Melbourne Questions

Old Jan 17th, 2024, 02:47 AM
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Melbourne Questions

My husband and I will be in Melbourne for three days mid-March. We will be arriving from an overnight flight from California so expect we'll be fairly tired the first day. We hope to enjoy strolling around Melbourne that day to try and stay awake as long as we can last.

We are hoping to do a tour to Phillips Island (is there a highly recommended one?) on day 2 or 3. We had initially planned to sightsee in Melbourne for the rest of our time but I am now wondering if we should try to do a Great Ocean Road tour. We enjoy a bit of everything (except shopping): history, architecture, museums, culture, food, nature...

Thanks for any wisdom! This will likely be our only visit to Melbourne.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 01:54 PM
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With 2 to 3 days in Melboune, you can easily do a couple of tours while there. I've done a couple of solo trips to Melbourne and visited both Phillip Island Penguin Parade and the Great Ocean Road (Sunset Tour) on day tours with Bunyip Tours. They used a smaller bus than the larger operators.

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade tours they currently offer differ from the one I took with them years ago. On our trip, we left Melbourne at around 12:30 p.m., traveled to Moonlit Sanctuary, the Nobbies and Seal Rocks (fur seals, rock formations), a chocolate factory (which I had no interest in, but ended up enjoying), before ending our tour at Penguin Parade, which is part of the Phillip Island Nature Parks. Because of the late departure, I had time to do other sightseeing--and there is plenty to see in Melbourne. I live in a New Zealand city with blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions, yet I still found Penguin Parade impressive--so many penguins! I was also impressed by the story of how they created this penguin reserve; it's a conservation success story.

I loved their Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour and enjoyed Loch Ard Gorge (great story about the shipwrecked couple), Great Otway National Park (saw koalas upclose along the way) as much as the Apostles at sunset. We also visited Cape Otway Lightstation, though it seems this is no longer part of their sunset tour. There were also stops at little towns and monuments along the way. Our driver/guide provided sandwiches and refreshments at one of these stops, but it was very forgettable.However, there was time to grab lunch at one's expense in one of the small towns we stopped at (it might have been Peterborough). This tour made for a long day, but I thouhg it was worth it and an efficient use of my limited time. I also took a wine tour to Yarra Valley on this same trip, but with a specialist wine tour operator; it was excellent.

There are many museums wonderful museums to see in Melbourne if you have the time. Start with these two art museums: NGV International (on St. Kilda Road) and Ian Potter Centre (at Federation Square). They are close enough to one another that you can walk from one to the other. Or you can hop on a tram. Many other sights are nearby: the Botanic Garden, Hosier Lane (street art), St. Paul's Cathedral, so on. I see the Melbourne Triennial is on this year--if you enjoy contemporary art, you are in for a treat.
https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/

I also enjoyed the Melbourne Museum (history, culture, science and nature), but it's in Carlton Gardens, so not so close to the above museums. But the tram goes there.

I always spend time at Queen Victoria Market when in Melbourne, but next time hope to make it to Prahran Market as well.

Speaking of trams, Melbourne has fantastic public transportation. It also has a free tram zone. But if you choose the location of your accommodation wisely, you might be able to just walk to major attractions. I find it a joy to walk around central Melbourne, exploring its laneways, heritage-through-contempory architecture, and coming across various shops and cafes. .

Last edited by Diamantina; Jan 17th, 2024 at 02:31 PM.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 03:19 PM
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Thank you for your wonderful and informative response. I volunteer at our local aquarium that has a colony of South African penguins that I'm fond of so was excited to learn of the Penguin Parade. Then I read about the Great Ocean Road which also sounded interesting. Decisions, decisions!
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 04:46 PM
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You're very welcome. I've seen those South African penguins at Boulders Beach in Capetown--so cute (and somewhat comical).

If you like seeing penguins, you'll love Penguin Parade. It can be cold, so bring a throw/picnic blanket or something like ths for extra comfort. You'll notice they offer various experiences from different viewing platforms (for varying prices). I sat in general admission (best to sit to the left), as I'd already seen the fairy penguins on Kangaroo Island, but saw way more of them on Phillip Island. After I left the bleachers in general admission, while walking back to the tour bus meeting spot, I witnessed a steady stream of penguins walking along their boardwalk to their nests. Viewing peaks in summer, when thousands come onto the beach. You might contact the colony or a tour operator to see how many swim ashore in March. My guess is you would see quite a few. They also spend a couple of weeks moulting.

