocean Road. Then fly to New Zealand's South Island for a range of outdoor activities in the adventure capital of the world. Next is a road trip on the North Island, where you'll see spouting geysers, glowworm caves, and Maori rock art—ending with a whale- and dolphin-watching cruise off the coast of Auckland.


  • Go hiking in the Blue Mountains and visit a farm to meet kangaroos and koalas 
  • Explore Melbourne's charming laneways with boutiques, restaurants, and street art
  • Enjoy lunch aboard a cruise in Milford Sound, surrounded by spectacular views
  • Visit Rotorua's geothermal attractions, followed by a trip to a Polynesian spa

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Sydney Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 2 Blue Mountains Hiking Tour Sydney
Day 3 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 4 Train to Melbourne Melbourne
Day 5 Great Ocean Road Adventure Melbourne
Day 6 Free Day in Melbourne Melbourne
Day 7 Fly to Queenstown, Ride the Skyline Gondola Queenstown 
Day 8 Free Day in Queenstown Queenstown 
Day 9 Cruise Milford Sound Queenstown 
Day 10 Fly to Rotorua, Explore on Your Own Rotorua
Day 11 Free Day in Rotorua Rotorua
Day 12 Drive to Taupo, Lake Taupō Cruise to the Māori Rock Carvings Taupo
Day 13 Drive to Waitomo, Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Drive to Auckland Auckland
Day 14 Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari Auckland
Day 15 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Sydney Opera House Tour

Welcome to Sydney!
Sydney's Harbour Bridge and modern skyline

Welcome to Sydney! Upon arrival, a private transfer will collect you from Sydney Airport and transfer you to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive, you can rest before tomorrow's day trip or begin exploring the city at your own pace. A classic place to start is Sydney Harbour to catch your first glimpse of the city's famous attractions.

You can also put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and experience the iconic Sydney Opera House, one of the world's most recognizable landmarks, during a one-hour tour. Together with a guide, you'll visit areas off-limits to the public and capture photographs from rare vantage points. Run your hands over the world-famous shell tiles, take a seat in the elegant custom-made white birch timber chairs, and marvel at the soaring vaulted ceilings with 270-degree visuals and surround sound.

If you arrive in the evening, save the tour for another time and simply have a drink at the waterfront Opera Bar for a pinch-me-now experience. 

Day 2: Blue Mountains Hiking Tour

The Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains

Today, you'll take a two-hour drive inland toward the dramatic Blue Mountains, a region known for rugged cliffs, eucalyptus forests, and cascading waterfalls. Lace-up your hiking boots for a full-day, small-group excursion to see the best of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After transferring here, you'll visit a working farm and meet local wildlife like kangaroos, emus, wombats, and koalas. Then, hike across valleys and sandstone ridges to viewpoints of the towering Three Sisters rock formations.

As you reach Govett's Leap, one of the country's most famous lookouts, marvel at the sweeping vistas across Grose Valley, Australia's answer to the Grand Canyon. Your final stop is 3,280 feet (1,000 m) above sea level at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Here, you'll see hundreds of international plant species and the exotic critters that call this sanctuary home, including birds, reptiles, and insects. At the end of the day, return to your hotel in Sydney.

Day 3: Free Day in Sydney

Consider spending a few hours at world-famous Bondi Beach
Hit the sand at Bondi Beach and take a cliff walk

Enjoy some free time today to discover Sydney at your own pace! In the morning, consider making your way down to the BridgeClimb to reach the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge—440 feet (134 m) above sea level—for an uninterrupted panorama of the city and its surroundings. Soak up the world around you from the top while your climb leader captures your photo. After the climb, head to the nearby historic neighborhood called The Rocks and check out the various food options, including a bustling weekend market with international food stalls. 

In the afternoon, you may want to 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. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, Taronga Zoo, and famous beaches, like Bondi Beach, where you can relax on the sand or take a coastal walk toward Coogee Beach.

Another option is to ferry to Manly Beach for a surf lesson or head to one of the city's many cultural attractions, like the Nicholson Museum, to see the most extensive collection of antiquities in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. 

Day 4: Train to Melbourne

Melbourne's picturesque skyline along the Yarra River
It's time to travel onward! Today, you'll take a full-day train ride from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and soak in the landscapes as you make your way from New South Wales to Victoria. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel in the city. 

