Before deciding to go with a travel agency, we spent a lot of time doing our own research on what we wanted to do while in New Zealand and Australia. Planning an 18 day trip to countries you've never been can be quite overwhelming, which is why we sought out a travel agency to assist us. A travel agent from our Australia tour company that specializes in these destinations, was very knowledgeable and resourceful. We went through several revisions of our itinerary and our agent was patient with us until we nailed it down to just right for us. She kept us within budget but gave us everything on the top of our wish lists. We like that the agency provides free travel insurance and prepared our ETAs on our behalf.
During the trip, there were no hiccups and everything on the itinerary went smoothly. Overall, our hotels were nice as promised, their locations convenient, and their staff accommodating.
In New Zealand, tubing through the Waitomo Glowworm caves was a spectacle. You can see the glowworms with just a guided tour sitting in a boat --- but we say skip that and go tubing instead, it is way more adventurous and fun and the glowworms were beautiful: you float in absolute darkness to marvel at the glowworms above, which look like colorful constellations on the tavern ceiling. Must see.
Milford Sound was breathtaking, enjoy your smallness against their grandeur. It is nature commanding your attention like you have never given it before.
The Hobbiton movie set in Rotorua is great for picture taking. The little hobbit holes are so cute.
Dart River Funyaking - What a blast! The kayaking part is more tame and quiet and allows you to enjoy the beautiful forest scenery, of waterfalls and endless greenness, and the beautiful shade of blue I had never seen before in natural water from the glacier runoff in the river but the 30 minute jet boat ride to your starting point for kayaking was half the fun ... your driver will do 360 spins that will make you feeling and laughing like a child again.
In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef was a highlight of the northern part of our trip. We did an introductory dive but snorkeling at this spot was just as rewarding for those who chose only to do that. The water is so clear and the reef so close to you that you can see plenty of life underwater without doing the dives, but that is not to say that the dives aren't worth it. I only wish we could have dove deeper. We also loved our boutique apartment hotel accommodations here. Very cute.
Sydney is a city to fall in love with. We left this city at our leisure so we could explore on our own. We only booked the Bridge Climb with our agent but it was definitely the thing to do and not frightening at all. The views from the bridge are great; with 360 degrees on unencumbered view at the top, you have everything from parks, skyscrapers, beaches, and of course the Opera House to enjoy. At the suggestion of a local, we skipped the popular Bondi beach to see Manly Beach and its Esplanade and it was a beautiful beach with soft sand, blue blue water, (great waves for surf if you are into that), and plenty of retail if you want to shop. We also enjoyed the production of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" at the Sydney Opera House.
Spend more days in each country and city and expand our budget! Our availability limited us to an 18 day trip and so after editing and reviewing our favorite activities to include in our itinerary, we had to say no to seeing and doing a lot of equally worthy sites and activities. New Zealand and Australia are gorgeous countries with plenty to see and do.
New Zealand:Glowworm Caves - We only did tubing for our package but we would have loved to rappel and climb in the cave taverns as their other packages offered (more expensive of course).Doubtful Sound - We only visited Milford Sound, which was a breathtaking site of the fjords but we heard on our trip that Doubtful Sound was a less publicized but even grander place than Milford Sound.Coromandel Beaches - We didn't have time for this beach but you can dig yourself a spot in the sand and it fills with naturally warm water so it's like you're sitting in a natural hot tub.City of Wellington (Southern part of North Island) - we didn't go but I hear they have a great craft beer scene and we love craft beers!
Get PADI certified so you can scuba dive deeper in the Great Barrier Reef. Our intro dive was rewarding, but how much more rewarding would this experience have been if we could have gone deeper to see even more of the life underwater? This is one of the top dive sites in the world, if you're there, make the most of it!
If you can afford the $250 per seat ticket, DO see an opera at the Opera House.
Do the Bridge Climb in the evening - while you can probably see further out during the daylight, for photos, the city lights in the background look way cooler than the ones in the day.
We would add Melbourne just to see it too. We skipped the outback too, but time allowing, I'm sure we would have eventually ventured to see it as well.
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