This aquarium you volunteer at, is it by chance the California Academy of Sciences? If so, I know it well (or did as it's been a while since my last visit).

If you think that you won't have a chance to visit the Great Ocean Road in the future, I would recommend this as well, especially if you enjoy coastal scenery and natural landscapes. Please check out various tour operators as many will offer these tours, and you might find one that better suits your needs. Where else will you visit in Australia?
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 05:10 PM
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That's great information, Diamantina - thank you.
I didn't know about the sunset GOR tour and imagine it would be wonderful.

+1 for your comments about the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. The are utterly charming and beguiling little birds and to see them wandering around chattering as they make their ways home to their burrows is priceless!
And yes - do take a rug & a wrap. I went at the end of December (high summer for us) one year and it was very chilly with that ocean breeze.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 06:02 PM
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This is great information, thank you! Yes, I do volunteer at the California Academy of Sciences which is a lot of fun. I just started last May and am constantly learning something new. I'd love to get to Boulders Beach someday.

We are going to join up with a tour that begins in Cairns (a bit of a backtrack, I know!) but are doing Melbourne on our own as we were able to get a direct flight from San Francisco. We will also visit the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock before heading off to New Zealand.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 07:25 PM
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Looks like a good trip KTtravel. How long have you allowed for Alice Springs & Uluru?
"Ayers Rock" is an old name and also the name for the airport at Yulara.

I'd love to see your whole Australian Itinerary if you're willing to share it.

Here's a few links - may be interesting/useful. Australia – size map: https://www.virtualoceania.net/austr...ustralia.shtml

Sydney map: https://goo.gl/maps/PFmeA45BAKXruh4F8

Visit Sydney: https://www.sydney.com/

Harbour Walks - https://sydneyvisitorguide.com.au/sydney-harbour-walks/

Bondi – Coogee Walk - https://www.bonditocoogeewalk.com/

BLUE MOUNTAINS: https://tinyurl.com/yc28vadd





MELBOURNE MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/3iDQCJqzVdjtVGXL6



GREAT OCEAN ROAD – PRIVATE TOURS: https://greatoceanroadmelbournetours...-private-tour/

GREAT OCEAN ROAD: https://visitgreatoceanroad.org.au/

https://greatoceanroadguide.com.au/g...cean-road-map/
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 12:57 AM
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One of my favourite things in Melbourne is to walk through the arcades. You can start at Degraves St, off Flinders St opposite the train station, and walk all the way through various arcades as far as Bourke St which is the mall - trams, no cars. The historic Block Arcade is beautiful, with shops and cafes. Royal Arcade is lovely too. The trams are free within the city centre, no need for tickets. If the tram is going beyond the free section, there is an announcement (was on the tram I was on, assume it's automated). Brunetti's on Flinders Lane is very popular, it's Italian, open for coffee and a pastry early, wonderful cakes all day long, pizza or pasta and wine later on. It's very casual and usually busy. Just walk in, grab a seat if you can, and enjoy.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 08:24 AM
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Thank you for all of the great suggestions. I am getting excited!

Bokhara2, I did feel funny typing "Ayers Rock" but it was listed on my itinerary that way which I did think was odd. I would love any suggestions of what to do during our free time.

Below is the Australian part of the Itinerary (tour by Odysseys Unlimited.) We chose this trip based on several factors: places visited in Australia and New Zealand, reviews and time frame. I hope we made a good decision!DAY 3: Arrive Cairns

We connect with our flights in Sydney or Brisbane, and this afternoon we arrive in Cairns, gateway to Australia’s Far North and the Great Barrier Reef. We transfer to our hotel where tonight we enjoy a briefing and welcome dinner.

