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How to Spend 40 Days in Australia and New Zealand

by Travelbag on 04 July 2019, 10:07AM


Australia and New Zealand rank highly on many people’s bucket lists – and for good reason. With their craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches and impossibly blue waters, they’re packed full of unrivalled natural beauty. While drastically different in some ways, both countries boast a laidback attitude, allow you to get up close and personal with unusual wildlife, and offer a plethora of outdoor activities that will satisfy even the most adventurous spirit. If you’re having trouble choosing between these two incredible destinations why not visit them both on an epic Australasian adventure?

July 2019 marks Travelbag’s 40th birthday so, to celebrate, we’ve compiled a series of 40-day itineraries for some of the most popular places around the world. The first guide covers Australia and New Zealand, encompassing the must-see locations and landmarks in both spectacular nations.


Days 1–10: Melbourne, Red Centre and Great Barrier Reef

Your adventure begins in Melbourne – Australia’s culinary and creative capital. While it may lack the striking natural setting typically associated with Australian cities, Melbourne exudes style and offers up culture in spades. Ideal for exploring on foot, its cobbled laneways are lined with independent coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and unique boutiques. Art lovers should spend some time at the Melbourne Museum and National Gallery of Victoria – or, alternatively, discover massive murals on a street-art tour round the hipster neighbourhoods of Fitzroy and Collingwood. Soak up the sun on St Kilda beach, or with a stroll through Carlton Gardens – or check out some sporting action at the world-famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Day trips from Melbourne include Phillip Island, where you can see little penguins waddle ashore each evening during the Penguin Parade, and the Great Ocean Road – widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world. Less than an hour from the city you’ll find the vine-strung hills of the Yarra Valley – a premier wine-growing region where you can sample some of Australia's best pinot noir and sparkling wines.

From Melbourne, you’ll journey inland toward the Red Centre. After a night in the township of Alice Springs, you’ll make your way through the West MacDonnell Ranges and across vast desert plains to Uluru – the sandstone monolith sacred to the Anangu people. Walk the perimeter at sunrise and marvel at Uluru’s changing colours, and then hear Aboriginal Dreamtime stories at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. For a truly magical experience, enjoy a Sounds of Silence dinner under the stars, or visit the internationally-acclaimed Field of Light.

Saying goodbye to the Outback, the next stop on your trip will be Cairns – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel or dive the outer reef and you’ll discover a kaleidoscopic underwater world inhabited by an abundance of marine life, including turtles, clownfish, giant clams and reef sharks. While the reef is the main draw, there are plenty of other things to do in Cairns. Enjoy a beach day in Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach or Palm Cove; ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to the mountain village of Kuranda; or spend a day in the ancient Daintree Rainforest.



Days 11–20: Whitsunday Islands, Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay

You’ll have the chance to explore more of the Great Barrier Reef once you arrive in the Whitsundays – an archipelago of 74 tropical islands just off the Queensland coast. While most islands remain undeveloped, a handful boast upmarket resorts – the most popular being Hamilton Island and Hayman Island. The largest in the group is Whitsunday Island, where you’ll find the pristine Whitehaven Beach. An unmissible stop on any east coast trip, the silica sand here is some of the whitest in the world, and it swirls through aquamarine waters to create a truly sublime vista.

Back on the mainland, you’ll continue down the Sunshine Coast to Noosa. Surrounded by subtropical rainforest, this fashionable resort town is peppered with fine-dining restaurants, casual eateries and designer boutiques. Wander through Noosa National Park, along the popular Coastal Track, to Sunshine Beach where you can relax on the sand or try your hand at paddle-boarding.

From Noosa you’ll join a tour to the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world. Over the course of two jam-packed days, you’ll drive 4WDs along a golden sand highway, spot dingoes roaming in their natural habitat, and swim in beautiful freshwater Lake Mackenzie. If you visit between June and September, you might even spy humpback whales that have journeyed north to give birth and raise their calves.

Leaving Fraser Island – or K’gari as it’s known by its traditional owners – you’ll travel via the distinctive Glass House Mountains to Brisbane. With a near-perfect year-round climate, Queensland’s sophisticated capital is a city on the up. Focused around the meandering Brisbane River, it combines art and outdoor adventure with a flourishing dining scene. The sprawling Australia Zoo, made famous by Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, is just an hour away, while the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the world's first and largest koala sanctuary – is even closer.

