Absolute Must-Dos in Australia and New Zealand to Make the Perfect Holiday of a Lifetime

Many people want to travel downunder to visit Australia and New Zealand. It’s a tall order, with so many marvellous activities to do and sights to see in these stunning countries. How do you know which cities to pick or what to do once you get there? Instead of languishing in Google searches, take advice from the experts who’ve narrowed down some of the most fantastic attractions in Australia and New Zealand into this list of activities you cannot miss.


Snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef

Lovers of the outdoors will find a mecca of enticing experiences in Australia. If you only do one outdoor activity during your Australia vacation, visit the Great Barrier Reef. See the world’s biggest coral reef by taking a boat or an airplane tour, and go snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply enjoy swimming.

If you’re a fan of dry land, or even if you aren’t, Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a must-see destination. The 700-million-year-old sandstone formation is miles from any town, but while you’re there, you won’t want to miss the Sounds of Silence Dinner, an outdoor dining experience which overlooks Uluru and happens beneath the stars. Your outdoor discovery doesn’t end with Uluru. Several of Australia’s popular spots offer visitors the opportunity to get cuddly with a koala. Visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane or the Kuranda Koala Gardens in Cairns to meet one of these creatures.

Great food is a main part of any great trip to Australia, with several dining opportunities you won’t want to pass up. Try some of Australia’s bush tucker, natural food originally eaten by Aborigines, prepared by an Aboriginal master bush chef. While you’re visiting the Aborigines, be sure to learn about their Dreamtime beliefs and practices that encompass beautiful stories and theories about the beginning of the world and the connection between the Earth and all living things.

You’ve got several excuses to get fancy during your outback meals. Australia is home to many vineyards, so be sure to stop for a wine-tasting and stay for a gourmet lunch. While visiting Sydney, take a sunset dinner cruise through Sydney Harbor. Don’t forget to take a tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House while you’re visiting, or better yet, see a show in one of the interconnected venues.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Whether you’re travelling alone, with a guest, or with the family, hop on the Ghan, one of the trains of the Great Southern Rail, for a journey from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The train makes stops during the journey to show you some of central Australia’s hidden beauty, through exciting tours and experiences.

Families will love the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island. Here, you can watch the penguins return home at sunset every night of the year. Grab some delicious seafood before you leave Phillip Island — you’ll be glad you decided to indulge. Only 90 minutes away, you’ll find Melbourne, where you should stop to take a Laneways and Arcades walking tour, guiding you through a nested collection of eateries and shops.

Suggested Itinerary:
13-Day Best of Australia

Penguin parade at Phillip Island

New Zealand

Instead of staying in a hotel while you’re in New Zealand, try a Farmstay for a different kind of lodging experience. Farmstays let you live with a real Kiwi family. Get to know your hosts and live like a local, as you help them on their farm and sample authentic Kiwi food. These rustic accommodations are great for families or groups of travelling friends. Segue back into being a visitor, by exploring the Agrodome in Rotorua. You’ll find a sheep show, farm tour, and nursery with many baby animals awaiting hugs and photo opportunities.

New Zealand boasts its own natural scenery, like the Ruakuri Caves. Tour the caves to see rock formations and the eerie blue lights of the glowworm grotto. Tours last two hours, and most of the tour time is spent underground. Much of New Zealand’s beauty is above ground for those who’d prefer to stay in the sun. Cruise around Milford Sound, a fjord, or body of water, framed by cliffs and rainforests. In fact, New Zealand is so picturesque that Peter Jackson used the country as the setting for “Middle Earth,” and Tolkien fans can visit the Hobbiton set from the famous movies.

New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

You might have to stay a few extra days to visit every spot of the country, but the time is well-spent if you do. If you’re heading to Auckland, Waitemata Harbor should be on your itinerary. You can cruise through the water, then stop at Auckland Waterfront for lunch. Note how the harbour blends modern building and convenience with geologic formations and plant life.

Your stop in Queenstown, isn’t complete without a ride on the Queenstown Gondola to Bob’s Peak. View Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from 450 meters in height, with wide views of the mountains beyond. If you’re daring, try taking a paragliding tour or a bungee swing. For a more sedate visit, walking and biking are available, or you may want to enjoy the view from the outdoor terrace of one of the restaurants.

Suggested Itinerary:
8-Day Best of New Zealand

View of Queenstown from Bob's Peak
View of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from Bob’s Peak

These activities stretch across the landscapes of Australia and New Zealand, but the extended trip is worth the experiences you’ll have. In fact, why not consider seeing both? With destinations and sights focusing on the natural beauty down under, Australia and New Zealand offer an authentic, picturesque trip – sure to delight even the most worldly of travellers.

Suggested Itinerary for both Australia and New Zealand:
20-Day Waltzing Matilda

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Meg Boyd
Meg Boyd

Downunder Product and Marketing Manager - Melbourne-born Meg arrived in Canada in January with no winter coat, one suitcase, a one week booking at a youth hostel, and a sight-unseen job offer at Goway Travel. She thought she’d stay for a year – that was 12 years ago! Never one to shy away from adventure, Meg has been in the industry for 23 years and has journeyed extensively through Europe, Asia and North America. Meg’s heart however belongs to the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Fiji, and her native Australia.

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