Accommodations: Pullman Reef Casino Hotel Meals: Dinner

DAY 4: Cairns/Kuranda

After an orientation tour of Cairns, we board an historic century-old railway for the thrilling 11⁄2-hour journey through 15 tunnels and dense tropical rainforests, over 40 bridges and steep ravines, past spectacular waterfalls, and to the picturesque mountain village of Kuranda. After time for lunch on our own as we wander through Kuranda’s shops and markets showcasing local and Aboriginal handicrafts, we descend along the famed Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, one of the world’s longest gondola cableways at 4.7 miles long. Gliding just above the rainforest canopy, we enjoy spectacular 360-degree views encompassing both the verdant rainforest and the deep blue Pacific. Following this unique adventure, we return to our hotel. We have the remainder of the afternoon at leisure for further independent exploration of Cairns, which was discovered by famed Englishman Captain James Cook and established during an 1870s gold rush. The waterfront esplanade, with its popular boardwalk and lagoon, offers an ideal spot to stroll and enjoy the local atmosphere. Dinner tonight is on our own.

Accommodations: Pullman Reef Casino Hotel Meals: Breakfast

DAY 5: Great Barrier Reef

This morning we board a boat for a day-long excursion to the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that runs along the coast of Queensland for more than 1,400 miles – making it the longest living reef in the world. The Great Barrier Reef is a true wonder of nature, with many species of fish and coral, some at depths of just 10 to 15 feet below the surface. We sail to Michaelmas Cay, where we can swim, snorkel, and view the reef from an air-conditioned, semi-submersible vessel. The Cay is a protected seabird sanctuary hosting migratory seabirds; it ranks as one of the most important nesting sites in the Southern Hemisphere. Please remember that the Great Barrier Reef is a delicate living organism, protected by law. Visitors are asked to avoid touching the coral; not to pick up or touch any reef creatures (for your protection as well as the reef’s); and to keep the water clean. Lunch today is aboard ship; dinner tonight is on our own.

Please note: Weather conditions may affect our marine life-viewing experience. On rare occasions, strong winds or severe weather may prevent our visit to the Great Barrier Reef.

Accommodations: Pullman Reef Casino Hotel Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 6: Cairns/Sydney

We have free time this morning in Cairns before departing this afternoon for our overnight stay in Sydney prior to our journey to Alice Springs. After our arrival in Sydney, we check into our hotel and enjoy dinner there together this evening.

Accommodations: Swissotel Sydney Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 7: Sydney/Alice Springs

Today we have an early morning flight to Alice Springs, capital of Australia’s Outback and situated almost directly in the geographic heart of Australia’s vast landmass. Upon arrival, we encounter the acclaimed Royal Flying Doctor Service, an organization that provides medical services to remote swaths of Australia’s Outback. Then we visit the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Hill Monument, honoring Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in both world wars. Our final stop today is the Alice Springs School of the Air, which provides educational services to widely scattered Outback children. This afternoon we check in to our hotel, and tonight we enjoy a traditional Outback Bushman’s Dinner under the stars of the southern sky and relax around a campfire as an entertainer performs Aussie ballads.

Accommodations: DoubleTree by Hilton Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 8: Alice Springs

This morning we embark on an Aboriginal cultural walk and nature tour at the Alice Springs Desert Park, where we learn about this ancient culture in a natural bush setting. Then we journey to Standley Chasm (upon arrival, our walk to the chasm itself takes about 20 minutes over dirt trails). A thin canyon between two sandstone slopes that rise 242 feet on either side, the chasm is named for Ida Standley, the first schoolteacher in Alice Springs. We pause here to take in the remarkable views: sheer rock walls glow in the light reflected from the afternoon sun. After lunch, we venture to Simpsons Gap, a prominent waterhole and Aboriginal spiritual site. We return to our hotel where the remainder of the day and evening is at leisure, with dinner tonight on our own.

Accommodations: DoubleTree by Hilton Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 9: Alice Springs/Ayers Rock (Uluru)

We depart this morning by motorcoach for Uluru (Ayers Rock), reaching our hotel early this afternoon. After time to relax and have lunch on our own, we set out for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is the traditional land of the Anangu Aboriginal peoples. In addition to its primary world-famous namesake Uluru, the park also boasts the unusual Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) rock formations. Here, we visit the base of Uluru for an up-close look at this natural wonder. Rising abruptly from the flat, low-lying plain, the rock holds a sacred place in the culture of the local Pitjantjatjara Anangu Aboriginals. We also visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre here to learn more about Uluru, the local plants and animals, and the Aboriginal inhabitants of this part of Australia. Late today we watch the sun set over this fabled sandstone monolith that rises to a height of 1,114 feet above the flat plain. We dine together at our hotel tonight.

