Forgotten Islands of Oceania Tour: Rarotonga, Te Waipounamu, Tasman & Whitsundays

A 15 day trip to Australia & New Zealand 
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The lost islands of Australasia reveal the aesthetic excess of Mother Nature. Each island is different, from the exotic white sands of the Cook Islands to the dramatic mountains and glaciers of New Zealand's South Island (Te Waipounamu). On this unique itinerary, explore four of the region's most untrammeled islands and archipelagos and adventure through landscapes that remain wild and dramatic. Blend beach with adventure for this vacation that takes you far from the beaten trail.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cook Islands, Rarotonga, Takutea, Suwarrow, Queenstown, Doubtful Sound, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Franz Josef Glacier, Tasmania, Cradle Mountain, Lake St. Clair National Park, Freycinet National Park, Whitsunday Islands

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Rarotonga – Welcome to the Cook Islands

A series of volcanic peaks rise rugged in the South Pacific; the slopes are painted with rainforest and their coastlines dominated by tropical reefs. Rarotonga is the largest, encircled by a coral reef that glows a hue of flaming orange, its interior blossoms skyward with a rich display of green. The view from the plane window thrills as you see an island paradise so far from the rest of the world. Touch down on Rarotonga and transfer to an exclusive resort on the island's rim, a journey made by boat as the interior is thick and without direct roads. Breakers roll beyond the nearby reef and crash like distant thunder to bely the serenity of the turquoise lagoon before you. A couple of steps from your villa and you are on a beach that sparkles with white sand. Wander a little further, and the warm, shallow waters enable you to look back on the real drama of the interior. Relax, wallow in the tropics, and savor the scene.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Rarotonga – Exclusive Yacht Cruise to Uninhabited Islands

To explore the Cook Islands is to discover the summits of a mountain chain. It's as if you are sailing through the atmosphere to visit the tiny tropical peaks that haven't been flooded by the Pacific. With an immediate sense of volcanic history, the vertiginous walls rise skyward but also descend steeply to the ocean floor. Today's private yacht cruise takes you between the outcrops and towards the deserted island of Takutea where sculpted white beaches rarely see footprints. Suwarrow is equally uninhabited, a snippet of nature's charm stands nearly alone in the Pacific. Lunch and drinks are served on board, and the pace is leisurely, wind power taking you to exposed reefs, rainforest islets, and the rainbow colors of the tropics. Part of the day is a beach escape, yet the yacht also provides a journey into the unknown. Very few people visit the Cook Islands, and just a tiny proportion of these make it out beyond Rarotonga to the other islands.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, all meals

Day 3: Rarotonga – Remote Island Bliss in the Pacific

Rarotonga is full of surprise. While the beaches take the fame, the interior provides experiences that go beyond classic island escapism. Rutted trails take you through the palms onto slopes with panoramic views onto the red-tinged reefs. Exotic birds flutter past your balcony, their colors complemented by their outrageous sounds. A journey into the lagoon quickly brings new life, a menagerie of marine species flicker around the shallow waters. Rarotonga's great appeal is twofold, making it a natural choice as a lost island of Oceana; the lush interior provides intimacy, keeps the beaches concealed and adds contrast to the landscape. The reef ring provides calm, protects the island from the thunderous waves that are usually found in such remote pieces of the Pacific. Today is at your leisure, and a variety of marine activities are included in your package – snorkel, kayak, take a glass bottom boat tour or set sail on the yacht once more.

What's Included: accommodation, selected activities, all meals

Day 4: Queenstown – Lost Amidst Lakes and Mountains

Rarotonga makes you feel that you are amongst the summits of hidden volcanoes. New Zealand's South Island, or Te Waipounamu to use its official Maori name, places you at the base of yet another inspiring volcanic chain. Gaze up, and the peaks rise over 10,000 feet, a dramatic abundance of them battle for attention. Some stand unopposed, their mirror image revealed in Lake Wakatipu. Like Rarotonga, Te Waipounamu is a volcanic island but it couldn't look more different; snow on the alpine slopes, azure lakes hide at altitude, and strange forests appear that were used on the big screen as Middle Earth. Fly to Queenstown via Auckland to be greeted and transferred to a lodge along the shores of the lake. Take in the views and marvel at nature's drama.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, breakfast

Day 5: Queenstown – Exploring the Fjords

Only a single road penetrates these mountains, it curls and rises across the plateau before it descends onto a lake shore. The land of the fjords, this World Heritage site covered with dozens of narrow glacial inlets. Today's adventurous journey takes you to Doubtful Sound. Cross the lake by boat, then walk across a plateau, before you cruise onto the fjord. Precipitous cliffs rise longingly above the waters, stark expanses of rock illustrate the brute force of the landscape. Doubtful Sound sees just a fraction of the visitors to this area so will find yourself alone amidst the mist and mystique. Fly back to Queenstown on a helicopter tour that provides sublime views of Te Waipounamu. Half way back, touch down on a glacial valley to surround yourself in ice sculptures and peaks that have nowhere to hide.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, helicopter transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 6: Westland Tai Poutini National Park – Wandering Across the Glaciers

Part of the South Island's great appeal is its accessibility. Wilderness radiates from this wonderland of glaciers, fjords, and mountains and none of them have been tamed. New Zealand has done just enough to reveal the natural wonders to intrepid visitors, and this morning you take a winding road out towards the coast and Franz Josef Glacier. A helicopter takes you further as you ascend above vertiginous wall and land on the snow. Walk out in crampons to roam through vast ice tunnels to surreal sculptures. Nature has carved from every angle with intimate sweeps of white that stumble across the glacier. Your two-hour walk takes you between the ice fields on an intimate journey across a land that's usually seen only by experienced mountaineers. Return to the village that shares the glacier's name and continue the snowy views as you spend the night amidst this landscape at a luxury hut with a sense of wilderness.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfers, breakfast

