Written by Tanya Thelen.
Our favorite vacation of all time was to Australia and New Zealand. It was a trip of a lifetime!
My husband, Glen, and I flew from Detroit on Continental and Qantas Airlines through Los Angeles. Our first stop was Cairns, located in tropical Queensland, Australia. Due to the time zone and travel time, we arrived two days later. Traveling was not bad considering the main flight was overnight and we were able to sleep away a good portion of the flight. Weather was warm since Australia is on the opposite side of the equator, therefore, opposite seasons than the United States. We arrived at our hotel, Radisson Plaza on the Pier, which was in the best location. The hotel had its own Marketplace and was just a short walk to downtown Cairns. The hotel’s location was ideal for Great Barrier Reef departures as well as many other tours. In Cairns, we took the “Quicksilver” to the outer Great Barrier Reef on one day, the Kuranda Rainforest and Rail tour another day, and took a day tour to Green Island in the inner Great Barrier Reef the last full day. I highly recommend these tours for people traveling to Cairns.
After four nights in Cairns we flew to Auckland, New Zealand and spent one night at the Heritage Hotel before driving on to Rotorua the following day. Driving on the left side of the road was an adventure in itself. Glen did a great job with only a few reminders from me to stay left. Our first night outside Rotorua was at the Woodlands Country Lodge. It was very quaint, peaceful, and only about a ten-minute drive into Rotorua. The next two nights we stayed at the Prince’s Gate in downtown. Rotorua is known for its trout fishing and its thermal mud pools. The mud pools filled the town with the smell of sulphur, but we soon adjusted and enjoyed ourselves anyway. The sulphur in the boiling mud pools is excellent for the skin, therefore, Rotorua is famous for their spas and mineral treatments. Outside of Rotorua, we attended the Agrodome Sheep Show which included a tour of the farm area. Feeding the sheep, tasting honey from their beehives, and sipping kiwi wine from their orchard was quite enjoyable. We also attended a Maori Concert and Hangi (dinner) in celebration of New Zealand’s ancient culture. Riding down a mountain on the famous Luge, a non-motorized go-kart, in Rotorua was another love of ours. In fact, we rode it three times. We also drove the beautiful surrounding areas and visited beautiful sites and lakes such as Blue Lake, Green Lake, and Lake Tarawera. The scenery was unforgettable!
After Rotorua on the North Island, we flew to Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. Queenstown was our favorite! The “Remarkables” mountain range reflecting off Lake Wakatipu and the small town of Queenstown nestled within was breathtaking. We spent four nights at the luxury Heritage Hotel and wished we could have stayed longer. Queenstown was our favorite, not only for the cozy ambiance and friendly people, but for the adventurous activities they are known for. Home of bungy jumping, Glen decided to bungy jump twice into Skipper’s Canyon. I decided to go parapenting (parachuting off of a mountain) twice. We also rode the Shotover Jet Boat through canyons. This is a thrill boat ride where the driver speeds through canyons while just missing the canyon walls by millimeters. Queenstown is definitely for the thrill-seekers! And there is so much more that is offered! The shopping in the village is wonderful too. We also enjoyed our day trip to Milford Sound National Park. A four hour drive each way, but the scenery was the most spectacular I think we’ve ever seen. It rains in Milford Sound approximately 250 days of the year but that made it all the more beautiful. Hundreds of waterfalls! Well worth the drive. You can even take scenic flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown that would take less time.
Our final destination was Sydney, Australia where we spent three nights at the luxury Ritz Carlton Sydney. The hotel is in a perfect location and within walking distance to the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay harbor ferries, and the Botanical Gardens. There is plenty to see and do in Sydney. We toured the opera house and did plenty of shopping in the Rocks area, as well as the Pitt Street Mall and the Queen Victoria Building. Fantastic shopping! We boarded the harbor ferry, a common means of transportation, and visited the Darling Harbor area where we enjoyed the amazing Sydney Aquarium and the IMAX theaters. We also took the harbor ferry over to the Manly Beach area. Sydney is a lovely city to visit!
Our visit to Australia and New Zealand was an unforgettable experience. It is a great time to travel there since the exchange rate is so good. Don’t wait to take your dream trip. Call me at Classic Travel to plan your trip to Australia and New Zealand.