Accommodations: Voyages Sails in the Desert Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 10: Ayers Rock (Uluru)/Sydney

This morning we return to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to view the unusual Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) rock formations, where we take a short walk to view the site up close. It is thought that the 36 red sandstone domes that make up Kata Tjuta once existed as a single monolith, but after millions of years of erosion, it eventually broke apart into the varied rock formations we see today. After experiencing this sacred site, we depart for the airport for our midday flight to Sydney, arriving in the most populous city in Australia late this afternoon. Upon arrival, we check in to our hotel. Dinner tonight is on our own, and options abound; our tour director will be available to provide recommendations.

Accommodations: Swissotel Sydney Meals: Breakfast

DAY 11: Sydney

This morning we visit Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we stroll through the grounds – home to koalas, kangaroos, dingoes, wallabies, and a variety of native birds. The park boasts a collection of over 1,700 native Australian animals, including the massive saltwater crocodile. After our visit, we return to Sydney’s city center, where we board a catamaran for a sail around Sydney Harbour and enjoy a buffet lunch along with commentary about this magnificent natural waterway. Afterwards, we embark on a panoramic city tour, beginning with a tour of The Rocks, one of Sydney’s oldest neighborhoods that now contains a number of shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. We stop at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, the enormous hand-carved stone bench set on a promontory reaching out into Sydney Harbour, and after taking in the views here, we drive through Darling Harbour, the city’s commercial center. Next, we head to the exclusive suburbs of Double Bay, Rose Bay, and Watson’s Bay for more stunning views, this time of the Tasman Sea. We continue on to the famed Bondi Beach, and then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodations: Swissotel Sydney Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: Sydney/Christchurch

This morning we have the opportunity to attend a presentation on opals, if we wish (Australia produces some 97% of the world’s opals). After checking out of our hotel, we embark on a late morning excursion: a tour of Sydney’s iconic Opera House, the country’s premier performing arts venue and home to Opera Australia, Sydney Theater Company, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, among other groups. Opened in 1973 and designed by famed Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the building’s uniquely shaped white roof is an instantly recognizable of the city of Sydney. Following our tour, we have free time for lunch and to further explore Sydney as we wish. This evening we board a flight to English-accented Christchurch, New Zealand’s “Garden City” and the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island; upon arrival very late this evening, we transfer to our hotel.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 02:31 PM
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Dimattina -an impressive overview of my city and surrounds.-well done.

KTtravel -IMHO i think to do Phillip Island and GOR and see the city is far too rushed .At the most I would choose only one of the out of city tours. March is lovely weather in Melbourne..I am happy to help with any queries re accommodation areas etc.

. .
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 03:30 PM
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Not too bad at all for a packaged tour, KTtravel. I'm a bit bemused as to how you're going experience "we drive through Darling Harbour, the city’s commercial center". The streets are designed as through-traffic to get around the built-space - the only way to see that precinct is on foot, IME. Anyway - Monkeys & circuses as they say.

I'm glad you're getting out and about on our beautiful Sydney Harbour.

In your free time in Sydney, I'd suggest a visit to the wonderful Art Gallery of NSW (you will pass it on your way to Mrs Macquarie's Chair) and if you're interested in European Australian convict history, the excellent Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

It's a shame you're not seeing sunrise at Uluru - but with Alice Springs a 5 hour drive (about 470kms) away, you'd need to leave at midnight Flies can be an issue around that time of year, so I would visit one of the camping stores in Sydney or the Cultural Centre at Yulara & get a fly veil to go over your hat (and make sure you have a proper wide-brimed hat, not a useless "baseball cap" which doesn't protect anything from the sun). You'll need good, 50+ sunscreen - our sun is more severe than anywhere and burns even if you don't think it's all that hot. Early morning and late afternoon is the time to do walks up there - and hit the pool or the air conditioned hotel in the middle of the day.

Thanks for sharing your Itinerary. It's always interesting to see what people have planned for their trips. I'm not usually a fan of organised group tours at all, but I do think this one is quite good and gives you a decent glimpse at a variety of our country - and not all from the window of a humungous bus zooming past at 100kms/hour.