Day 5: Great Ocean Road Adventure

Visit the Twelve Apostles, a series of limestone stacks that rise dramatically from the sea

Get your camera ready! Known the world over for its dramatic and impressive coastline, the Great Ocean Road is a must-see when you visit Melbourne. Today you'll travel along part of the 149-mile (240 km) coast with spectacular ocean vistas contrasting with serene green foliage. Keep an eye out as you travel under the large gum trees (a type of eucalyptus tree), where you'll likely spot the occasional koala bear hanging from the branches.

Lunch is provided at Apollo Bay Hotel, after which you will visit the star attractions of Port Campbell National Park, also known as "The Shipwreck Coast." During the adventure, you will also view the Twelve Apostles from the boardwalk and explore the story behind Loch Ard Gorg with its trails, blowholes, and towering cliffs.

Day 6: Free Day in Melbourne

One of many charming narrow lanes in Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD)

Today you'll be free to explore the city at your own pace and discover why Melbourne is often named the world's most livable city. Or, perhaps you'd like to join a local tour guide who will show you some of Melbourne's top attractions like Fitzroy Gardens, Queen Victoria Market, and Chinatown, as well as a few of the city's most famous laneways and arcades while providing insightful commentary along the way. After the city tour, stroll down to the riverside to join a scenic cruise along the Yarra River. This relaxing boat experience is also a great opportunity to capture photos of Melbourne's spectacular skyline.

Another optional tour lets you board a bus where you'll pass municipal landmarks like the State Library and Supreme Court of Victoria. You'll also travel to the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre, which hosts some of the biggest domestic and international sporting events, including the Australian Open. Drive along the Albert Park Circuit, which hosts the Australia Grand Prix, and stop at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where you might spot star athletes in the middle of training. 

Day 7: Fly to Queenstown, Ride the Skyline Gondola

It's not uncommon to see paragliders in Queenstown

Today, at the appointed time, you'll be picked up at your hotel by a private driver and transferred to Melbourne Airport. From here, you'll board your flight for Queenstown, New Zealand, a small but exciting city on the South Island with access to a wide range of activities and scenic attractions. Upon arrival, you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Queenstown hotel or accommodation.

A perfect way to start exploring is to hop aboard the Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. As you rise over 1,400 feet (450 m) above Queenstown, sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak, and magnificent Lake Wakatipu. From the top, stay awhile and enjoy a drink or a meal at the restaurant and bar before heading back down.

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

Day 8: Free Day in Queenstown

There are a few places to try bungee jumping in the Queenstown area, including this bridge

Today is a free day to explore Queenstown at your own pace. This is the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world, with many adrenaline-inducing activities available in the area, like sky diving and bungee jumping, to name a few. For a relaxing activity, start the day with a flat walk, jog, or bike ride around Lake Wakatipu. Then, have lunch and go shopping in charming Arrowtown and learn more about New Zealand's 19th-century gold rush. The nearby resort town of Wānaka also makes for a popular day trip, or you can see film locations from "The Lord of The Rings" on a guided tour.

Oenophiles may consider embarking on a tasting tour of the region's best boutique vineyards. Take a self-guided excursion through Gibbston, Bannockburn, and Cromwell—three subregions known for their cool-climate wines, which are generally more acidic and lighter than other varieties. Pick your favorite wine to pair with lunch at a fourth vineyard, and take a walk through historic Old Cromwell to end your journey among some of the most picturesque vineyards in New Zealand.

Day 9: Cruise Milford Sound 

Cruise around Milford Sound on this exciting day trip
Explore Milford Sound by boat on this exciting day trip

Today, get ready to experience the remote magic of the South Island as soon as you board your coach for a guided drive to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Settle back and enjoy the panoramic views and entertaining commentary as your driver points out the highlights, including the best photo stops along the way. You'll arrive relaxed, refreshed, and ready to cruise the fiord.

Once you are out on the Milford Sound, discover unique wildlife, towering waterfalls, and the majesty of Mitre Peak on this two-hour nature cruise that includes lunch. The cruise offers an excellent viewing opportunity to see seals, dolphins, and penguins, and you'll get up close to impressive geological features and feel the force of the powerful 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls (waterproof jackets are available to keep you dry).

Following the cruise, you'll be transported back to Queenstown in time for dinner.

Day 10: Fly to Rotorua, Pick Up Rental Car

Pick between international cuisine options at the night market in Rotorua

Today, at the appointed time, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to Queenstown Airport for your flight to Rotorua on the North Island. You'll pick up your rental car and head to your hotel upon arrival.

