Welcome to New Zealand’s South Island, dubbed by many as a ‘Paradise on Earth’. On this amazing 23 Day self drive New Zealand and Australia combined tour you can expect to see mountains, glaciers, turquoise coloured lakes, waterfalls, beaches and stunning native rain forests in New Zealand’s South Island. Highlights on the New Zealand part of your adventure include, beautiful Lakes Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown; ‘The Adventure Capital of the World. In Australia this spectacular self-drive tour includes highlights of both New South Wales and Tropical Queensland. Both with fantastic contrast in landscapes, activities in wildlife, this itinerary gives one a fantastic broad perspective of Australia and its colourful variety.
Highlights include: Sydney- Australia’s largest city and spectacular harbour including a visit to the world-renowned Opera House, the incredible vistas of the Blue Mountains, the Wine Region of the Hunter Valley and its stunning Pinot Noir and the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Queensland with its jaw dropping beaches, cruises and wildlife.
The best part is that you won’t miss a beat with all the not to miss hidden photo spots, scenic walks, sightseeing and restaurant suggestions in each town marked down on easy to follow day by day route notes. Welcome to The Road Trip ‘Where your journey begins’.
You will be met at the airport by one of our friendly representatives who will give you your route notes and hand over the keys to your rental vehicle. In the afternoon you could take a Christchurch city tour. Christchurch is known throughout New Zealand as ‘The Garden City’. This city tour could include a visit to ‘The Sign of the Kiwi’, the most panoramic of Christchurch’s viewpoints, a stroll in the botanic gardens and drive around the bays of Christchurch taking in Lyttelton which was the gateway for many of Christchurch and the Canterbury region’s first settlers.
Today you will head north through the wine growing area of Waipara to Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a sea life paradise which boasts whales, seals, albatross and dolphins. There are over 17 species of whale to be found in Kaikoura all within 8 km of the coastline. This afternoon you will take a whale watching tour of 3 hours. Keep a look out for Killer Whales and orcas as well as many species of dolphin. This is an experience not to be missed (included activity).
This morning you have the opportunity to visit a seal colony to view New Zealand’s native fur seal up close. Your drive today takes you through the Southern Alps to Hanmer Springs. This is a thermal alpine village nestled in the mountains. You will get the opportunity to take a dip in the thermal waters and view the mountains from the hot pools. This afternoon you will head through the pass to the South Island’s West Coast known by many as an isolated paradise featuring rugged coastline and native bush. Your stop tonight is Hokitika; known for its array of greenstone, gold and glassblowing shops.
Heading south through the majestic rainforest of the west coast you will encounter coast, beach and mountains all within 15km of each other. Perhaps take the optional trip to Hokitika Gorge today and see the stunning turquoise waters and enjoy the company of our native Fantail. Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and one of only a few places in the world where you can view rainforest and glacier side by side. This afternoon you will have the option of doing a half day fully guided walk on the glacier, a heli-hike or a helicopter flight with a landing at the top of this majestic glacier (all optional – extra cost). This is a highlight on any New Zealand tour. Tonight you can unwind and soak in the glacier hot pools (optional – extra cost).
Today you have a full day to explore the glacier area and the many great nature walks on offer in the area. Perhaps take an excursion to Okarito beach and enjoy the beauty and isolation of this stunning scenic area.
One of the prettiest and most dramatic journeys in the country is what you can experience on this tour over the Haast Pass through to Wanaka. En route you will visit Lake Matheson, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Lakes’ where on a clear day it is possible to see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain Mt Cook (3754m/12,316ft). The walking possibilities are endless today around Haast and Haast Pass and you can do one of or several walks, some of which feature spectacular waterfalls and deep blue coloured pools where it is possible to see trout swimming. One of our favourite spots at The Road Trip is Ship Creek, an isolated beach featuring native totara trees hugging rugged coastline. Tonight you will stay in Wanaka, one of the most popular kiwi vacation hot spots situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
This morning after further exploring Wanaka, your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway to Arrowtown, an important location in the gold rush of Central Otago in the 1860s. Perhaps browse the preserved Chinese gold mining village or wander the boutique shops the town has on offer. Your next stop is Amisfield Winery where you will enjoy a 3 course ‘trust the chef’ lunch with 4 matching wines, including the trademark Pinot Noir which this region is famous for (lunch and wine tasting included). This afternoon you will drive a further 2.5 hours to Te Anau. This evening in Te Anau you will take a tour by boat across Lake Te Anau to the glow worm caves to view the shimmering light of thousands of luminous glow-worms in a 12,000 year old grotto (included).