Hope you have a great time
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 03:50 PM
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Thanks, northie. That's kind of you to say. And thanks for the compliment, Bokhara2. I've enjoyed reading your advice for Sydney, which is the other Australian city I can never get enough of. I'm hoping I can get there this year to see the new Art Gallery of NSW extension. Each time I visit Sydney, there's always something new to see--and I haven't even seen yet caught up on what I've missed on my previous visits.

KTtravel, your trip looks fast-paced, but fun and interesting as you'll get to see a good variety, from outback to coral reef and rainforest to the cities. You might want to buy a fly net for your head as soon as you arrive in Uluru! The flies don't bite, they're just a nuisance. Once you don the net, you'll be okay with them. And, if you're headed to NZ, it might come in handy should you encounter biting sandflies (most prevalent on the South Island's West Coast and sometimes Fiordland). Insect repellent might comee in handy, too (for NZ's West Coast).

How lucky you are to be a volunteer at the California Academy of Sciences! Though I now live in NZ, i grew up going to the old Steinhart Aquarium. Later in life, I worked right across the concourse and sometimes visited the aquarium on my lunch break. I miss the old Steinhart, but its replacement is fantastic. When I visit, I always spend several hours there, just mesmerized by the exhibits. By the way, both Melbourne and Sydney have fine aquariums.

If you enjoy visiting markets, Cairns has a good one: Rusty's. It's right downtown and only open Friday – Saturday: 5am to 6pm, and Sunday: 5am to 3pm. I found the variety of produce and flowers on sale interesting and reflective of the tropical environment and multi-ethnicity of the local population. The market also has arts and crafts. There are some nice bars and restaurants along the waterfront/marina, which I think might be close to a Pullman Hotel. If you like prawns, you might enjoy Prawn Star. It touristy and you dine family-style on a fishing boat. The food and beverage choices are simple and simply prepared: prawns and other Australian seafood. We thought it was fun and being seated family-style allowed us to get to know our neighbors, who, luckily were lovely (3 young Singaporean women and avid "foodies' and a young Canadian-UK couple who were super-excited about their new move to Australia) At the same time, we were entertained by fireworks above the waterfront.

The Cairns Library used to have some tall trees that housed spectacled fruits bats, who at dusk flew from the trees to the forest. I just read they've been relocated, probably because of health concerns, but they were amazing to watch. .

Now that I know you will also be coming to NZ, I should advise you to prepare for our highly changeable weather. Not too different from SF, where dressing in layers is also common A good wind-and waterproof jacket with a hood and a light fleece are advisable, particularly if you will be headed to the West Coast (Punakaiki/Pancake Rocks, Hokitika, Franz Josef and/or Fox Glaciers). It will likely be warm, so a light wind and water-proof jacket is good enough, especially if you only need it for a few days. I have a few wind and waterproof jackets and for summer I have one that I can roll up and tuck away into my day pack. (I bought it deeply discounted at Berkeley's North Face outlet.) Milford Sound weather can also be unpredictable. This being said, March is known for having fine, settled weather, as we ease into fall. Overall, it's my favorite month for NZ travel. On the East Coast of the South Island, we are currently experencing drought conditions..This has partly been caused by the El Niņo climate pattern. Please check the Metservice forecast each morning. It'll not only give you a daily forecast but also tell you how many layers of clothing you'll need.I check it all the time.

(Sorry, I don't know what's going on with my font!)

Last edited by Diamantina; Jan 18th, 2024 at 04:23 PM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 04:44 PM
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Wow! So much wonderful information, thank you! I am going to print out all of these great suggestions. Those Sydney museums sound excellent, Bokhara2. I am glad we do have some free time on the tour to

Diamantina, did you grow up in San Francisco? If so, where did you go to school? I am a native although now live in Pacifica. Did you work at the de Young Museum? I volunteered there for a little while but the volunteer opportunities at the Academy of Science are more fun. I, too, went to both all of the time as a kid and then brought my kids. Pretty soon it will be time to bring my newborn grandson!

I am glad no one is saying the trip sounds terrible. I liked the variety it seems to offer but know such a short trip can't possibly cover everything. I did read the tour is providing fly nets in Uluru and already have a wide brimmed hat (although my husband needs one.) Those flies must be intense. I will pull out the sunscreen my kids call my "geisha look."

I will post the New Zealand itinerary below as I'd love feedback/suggestions on that as well. Thanks in advance!