Once you've got your wildlife fix, you’ll pass into New South Wales and journey to free-spirited Byron Bay. A popular surf destination, it’s the most easterly point on mainland Australia. Head to Cape Byron early in the morning to be amongst the first people in the country to see the sunrise and then walk the loop that begins and ends at the lighthouse. On the outskirts of town you’ll find the Stone and Wood brewery, where you can sample one of Australia’s best-loved craft beers. 

Whitsunday Islands


Days 21–30: Sydney and South Island New Zealand

By this stage in your trip New Zealand beckons, but before jetting off to the Land of the Long White Cloud you’ll spend an obligatory few days in Sydney. Blessed with a string of national parks, over 100 sun-drenched beaches, and an enviable harbourside location, Sydney is the jewel in Australia’s crown. Once you’ve ticked off tourist attractions like Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanic Gardens, embark on a windswept coastal walk from Spit to Manly or Coogee to Bondi Beach. Here, you can try your hand at surfing or simply cool off with a drink at the famous Bondi Icebergs.

If you fancy leaving the city for a day, continue your Australian wine education in the verdant Hunter Valley, or visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains where you can walk through eucalyptus forest, ride the world’s steepest passenger railway, and gaze upon the spectacular Three Sisters rock formation from Echo Point Lookout.

From the Harbour City, you’ll cross the Tasman Sea to Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island. Take a day to explore the city – which is gradually rebuilding following devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 – before winding your way over the spectacular Southern Alps towards Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Here, you’ll discover Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier – two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. A valley walk will take you to the foot of the glaciers, but a scenic flight or exhilarating heli-hiking trip are by far the best ways to see the blue-hued caves and crevasses.

Your next stop will be Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Besides an incredibly scenic setting, New Zealand’s adventure capital offers an abundance of adrenaline-inducing activities, from skydiving and bungee jumping to white water rafting and jet boating. You can also take an exhilarating ride on the Skyline Luge, before devouring a gourmet burger at Fergberger – a Queenstown institution. After a few days spent thrill-seeking, you’ll journey south to Fiordland National Park, where you can cruise or kayak past the cascading waterfalls of Milford Sound.



Days 31–40: North Island New Zealand

Having ticked off the best of the South Island, it’s time to discover all that the North Island has to offer. Your first stop here will be Wellington – New Zealand’s compact capital. Hike to the summit of Mount Victoria for panoramic views of the surrounding hills and harbour; ride the cable car to Kelburn and explore the Wellington Botanical Gardens; or head to New Zealand’s innovative national museum, Te Papa, where you’ll learn about the country’s unique geography and history through a range of interactive exhibitions.

After a couple of days in Wellington you’ll head to the resort town of Taupo. A playground for adventure activities and watersports, there are opportunities here for sky diving, white water rafting, year-round mountain biking and skiing in winter, while a scenic walk along the banks of the Waikato River will take you to the mighty Huka Falls. Nearby Tongariro National Park offers one of the best day hikes in the country – the famous Alpine Crossing, which meanders through glacial valleys and past vivid crater lakes. Leaving Lake Taupo, you’ll make your way to Rotorua – a geothermal wonderland famed for its bubbling mud pools, geysers and hot springs. It’s also an excellent place to learn about Maori culture.

Your penultimate stop will be the Coromandel Peninsula. Heading north from Rotorua, make a detour via Karangahake Gorge before continuing on to the Coromandel's most famous natural attractions – Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach where, for two hours either side of low tide, you can dig into the sand and create your own spa pool.

You’ll spend the last few nights of your trip in Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city. You can enjoy fantastic views from the Sky Tower observation deck or, if you fancy a bit more beach time before heading home, you should check out the North Shore suburb of Takapuna, known for its popular white-sand beach and waterfront cafes serving fish and chips. Just offshore you’ll find the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island – only a 35-minute ferry ride away – makes for a great day trip thanks to its stunning bays and world-class wineries, while water lovers should take a guided sea kayaking trip out to volcanic Rangitoto Island.


Ready to start planning an incredible holiday Down Under? Check out our fantastic birthday deals – or, if New Zealand’s wide open roads are calling, we have a range of tours to meet your needs.

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