Be prepared for one of the jewels of the New Zealand landscape. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular in the world and certainly a highlight on any New Zealand tour. En route you will see spectacular valleys, breath taking mountains and hopefully spot the cheeky Kea (New Zealand’s mountain parrot). This morning you will experience all that the fjords have to offer with a 1.5 hour boat cruise featuring pristine waterfalls and towering mountains plunging into the Tasman Sea (included activity). Keep a look out for dolphins, seals and the Fiordland crested Penguin. On your trip back to Te Anau there is the opportunity to take some short walks in the Fiordland National Park. We will point out the must-sees for you.
This morning you will head to Queenstown, ‘New Zealand’s adventure capital of the world’. Skirting your way around Lake Wakatipu makes for some stunning photography and you will be amazed by the Remarkables Mountain Range, one of the most famous back drops for Lord of the Rings. The afternoon is free to spend as you wish in Queenstown, and there is plenty to see and do!
Today is free to explore Queenstown at leisure and take part in some of the fantastic activities that this ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ has to offer. Options for the adventurous include: Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Jet Boating, Canyon Swings, White Water Rafting, Flyboarding and Paragliding. If you feel like taking a more relaxed approach to the day, a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw 100 year old steam ship or a walk through Queenstown’s Botanic Gardens are not to be missed. Perhaps drive out to the head of Lake Wakatipu and experience the breath-taking scenery of the Glenorchy area. A popular option with our clients is a helicopter flight to the top of Coronet Peak, where passengers are able to get out on the snow 365 days a year! (Weather permitting). In the evening, take a trip to the top of the Skyline Gondola to view Queenstown from a 360 degree panoramic viewpoint and enjoy a delicious buffet dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant (included).
Today is a further day to enjoy the sights and adventure of Queenstown at leisure.
You leave Central Otago today through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell where you can make a stop en route and visit a local fruit shop for a chance to try real fruit ice cream and perhaps sample New Zealand famous manuka honey products. From there, cross the Lindis Pass (965m) to the Mackenzie Country, known for its Merino Sheep and wool industry. Weather permitting you can take a short walk at the foot of Mt Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain. En route to Lake Tekapo, perhaps take a trip to the top of Mt John to experience the feeling of being on top of the world. This boasts stunning 360 degree views of the Mountains and turquoise coloured lakes (Road open until 5pm – $8 entry fee). Tonight you will stay in the town of Lake Tekapo and enjoy its turquoise coloured waters. On a clear night there will be the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour to Mt John Observatory and its spectacular night sky (optional – extra cost).
This morning you will drive through to Christchurch where the rest of the afternoon can be spent exploring. Options include: The Tannery with its boutique shops, the Canterbury Museum, the Christchurch Art Gallery, a drive around Banks Peninsula or perhaps a visit to Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre (all activities optional – some with an extra cost). Tonight you can enjoy a meal in the central city at one of the many new and exciting restaurants in Christchurch (optional – extra cost).
Today after returning your rental vehicle, you will transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Sydney. Upon arrival you will be transferred into the inner city by shuttle. From here we suggest spending the day exploring Australia’s largest city. We suggest taking a walk along picturesque The Rocks including a visit to some of the area’s charming cafes and of course the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. For those that want the up close and personal experience, we can arrange a guided Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb to learn all about one of Australia’s most iconic sites. Following this visit the iconic Sydney Opera House where you will take a guided tour. Later today visit the well-known Bondi Beach and if feeling active take one of the area’s coastal nature walks along the cliffs for great views of the Pacific Ocean. Tonight you will have the opportunity to enjoy some of Sydney’s fantastic culinary hot spots (we will have suggestions in your route notes).
Day 15 Sydney
Today is a further day to explore the wonders of Australia’s largest city. This morning visit the Sydney Aquarium and learn all about Australia’s spectacular marine life. From here there is the opportunity to take a harbour cruise for some spectacular photos of the city scape and surrounds. We also suggest visiting the Botanic gardens and NSW Art Gallery (there will be further suggestions in your tour pack). Spend a further night in the city.