Tour Part 2
DAY 13: Christchurch/Mount Cook National ParkToday’s full day begins with Christchurch – “more English than England” – boasting its own River Avon (with punters) and many parks and gardens. While here, we make two stops in the city center: first to see the progress being made to rebuild this area after the devastating 2011 earthquake, then to visit the Botanic Gardens, a 50-acre enclave in the center of the city with fountains, walking paths, and a profusion of plants and flowers. Then we board our motorcoach for the journey south to Mount Cook, stopping en route for lunch. Before reaching Mount Cook National Park, this afternoon we visit a working farm for a glimpse into New Zealand’s pastoral lifestyle. While here, we watch the sheepdogs working together to muster the Suffolk sheep, see a sheep shearing demonstration, and learn about the process of handlng and classing wool. This evening we reach stunning Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s great alpine preserve of turquoise lakes and snow-topped mountains (and a UNESCO World Heritage park). Habitat for many species of flowering plants and birds, the park boasts 19 peaks reaching over 9,842 feet and glaciers comprise some 40 percent of its area. We dine together tonight at our hotel.

Accommodations: The Hermitage Hotel Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: Mount Cook

Today’s time at Mount Cook Village includes a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which showcases the region and its people, and where we see a 3D planetarium movie about the region. Both educational and entertaining, the center also comprises the Hillary Gallery commemorating Sir Edmund’s achievements, including the first ascent of Mount Cook’s difficult South face, where he trained for his monumental summiting of Mount Everest. At 12,218 feet, Mount Cook (Aoraki in native Maori) stands as New Zealand’s highest peak. After time for lunch on our own, we return to our hotel in the heart of the national park where the afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration in this breathtaking swath of nature; optional activities include hiking and scenic flights (ranging approximately $250-$600NZD at time of printing). Dinner is at our hotel tonight.

Accommodations: The Hermitage Hotel Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 15: Mount Cook/Queenstown

This morning we continue on to Queenstown, stopping along the way in historic Arrowtown followed by a visit to the famed Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world’s first bungy operation open to the public. Late this afternoon we reach Queenstown, New Zealand’s “adventure capital,” blessed with a supremely scenic location nestled between The Remarkables, a jagged range of snowcapped mountains, and glacial Lake Wakatipu. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel St. Moritz Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 16: Milford Sound

Early today we leave Queenstown by motorcoach as we embark on a full-day excursion through stunning alpine scenery to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world.” It is, quite simply, glorious. Formed by giant glaciers that receded long ago, glassine Milford Sound boasts vertical cliffs that rise thousands of feet from the sea. The Sound itself is also massive: it measures 10 miles long and 11⁄2 miles wide at its broadest point. We admire this spectacle of nature on a 21⁄2-hour nature cruise past cascading waterfalls, rainforest, sheer rock walls, and such landmarks as 5,560-foot Mitre Peak, which dominates the pristine waterway. We enjoy lunch on board then later have the opportunity to return to Queenstown on an optional scenic flight (weather permitting and approximately $450NZD at time of printing). Those not wishing to take the scenic flight will return to Queenstown by motorcoach later this evening. Dinner tonight is on our own in Queenstown.

Please note that while this will be a long day – Milford Sound is a four- to five-hour coach ride each way from Queenstown – the beauty of the scenery both along the way and at Milford Sound itself make it well worth the journey.

Accommodations: Hotel St. Moritz Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 17: Queenstown

Today is at leisure to enjoy New Zealand’s adventure capital as we wish. From bungy jumping, jet boating, river rafting, and kayaking to visiting wineries, art galleries, and scenic trails, activities abound (at additional expense). Our tour director will be happy to help plan any activities; lunch and dinner are on our own.

Accommodations: Hotel St. Moritz Meals: Breakfast

DAY 18: Queenstown/Rotorua

We depart today for the flight to Rotorua (via Christchurch or Wellington), cultural center of New Zealand’s native Maori people and also home to dramatic geysers, bubbling mud pools, and thermal hot springs. Upon arrival, we have the rest of the evening at our leisure to explore Rotorua as we wish. Dinner is on our own; our tour director will be happy to offer restaurant suggestions.