Day 7: Westland Tai Poutini National Park – Snowy Peaks and Hidden Lakes

Such thrilling outdoor landscapes are often difficult to leave, so today you have a free day on Te Waipounamu to surround yourself with the snow-capped peaks and pristine lakes of one of the world's largest national parks. Unguided hiking trails are well marked to loop across the face of glaciers and traverse the range of landscapes all the way through the rainforest to the coast. Additional tours can also be arranged and include the walk across nearby Fox Glacier. Guided hikes are available, and opportunity abounds to head in so many directions.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 8: Cradle Mountain – Welcome to Tasmania

Many describe Australia as a massive island in the Pacific, which is incorrect as it’s a series of islands and includes the often forgotten land of Tasmania. Wonderfully rugged and indelibly wild, the island of Tasmania is very different from the rest of Australia.  Green mountains, gaping lakes, thick forests, and hidden beaches as almost half the island is designated are protected national park, with 19 of them to explore. Dingoes and wallabies roam wild; gorges cut through the land, and the beaches are as exotic as they come.  You will realize that this island really does feel lost, a place where indigenous flora and fauna have not been interrupted and nature's spell has never been lost. Fly to Hobart, the island's capital, via Sydney and taken straight to Cradle Mountain, an integral piece in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area where your luxury lodge is immersed in nature's bounty.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, breakfast

Day 9: Cradle Mountain – An Iconic Wilderness Experience

Jagged mountains circle above archaic rainforest and slopes of alpine heathland as pine forests reflect in glacial lakes, and icy rivers tumble down from mountain summits. Filled with walking tracks and dotted with hidden lakes, Cradle Mountain is probably Tasmania's most accessible escape into the beautiful and deserted wilderness. Your private guide will navigate the adventure and create an itinerary to reflect your interests and energy levels. Choose to drive across the landscape and stop every few moments for another stunning panorama or yet another surreal lake. On long walking trails, it's rare to see another person despite the national park's UNESCO status. This wild land is inhabited by marsupials and little else. So explore fully and indulge in its beauty.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Freycinet National Park – White Beaches and Pink Granite Mountains

Sprinkled with sapphire waters and white sandy beaches, as harsh pink granite mountains loom, Freycinet is both beach escape and alpine discovery. The colors seem unfathomable, especially as sunset paints the rocky mountains adrift in the bays. A full-day tour takes you through its iconic stops. Ascend to remote peaks where the panoramas gaze down onto the virgin forest and oceanic blue; wander through the forests and find yourself descend onto white sand beaches, where a kayak takes you onto emerald waters. Dolphins swim alongside as you paddle to an exclusive lodge that's hidden away – even by Tasmania's lofty standards of concealment. Beneath you is Wineglass Bay, an empty semicircle of white sand that regularly graces the highest echelons of the world's best beaches. Just like yesterday, this is a place to indulge in nature.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 11: Freycinet National Park – Lost in the Colors of Tasmania

Rise leisure and enjoy your morning with Tasmania's wilderness at your fingertips. Wander across the beach and watch the sand blur into topaz waters; find kangaroos hopping through the green clearing, the marsupials so abundant that they begin to blend into the backdrop during your time in Tasmania. Koalas and wallabies are equally plentiful, as omnipresent as jagged mountain peaks and clear, soothing waters. It's possible to take a guided tour in search of the Tasmanian devil, a carnivorous marsupial that's far from being a fairytale creation. For all of the potential for escapades, Tasmania and Freycinet remain wonderfully tranquil destinations, a chance to experience just how lost and untouched an island can be in the Pacific.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 12: Whitsunday Islands – An Archipelago of Empty Sand

Now to the Whitsunday Islands, an eclectic array of islets and sandbanks that dapple Australia's eastern coast. Fly to Hamilton Island via Melbourne and feast your eyes on the colors. Sand rarely gets finer than here, with every footstep along the beach emitting a so it’s a solitary spot to watch the mangroves tumble towards the reefs and gaze around at the hues of the Pacific. The next two days are spent on a boat, so this afternoon gives a chance to explore the village-like town and slumber on a long quiet beach.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, breakfast

Days 13 – 14: Whitsunday Islands – Private Yacht Cruising Through the Pacific

The Whitsunday Islands stand in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef with dozens of islets that are rarely more than sand banks. A private cruise is an exclusive way to explore; the captain navigates to what feels like places from a lost island epic. On five-mile Whitehaven Beach, the sand is so white it's difficult to open your eyes without sunglasses. Snorkeling adventures are defined by the clarity of the water that enables you to see the big pelagic species that swarm through the reefs. Corals encircle sandbanks to offer easy marine exploration as you sail across the archipelago. On both days,  stop on deserted white sand islands and banks, where the sound of soft waves are all that can break the silence. Kayak excursions are possible throughout the tour, and qualified scuba divers can head deeper beneath the water. The highlight is usually the yacht itself, an elegant vessel that moors between the exotic islands, giving a 360-degree panorama of the Pacific's lost world.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, all meals

Day 15: Whitsunday Islands – Departure

It's been two weeks of exploring the off the beaten track islands in Oceana, a journey from tropical sand to alpine drama, then surreal landscapes to whitened islets. Fly from Hamilton Island to Sydney to connect with your international departure.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,745
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.