Day 16 Sydney – Blue Mountains 119km (2 hours driving time)
This morning we will arrange for you to collect your rental car and from here you depart Sydney City and head west toward the Blue Mountains, one of Australia’s most picturesque gems featuring breath-taking vistas and cascades. On arrival into the region, we suggest taking several nature walks including stunning Wentworth Falls with its grand valley views and picturesque waterfall (45 minutes-1 hour return). We will have several fantastic suggestions for you. From here continue to Katoomba where you will visit Scenic World for superior views of the region. Experience a breath-taking journey on the scenic skyway with views of the Three Sisters and Jamieson Valley, ride Australia’s steepest passenger railway on the World with its glass roofed carriages through ancient rainforest and enjoy a trip on the Scenic Cableway for views of Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and the Katoombah Falls. There is also the opportunity to take a scenic walk through Jurassic Forest at the bottom station. Tonight stay in the village of Katoomba in the heart of the national park.
Day 17 – Blue Mountains -Hunter Valley Via Wollombi 279km (4 hours driving time)
Today be prepared for some spectacular scenery and one of the highlights of the region with a drive through the Grose Valley with its canyons, look out spots and stunning cascades. First up visit Govetts Leap look out and enjoy the panoramic views and vistas that await you. There is the opportunity here to take a scenic bushwalk and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Keep a look out for Bridal Veil Falls, the highest falls in the Blue Mountains at 180m. From here, take the scenic drive known as The Putty Road through Yengo National Park. Spend some time taking scenic photos of this spectacular national park and perhaps visit Aboriginal cultural sites. Your destination for the next 2 nights is the spectacular Hunter Valley Wine Country where you will stay on an idyllic setting in among the vines.
Day 18 – Hunter Valley Full Day Wine Tour
Today you will enjoy a full day guided culinary and wine tour of the Hunter Valley, including a visit to several of the area’s renowned wine makers. Also included are the opportunity to try a selection of the delectable local cheeses, craft beers and other local delicacies. This tour includes a generous lunch overlooking the vines as well as an opportunity to see wildlife along the way and experience the typical Australian scene with kangaroos hopping through the vines. Tonight after a full day touring, enjoy a relaxing evening at the retreat.
Day 19 – Hunter Valley – Sydney+ Flight-Cairns (166km- 2 hours driving time)
This morning you return to Sydney Airport where you will return your rental car and from here board a flight to Cairns, a tropical city on the coast of Northern Queensland. Upon arrival and collection of a new vehicle take the evening to stroll the palm tree-lined waterfront and marvel at the picturesque clear waters. Explore the city centre and perhaps dine at one of the city’s vibrant restaurants, peruse the night markets or stop for gelato on the Esplanade.
Day 20 – Cairns- Port Douglas Via Palm Cove (60km- 1 hour driving time)
Today you make the short drive north to the tropical haven of Port Douglas. This town is the gateway to Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. En route you will stop at the beautiful Palm Cove, where you can stroll along the sea lined with ancient paperbark Melaleuca trees. There will be the option to stop here for lunch and dine at one of the restaurants along the Esplanade. The Palm Cove Jetty is one of the area’s best fishing spots and there is the opportunity of enjoying some angling from here. Palm Cove also borders on the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site and the MacAlister Range National Park. There is the chance of taking a number of walks through these spectacular areas where you will see plants and animals unique to this part of the world. Continue on to Port Douglas where you will spending the next three nights.
Day 21 Great Barrier Reef
Today you will be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, cruising to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an important area for worldwide conservation and diversity. This morning you will board the luxury 30 metre catamaran, Wavedancer, where you will take an hour’s cruise out on the ocean to the Low Isles, a coral cay island including a lagoon. Here you will be able to take a glass bottom boat tour, snorkel, take a beach walk or relax on the beach. This day trip includes a delicious buffet lunch. Return to Port Douglas in the evening and enjoy at leisure.
Day 22 Port Douglas
Today is free to relax in the paradise of Port Douglas. We suggest visiting Four Mile Beach, where pristine sand and sea stretch as far as the eye can see. Take a dip in the tropical waters and perhaps hire a sun lounger to laze on the sandy shores. If you are keen to check out the native animals, you could visit Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas where there are Koala, Kangaroos, numerous bird species and reptiles, and you can even enjoy a meal surrounded by bird life. If you feel like exploring further afield, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world and a short drive north of Port Douglas. Here you can take a guided walk in this world heritage gem. Return to Port Douglas and further enjoy the evening in one of the towns fantastic restaurants.
Day 23 Port Douglas- Cairns + departure (68km- 1 hour driving time)
Today, after further exploring Port Douglas you will return to Cairns Airport, where you will drop off your rental car and transfer to your onward travel arrangements. We trust that you have had a memorable exclusive Road Trip with us.
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