Day 1: Sydney, Australia
Departs 06:30 PM
If you want a snapshot of Australia's appeal, look no further than Sydney: The idyllic lifestyle, friendly locals and drop-dead natural beauty of this approachable metropolis and its attractions explain why the country tops so many travelers' wish lists. But Sydney is more than just the embodiment of classic antipodean cool—the city is in a constant state of evolution. A list of what to do in Sydney might start with the white-hot nightlife, with its new cocktail bars and idiosyncratic mixology dens. Inventive restaurants helmed by high-caliber chefs are dishing up everything from posh pan-Asian to Argentine street food, while the famous dining temples that put Sydney on the gastronomic map are still going strong too.
The famed harbour is among the top sights—home to twin icons the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is the stepping-off point for some of the city's best cultural attractions and sightseeing. In one day you can sail around the harbour, get a behind-the-scenes tour of the opera house and climb the bridge, with time to spare for people-watching over a flat white at a waterfront café.
Speaking of water, when you plan what to do in Sydney, you will want to include the iconic beaches, where surfers, office workers and tourists alike converge on some of the most gorgeous shoreline scenery anywhere. Bondi, Bronte and Clovelly are all within easy reach of the Central Business District, as is Manly, a charming seaside town located a short ferry ride from Circular Quay. Beyond the city you'll discover UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the chance to encounter Australia's cuddliest wildlife—a perfect way to round out your envy-inducing Sydney photo collection.
Day 2: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 3: Melbourne, Australia
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 11:59 PM
Melbourne is consistently voted one of the world's most livable cities—and for good reason. This is Australia’s cosmopolitan heart with cutting-edge art and architecture, historic galleries, attractions and museums, plus a dizzying range of restaurants, bistros, markets and bars. It's renowned for its sporting culture, home to the esteemed Melbourne Cricket Ground and Australian rules football teams.
The famous laneways of Melbourne bustle with hidden bars and eateries, while myriad beaches and parks allow for the ultimate outdoor lifestyle and active things to do. It’s a melting pot of cultures and a city of gourmands who demand excellent food and find it everywhere — from modern Australian cuisine and delicious Asian fusion fare to low-key cafés serving the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.
If you want to leave the city, Melbourne is the gateway to Victoria's world-class wineries and spectacular coastline sights. Visit the famous penguins at nearby Phillip Island or feast on local produce in the picture-perfect Yarra Valley. Wherever you go in and around Melbourne, you’ll be sure to understand why so many choose to call this beautiful corner of the world home.
Day 4: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 5: Hobart, Australia
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 11:00 PM
Tasmania, once the butt of many jokes, is finally cool. The little Australian island is home to stunning landscapes, old-growth forests and exceptional local produce. Lording over all this goodness is Hobart, the island’s creative capital. Although its remoteness might once have made it feel provincial, the city has truly come into its own in recent years. It’s got one of the world’s best museums of contemporary art, vibrant markets, a cosmopolitan dining scene and eclectic music festivals. It’s also achingly beautiful, with a natural harbour setting and rugged Mount Wellington looming in the background.
The city is compact enough to easily explore on foot. Start at the sandstone area of Salamanca Place with its hip galleries, artist studios and bustling cafés and bars, and then roam the quaint streets of Battery Point, one of Hobart’s oldest neighborhoods. Immerse yourself in nature at the gorgeous Botanical Gardens or head out of town to learn more about Tasmania’s dark — but fascinating — past. Fuel up on the freshest seafood straight from the Southern Ocean down at the waterfront, or feast on gourmet Tassie produce at one of the many excellent restaurants in town. Whatever you choose to do, we promise you won’t be bored.
Day 6: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 7: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 8: Milford Sound, New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 09:00 AM
Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi (its name in Maori), sits on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island and was first called the Eighth Wonder of the World by none other than Rudyard Kipling, who had seen some pretty wonderful places. As you sail up the 15-kilometre-long (nine-mile-long) sound, with soaring snow-topped peaks looming above—the tallest reaches an altitude of 1,517 metres (4,977 feet)—you'll understand Kipling's enthusiasm.
