Australia/New Zealand

I’m in the preliminary stages of planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand. First time there. Would love tips/ideas/travel logistics. We would be going end of August/early sept. Trip will be roughly 16-20 days

  1. I want to scuba dive the great barrier reef.
  2. My wife is really into nature based activities, so hiking, bush trails would be great. I heard you have to book them far in advance?
  3. What budget airlines are good for getting between places?
  4. Any cities to must visit? what are home bases for more nature based activities in New Zealand or Australia

All recommendations are welcome. Thank you!!

edit: I think the most important thing on our vacations, is we don’t care to “relax”. A place to lounge around and enjoy the environment is at the very very bottom of our list. We like action… whether it be actual physical activities or cultural activities, but sitting/lying in one place for even 30 minutes is not something appealing to us. I think Koalas and Kangaroos are high on the list and my wife wants to see Quokkas but I think that’s too far away.

How long will the trip be in total… Will have a big impact on recommendations.

2.5-3 weeks

For New Zealand, I’ve heard of the 67/33 rule. Spend 2 thirds of your time on South Island, and 1 third of your time on North Island. Minimum 14 days total. You’ll need a minimum of a week in Australia.
Check out this forum on Flyertalk > There are a couple of itns posted that you may find helpful.

No mention of wine ? If in melbourne contact me, in South Australia contact Jeremy, Gold Coast Paul Hanna.

haha, I’ve brought up the idea in passing to my wife, she might let me go visit a winery or two if they are close to areas she wants to be in, but a blow out Australia level dinner might not happen unless she falls asleep early ;D

For Bushwalking, I’d recommend Kakadu national park near Darwin. They’re doing a great job of protecting it - a good perspective on the aboriginal people (I won’t delve into the other perspectives - too political).

We took a 3 day tour, with some hard walking, yet often with the reward of a fresh (and I mean fresh) waterfall and lake at the end of it.

Darwin is a funny place, by reputation a place people go when they’d rather not be found. I found it relaxed & easy-going - a pleasant backwater. However it was the only place that seemed to retain a coldness to Japanese tourists - a legacy of the bombing of their harbour that seems to be ingrained in the local consciousness.

This is a good option if you want a counterpoint to (say) Sydney.

If heading to Sydney, then a trip to the blue mountains allows for some good hiking, as easy or as hard as you want it to be, encounters with Kangaroos, and well-maintained trails. Hunter Valley is in easy enough range, and you can always stop at ‘Summer Bay’ (Palm beach) en-route. I rather embarrassingly had a sudden feeling of deja vu when walking along the beach, only to then realise I was remembering the opening sequence from Home & Away.

Personally I prefer Melbourne, having lots of personality, whereas Sydney is the big and slightly brash metropolis. Not a fan of Perth or Brisvegas (err I mean Brisbane). Adelaide sounds lovely - and an obvious choice for wine. Melbourne however is also very easy for wine, not just the Yarra Valley, but a small handful of very good wineries near the airport (tullamarine?) e.g Craiglee.

As for NZ, Wellington has emerged from dull functionality (or so the brains of the operation advises) into having a vibrant scene and arguably at the very peak of coffee brewing. A local UK barista reckons they are streets ahead of Italy now, and it was indeed impossible for us to find a poor cup of coffee, indeed it was impossible for us to find one that was even worse than excellent. Martinborough is in range, but with a surprisingly taxing trip over the hills to gets there.

Auckland would appeal to many, and there are good wineries on it’s doorstep.

For me the most interesting wine region is Hawkes Bay, and the advantage of this is the ‘art nouveau’ city of Napier. Quite an amazing place to walk around, with thermal waters as well if that interests.

No comment on the South Island as I’ve not been there. They say it’s more beautiful than the North Island, but that would wrongly imply that the North Island isn’t stunning - it van be breath-taking in its own right.


p.s. I do recall people a couple of decades ago, who firmly maintained the reefs off Western Australia were in much better shape than the Barrier reef. Things might have changed since.

Thanks Ian! I think the main thing is we won’t be traveling as far to Darwin. So we’ll stay near Melbourne/Sydney I think. Blue Mountains sounds like a fantastic option.