Accommodations: Regent of Rotorua Meals: Breakfast

DAY 19: Rotorua

This morning we visit Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park, a nature and wildlife park set in the New Zealand bush. The park offers an up-close look at New Zealand’s biodiversity, with native flora, a freshwater stream home to wild trout, and wildlife. After time to explore here, we continue on to visit the state-sponsored National Kiwi Trust, New Zealand’s largest kiwi hatchery, where guests can watch the country’s famous birds as they are nurtured before being released into the wild. Late this afternoon we visit the Te Puia Thermal Reserve and Maori Cultural Centre fora traditional hangi dinner and performance. A time-honored Maori cooking technique, hangi involves covering food in an earthen pit filled with hot rocks, allowing it to steam and cook in its own juices.

Accommodations: Regent of Rotorua Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 20: Rotorua/Auckland

Our full-day journey to Auckland begins with a stop this morning at Ruakuri Caves, where we enjoy a guided subterranean experience of elaborate limestone formations, hidden waterfalls, underground rivers, sacred Maori sites, and unique glowworms that illuminate the caves. Our tour begins with a spiral descent from ground level via an incredible drum entrance and walkway, then continues through the underground grotto for one mile. Following our tour, we resume the journey to Auckland, arriving late afternoon in the “City of Sails,” New Zealand’s largest city. We’re on our own for dinner tonight in this multicultural city known especially for its world-class Pacific Rim cuisine and wines.

Accommodations: Grand Millennium Auckland Meals: Breakfast

DAY 21: Auckland

Our half-day panoramic tour of this city set atop 48 volcanic hills starts with Auckland Harbour, where we view the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Built in 1959, the bridge stretches three quarters of a mile and stands 15 stories above the water. “Clip-on” lanes doubled the bridge’s capacity in 1969 and currently an average of 165,000 commuters cross it (or bungy jump from it) daily. We also visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum (often referred to simply as the Auckland Museum), founded in 1852 and moved to the location constructed on this site in 1929 as New Zealand’s first museum. Along with several prized Maori and Pacific Islander collections, the elegant Neoclassical building hosts a number of exhibits showcasing New Zealanders’ efforts in overseas conflicts, and also serves as a memorial to New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. Tonight, we celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodations: Grand Millennium Auckland Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 22: Depart for U.S.

This afternoon we transfer to the Auckland airport for our flight to the U.S., where we connect with our return flights home.


KTtravel is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2024, 09:28 PM
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All the talk of flies reminded me of the "Aussie salute". It's where you constantly wave your hand in front of your face, to ward off the little buggers. The worst is when you are trying to eat, don't leave your mouth open too long I'd much rather have the little flies than any insects that bite. The flies are just annoying.
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 12:37 AM
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HaHa KayF - that's right, the "Aussie salute" and eau de Rid for the little biting brutes. KTtravels, "Rid" is the best insect repellent you can get - none of this "natural stuff" that doesn't deter anything. Rid & Bushmens has a good dose of DEET and I use the roll-on (don't like having the spray up my nostrils)

We've had a lot of rain in my area and the little midges are out in the evenings. I'm a "mozzie magnet", so eau de Rid or eaten alive it is for me. It's not Chanel, but it's effective!

New Zealand is exquisite and the South Island particularly so. I hope the weather lets you do the scenic flight over Milford Sound it's really something special.

I must say (again), I'm really quite impressed with your tour's Itinerary. It's busy but not frantic and covers an interesting range of places in both countries.

Don't suppose you'd like to do a Trip Report for us - you know we love to see how people's trips work out.
Have fun
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 04:42 PM
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KTtravel, yes, I was born and raised in SF. I will send you a "pm" so we can compare notes!

It looks like your NZ trip will also give you a good variety of NZ culture and scenery.

Your accommodations for Queenstown and Aoraki Mt. Cook looks great. You'll have excellent views in Queenstown (of Lake Wakitipu and the Remarkables mountains) and in Aoraki Mt. Cook (of glaciers, alpine scenery, and Mt. Cook itself)--if not from your room, then certainly from the hotel's dining room and other public spaces.

Given your NZ itinerary, you won't have to worry much about sandflies, except, perhaps at some stops along Milford Road, which is the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Sometimes they can be around the dock at Milford Sound as well. But this is far from a certainty; there's a good chance you won't be bothered by them as all. Keep in mind, if bothered by them, they're slow creatures, so just keep moving. My best defense has always been to cover up.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jan 19th, 2024 at 04:44 PM.
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