Although it is called a sound, it is technically a fjord—a narrow inlet created by glacial erosion over thousands of years. While its geological history is long, its human history is not. It is believed that the Maori first explored the sound, and the rest of the area that is now part of Fiordland National Park, around 1,000 years ago; Captain Cook followed in 1770. But neither Maori nor Europeans created permanent settlements of any significance, and the land was pristine when Fiordland National Park, New Zealand's largest national park, was established in 1952. While many walking trails cross the park, the most breathtaking views are arguably those from the water, with the sheer rock faces looming above your ship as you sail through this majestic landscape.
Day 9: Port Chalmers, New Zealand
Arrives 09:00 AM - Departs 06:00 PM
Much of New Zealand feels like England, by way of Polynesia. There are a few exceptions, though, such as the town of Akaroa, a former French settlement, and the distinctly Scottish city of Dunedin, named after the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh. After Dunedin was founded in 1848, city surveyor Charles Kettle attempted to impose Edinburgh's New Town grid plan on the growing city. But the Otago Peninsula's hilly landscape proved challenging—for evidence, note that Dunedin has one of the world's steepest streets (Baldwin Street). The volcanic remnants around the harbour make for a dramatic backdrop.
Dunedin's prominence during the gold rush in the late 19th century resulted in many grand Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Thanks to the beautiful University of Otago (the country's oldest), there's a large student population to keep the city vibrant and modern. But Dunedin's heritage is always proudly on display: The magnificent Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle have been restored to their full glory, and the fascinating Toitu Otago Settlers Museum provides a glimpse into the lives of early residents. Outside the city, the Otago Peninsula is lined with scenic beaches and home to rare birdlife like the royal albatross and yellow-eyed penguin.
Day 10: Akaroa, New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 06:00 PM
With a distinctly continental flair, which stands out against the country's Maori roots and British colonial history, Akaroa is New Zealand's only town to have originally been established by the French and is the oldest European settlement on the South Island. French settlers first arrived in 1840 only to discover that the British had been granted dominion of the country after the Treaty of Waitangi, but the French remained and left their mark. The long harbour of Akaroa sits along the Banks Peninsula, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Christchurch, sheltered by the crater of an extinct volcano. The bays surrounding the village have an especially high degree of biodiversity, including the largest colony of little penguins on New Zealand's mainland and the only natural habitat of Hector's dolphin, the smallest and rarest of that mammal family. The region's volcanic history also makes for dramatic geological formations, bucolic high-country farms and dazzling blue waterfronts. Should you stay within the picturesque town, you can stroll the historic rues, marveling at the colonial architecture, enjoying the French-inspired and Kiwi-made cheeses and wine, and soaking up the stunning scenery.
Day 11: Picton, New Zealand
Arrives 10:00 AM - Departs 08:00 PM
Tucked into the northeastern end of the South Island—just 29 kilometres (18 miles) north of Blenheim and 109 kilometres (68 miles) east of Nelson—the petite and picturesque port town of Picton is your starting point for exploring the region of Marlborough. This seaside gateway with ferry service to the North Island connects the majestic maritime beauty known as Queen Charlotte Sound to the luscious wine country of Marlborough, heaven for sauvignon blanc lovers. From the gluttonous to the active, there’s something for everyone, be it traversing a portion of the 70-kilometre (43-mile) stretch of the extraordinary Queen Charlotte Track—New Zealand’s greatest coastal cycleway—on foot or by bike, going on a cycle winery tour or tasting the famous green-lipped mussels that are indigenous to Marlborough Sounds. Naturalists should dust off their binoculars and explore the nearby wildlife sanctuaries, or if inclined to luxury, get up close and personal to a falcon while sipping on a glass of wine at the Brancott Estate.
Don’t neglect the tiny harbour town of Picton (population 4,000) itself either, which has quaint cafés and shops and boasts unique aquatic-themed museums, like the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, dedicated to a historic ship which has seen most of the world in its more than 150 years.
Day 12: Wellington, New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 04:00 PM
New Zealand's cool little capital is located at the southern tip of the North Island, meaning it's blessed with a beautiful waterfront, fresh seafood and unpredictable weather. So famously tempestuous is Windy Welly that visitors quickly learn not to go outside without an umbrella and will spend more time than usual talking about the weather. Politics is a hot topic too, with government workers buzzing about the Beehive, as the distinctive Parliament building is colloquially known.