Anyone have recs for airlines/transportation between places? Like in Asia we used Air Asia

Charlie, i’ve never been to NZ so these are australia only… but honestly 2-3 weeks you should stick to one country. Aussie is the size of the US, there’s a shit ton to do.

Sydney - naturally spend 2-3 days there

Melbourne - great ocean road takes a day, another day to see city, a 3rd day to road trip somewhere else… (tasmania?)

Fraser island - awesome place… 2-3 day trip… it’s an island made of sand… but with vegetation… just amazing night skies… and the boat ride to/from is gorgeous

Whitsunday island - sailing trip - 3days or so… the island has the whitest and finest sand you’ll ever see… it’s pure flour. it’s amazing…

Scuba dive - are you a good diver? to really enjoy it, go to Cairns and hop on a live aboard for 3-4 days (longer if you wanna do more serious places like “cod hole”)… but 3-4 days gets you a really nice overview of the GBR. i loved it. u do 4 dives a day and a night dive sometimes… dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, sleep… repeat. it’s awesome…
Also there’s a wreck that’s world famous - Yongala - a site dived from the town of Townsville… i didn’t do it :frowning:(( but pictures basically says it’s ridiculous…

We went for 3 weeks and covered everything above (and some other stuff that i left out b/c i don’t think it’s worth going such as Brisbane - yawnnn but i think Fraser island tour starts from Brisbane)… so you can see 16-20 days isn’t a lot.

I think Virgin is the local airline that’s cheap to fly between Syd/Mel/Cairns etc…

Other places in Aussie:
The middle - do u wanna go and see it? it’s a 3-4 day side trip if you do
Perth/western aussie - obviously more days for this side trip. don’t think u have enough time in 2-3 weeks…

Only one week in Oz? Never!

Sydney and Melbourne are easy decisions. If you go to Adelaide for a Barossa stop, a quick run to Kangaroo Island is worth it (great wildlife, but look out for the flies).

Lots of great options in the GBR. We’ve only stayed at Orpheus Island (an awesome place), but we’re snorkelers, not divers, and I think you have other options where deep diving is more accessible.

If you head to the GBR, you may want to consider hanging out in Northern Queensland. We stayed at a place called Thala Beach Lodge (midway between Cairns and Port Douglas and bordering the rainforest). We did a couple of nice expeditions from there. One of the best parts is each unit is its own cabin set up on stilts in the treeline. Lots of privacy.

definitely day trip dives. Maybe 2 days of diving. Wife gets super sea sick so those live aboard boats would be death for her. We dive in Socal, once you’ve dived in socal you can dive in any condition ;p.

We will generally avoid beach related/island trips outside of scuba diving. So I would say take that into consideration as well. I think there will be a larger focus on history in the major hubs as well as interior nature based activities.

My current thinking is Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne. I would say roughly 3-4 days at each stop. Then the rest of the time in New Zealand. UNLESS something in Australia outside of the 3 listed are MUST stops. But island/beach life is definitely not a requirement or want on this trip unless it’s already at one of the listed places.

For an awesome splurge, take a look at Lizard Island Lodge. Heron Island would be another good scuba place–but it’s very small.

Going to Adelaide? Think Flinders Range NP for bush-walking in Wilpena Pound.

Been to British Columbia and Yellowstone NP? If so, you’ve seen NZ already. That’s an unfair generalization about a lovely country with lovely people where my wife spent three enjoyable weeks some years back, but we were never tempted to return. By contrast, we’ve been to Oz eight times.

Charlie. I’m deathly seasick as well. Like deathly. But take Dramamine and after half a day you get used to the boat. Take a bigger boat maybe. But yah I was surprised how relatively comfortable I was given I was so nervous going in. Day dives are cool then definitely go to Townsville and do yongala. Day dives out of cairns are pretty G rated stuff since u don’t hit good reefs at that distance.

So you ain’t going to the rock in the middle? :slight_smile:

I don’t know about the rock. we have to figure out our timeline. I’m not sure it’s worth the trip to see it and then leave

Hi Charlie,

As others have said about Australia, 2.5-3 weeks is not a huge amount of time even in NZ. I see overseas friends and relatives underestimate it all the time eg you really need 2 weeks to drive around the South Island (which BTW is beautiful) as a minimum.