From here, you can walk to the Rotorua Night Market and check out locally-made gifts and souvenirs and food stalls selling international cuisine. Alternatively, ride the Rotorua Gondola for soaring lake views and a nighttime sled ride. You'll also find luge tracks, a zip line, and panoramic dining options here.

Day 11: Free Day in Rotorua

Rotorua and its surroundings offer a multitude of geothermal attractions

Enjoy free time today to explore Rotorua at your own pace. The geothermal area is peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools, and steaming geysers, thanks to its location within one of the world's most active volcanic regions. In addition, Rotorua is home to several prominent Māori tribes, and you can experience one of many traditional villages with a guided tour, including an option that includes a three-course feast and dance performance in a natural amphitheater.

The surrounding area also offers redwood forests with free trails suitable for all types of hikers, or relax with a trip to the Polynesian Spa, with four alkaline rock pools of varying temperatures. You can also head to Velocity Valley Adventure Park, which features stomach-dropping attractions, like static sky diving or a giant swing reaching a speed of 80 miles (130 km) per hour. 

Day 12: Drive to Taupō, Lake Taupō Cruise

Lake Taupo
New Zealand's largest lake: Lake Taupō
Today, you'll make a drive through the heart of the Central North Island volcanic plateau. This is an excellent chance to visit the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, where you'll experience diverse and wild volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well-defined tracks. This area is home to the largest mud pool in New Zealand and was originally the site of a large mud volcano, which was ultimately destroyed through erosion in the 1920s.

The town of Taupō is your overnight location, which sits on New Zealand's largest lake—Lake Taupō—a volcanic caldera formed following a massive eruption 25,600 years ago. Taupō is a lively place with many shops, bars, and cafés catering to travelers. Pick between a range of activities here, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, trout fishing, kayaking, sailing, horseback riding, and hiking, to name a few.

Another option is to take a 90-minute cruise on Lake Taupō, where you can get close to some of New Zealand's most spectacular Māori rock carvings from the boat's viewing platforms. Created by Matahi Brightwell, a traditional Māori carver, these carvings were completed in 1980. The largest one depicts Ngātoro-i-rangi, a celebrated Māori hero and tohunga (spiritual leader).

Day 13: Drive to Waitomo, Explore Waitomo Caves, Drive to Auckland

Take a boat ride and glide under these glowworm caves

Leaving Taupō by car, you will drive past Huka Falls, the largest waterfalls on the Waikato River. Plan some time to soak in the spectacular views, or go one step further with an exhilarating jet boat ride through the river. Driving onward, you'll pass by the beautiful Pureora Forest Park, home to several rare bird species and many well-marked walking tracks. Next, visit the Waitomo Caves region with its vast network of underground caves, some of which contain glowworms.

Hands down, the best way to experience the Waitomo Caves is to get inside them. Today, you'll enter this 30-million-year-old cave network and learn about the history and geology behind the stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural features of the caves. Then, take to the water on a magical boat ride through the glowworm grotto—a space whose residents shine like thousands of tiny stars.

Back in your car, you'll experience breathtaking farmland as you head north to Auckland. Along the way, stop by the Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park for an insightful look at some of New Zealand's native species, including its flightless namesake, the kiwi bird.

Day 14: Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

Look for a variety of sea life, including dolphins, on this excursion

This morning, you'll embark on New Zealand's most unique whale and dolphin-watching safari, which departs from Auckland's Viaduct Basin. Enjoy a 4.5-hour cruise aboard the luxurious "Dolphin Explorer" as you navigate the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park in search of encounters with diverse marine wildlife, including orcas, dolphins, whales, sharks, manta rays, turtles, New Zealand fur seals, and up to 26 species of seabirds, including the little blue penguin.

The rest of the day is yours to explore the city as you wish. Ride to the top of the SkyTower, or wander around the Auckland Fish Market, offering seafood lunch options like steamed mussels and fresh oysters. Before sunset, you can head to Mount Eden, a volcanic peak overlooking the city, for an early evening hike. While here, visit the area's quirky shops and local wine bars—a fun way to end the trip! 

Day 15: Depart Auckland

Goodbye for now, Auckland
It's time to say goodbye to New Zealand! A driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home at the appointed time. Safe travels!

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Map of Ultimate New Zealand & Australia Adventure  - 15 Days
Map of Ultimate New Zealand & Australia Adventure - 15 Days