Wellington is also known for culture and cuisine. Learn about Maori history and Kiwiana at Te Papa, the national museum, go behind the scenes of the Lord of the Rings movies made in Wellywood and wash down a plate of chilled bluff oysters with a crisp sauvignon blanc at a Cuba Street restaurant. Gourmands are spoiled for choice with the city's many coffee micro-roasteries, craft breweries, innovative chefs and artisanal markets. Fortunately for your waistline, it’s also a terrific city for walking, hiking and cycling, with a compact historic core hugged by green hills and dotted with impossibly perched houses. They say you can't beat Wellington on a good day, but visitors will soon discover that even if it's wet and windy, it's always a good day to be in Wellington.
Day 13: Napier, New Zealand
Arrives 07:00 PM - Departs 02:00 PM
The Southern Hemisphere's answer to Miami Beach, at least when it comes to Art Deco architecture—Napier has a perfect mix of natural and manmade beauty. The historic district, which was mostly constructed in the 1930s after a massive earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed the city in 1931, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. As a delicious bonus, there's a thriving food and wine scene, too. Surrounded by the rolling vineyards of the Hawke's Bay wine region and edged by pristine waters, Napier has attracted a host of culinary innovators that has put it on the foodie map over the past two decades. Nature lovers, too, are drawn by this North Island city's scenic splendor and abundant wildlife. Down the coast, colonies of Australasian gannets thrive at Cape Kidnappers. Within the city, Norfolk Island pines line the seafront Marine Parade, a half dozen parks and gardens bloom from September to March (spring and summer Down Under), there are forested hiking trails and active pursuits range from cycling to golf. It's easy to enjoy yourself while soaking up Hawke's Bay's spectacular landscape.
Day 14: Tauranga (Rotorua), New Zealand
Arrives 09:00 PM - Departs 06:00 PM
The curved shoreline of the Bay of Plenty—known in Maori as Te Moana-a-Toi—is home to incredible surfing, white-sand beaches and New Zealand's only active marine volcano. Tauranga, with 130,000 residents, is the largest city on the Bay of Plenty and fifth largest in New Zealand. The city offers visitors a number of water-focused activities, like sailing and kayaking, as well as drier alternatives such as shopping and people-watching at a café in the Historic Village.
Tauranga is also a great jumping-off point for exploring nearby beaches and Te Puke, the kiwifruit capital of the world, as well as a wealth of Maori cultural sites. The world-famous geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, nicknamed Sulfur City, has been a major Polynesian spa resort town since visitors first arrived in the late 1800s. In Maori, roto means lake and rua means two, but Rotorua actually comprises 18 lakes—plus an incredible redwood forest.
For the best views, take the gondola up to Skyline Rotorua, a recreation complex atop Mount Ngongotaha. Other day trips you should consider are a boat ride through the incomparable glowworm caves of Waitomo or an unforgettable tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata—a must for all Tolkien fans.
Day 15: Auckland, New Zealand – Begin your self-drive holiday!
Disembark in Auckland and explore the city! We recommend visiting the Sky Tower to take in the sprawling city from 220 metres above. For a unique dining experience, you may wish to stay for a meal in the rotating Orbit Restaurant.
Day 16 – Auckland to Pauanui
Collect your rental car and head south to Pauanui, located on the stunning Coromandel Peninsula. This area is known for its natural beauty including rainforests and golden beaches.
Day 17 – Pauanui to Rotorua
This morning drive around the picturesque Coromandel Peninsula. There are many places to stop along the way including the famous Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot pools in the sand. Then head to Rotorua!
Day 18 – Rotorua
Today is for exploring Rotorua. We suggest a visit to Agrodome for a unique farm experience, a ride on the gondola up Mt Ngongotaha for extensive views over the city and lake or a visit to Te Puia with its geysers and bubbling mud pools.
Day 19 – Rotorua to Auckland
Enjoy the morning in Rotorua, then head north back to Auckland for your final night in New Zealand. We recommend at stop at the Hobbiton Movie Set or Waitomo Glowworm Caves on your drive back to Auckland.
Day 20 – Depart Auckland
Spend today exploring Auckland until you have to say farewell as you return your rental vehicle to Auckland Airport, before boarding your flight home.