But there’s still lots of cool things you can do in NZ in a week. You just have to be more choosey and confine yourself to one or two regions.

Ian’s ideas for the North Island are good.

Here’s another idea. Why not fly from an Australian capital (Sydney, Melbourne etc) directly to Queenstown in the South Island (about 3 hours)? I think the Qantas budget airline Jetstar flies Australia to Queenstown. (I know it’s pretty good and definitely flies Australia-Wellington). If it’s winter it’s NZ’s best skiing. All times of year it’s adventure tourism and great walks. There’s spectacular scenery, great dining and the best NZ pinot noir outside Martinborough.

From Australia you fly into Auckland or Wellington in the North Island or Christchurch or Queenstown in the South Island. That’s what I’d start researching, from using one of those as your base. Outside the CBDs of the major cities NZ’s all nature-based activities! (about 1/4 of NZ is National Parks).

If you’re really serious about hiking there are the great NZ tracks (typically 3-5 days but can be shorter) eg Milford, Heaphy, Routeburn etc (largely in the South Island).

As Ian says, don’t dismiss Wellington. From there it’s an hour’s drive to Martinborough and about 4 to Napier or the Rotorua/Taupo thermal/lake areas. And if you did make it to Wellington I’m sure the Wellington WBers chapter would be very keen to organise a dinner for you.

Cheers, Howard


You probably wont see a Quokka unless you go to Rottnest Island off Perth (a long way from the East Coast). The major airlines that cover the major cities are Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar (a budget carrier owned by Qantas). Check their websites for deals.

The Blue Mountains are quite beautiful. Perhaps head up to Katoomba for the day and see the three sisters whilst hiking around the National Park.

I’d come to South Australia but I am biased. Kangaroo Island is superb. Koalas and Kangaroos everywhere as well as other wildlife. The fishing is great and you could go out on a charter to catch some King George Whiting (one of the most beautiful eating fish). There is a hiking trail called the Heysen trail It comes through the Barossa and you could call in and have a few cheeky ones with me.

Melbourne is a great city for sport and dining and you can certainly get out to places like the Yarra Valley and Phillip Island for day trips and walks through beautiful National Parks.

Tasmania is white hot at the moment. There is a modern art museum outside of Hobart called MONA that is hands down the best museum I have visited anywhere on the planet. Get a flight from Melbourne to Hobart spend a day or two down there.


Much good advice here already. It is pretty variable weather at that time of year in the Southern parts of Australia. I assume that NZ has some pretty similar conditions too.
If you take Jeremy’s advice and go to Hobart, it can get pretty cold (by Australian standards at least) but on the plus side there are a few distilleries that produce some pretty good whiskey there. Cradle Mountain is lovely in the right weather too.

From Melbourne a lot of hiking gets done down at Wilson’s Promontory to the South East (It is the most southern point on the Australian Mainland). Grampians National Park is about 3hrs North west of Melbourne and is also popular. That also has the advantage of having a few wineries around. You also aren’t that far from the Coonawarra wine region from there either. I saw a hell of a lot of Kangaroos last time I drove from the bottom of the Grampians to Coonawarra in the evening… just sayin

A small negative from me - Cairns - I absolutely hated the place, which seemed solely geared for a cheap and dirty backpacking scene. I can see it as a logical springboard off to the coast, but wouldn’t recommend spending any time there. We saw so many more interesting/genuine places on the drive down to coast from there to Sydney.

Yeah, I feel like a lot of major dive sites around the world are cheap/dirty backpacking. Just kinda comes with the territory I guess. It’s always been a bucket list for me to dive the GBR, so however I have to get there, I’ll do it. Even if there are better spots out there for diving, it’s more for just the experience.

Speaking of driving, I was actually thinking of renting a car to get to more of the nature-y places, figure it’s easy to drive about yeah?

Hi Howard,

I think at this point we’re just gonna hit the hot spots and just got to a small handful of locations in NZ. That’s kinda my purpose of the thread, since my time is limited, i’m curious of the MUST GO places.

I know for certain in Australia the three places I’m going to center my trip around, but right now I’m still looking into NZ. I’d love to go to wine country in NZ, but I have zero sense of where it is in relation to any of the other major spots.