From the Lands Down Under
For some they represent a ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure; for others they’re part of a gap year or career break. But how do you best tackle the vastness of Australia and New Zealand?
Founded in 1970 by former SAS officer Mike Gooley with just four people, Trailfinders now has a staff of more than 1,000 and has made travel arrangements for 15 million clients. We asked some of its specialists for their tips for first-time tourists.
What advice would you give first-timers to Australia or New Zealand?
“There is so much to see it pays to book through an operator. Our consultants have travelled extensively so know exactly where to go,” says Emma Lund, Trailfinders’ Australia Product Contractor. “A classic itinerary for first-timers is Sydney, Rock and Reef (12 days from £1,040 excluding flights) during which you’ll experience the harbour city, Uluru and the Barrier Reef.
I can’t afford more than two weeks away – is it still possible to get a flavour of one of the countries?
“Two weeks is absolutely fine to get a taster and a tailor-made trip will really help. For Australia, there are hundreds of options but a key factor is not to visit too many destinations. A popular choice is Melbourne to Sydney along the Great Ocean Road (14 days from £1,089 excluding flights),” advises Victoria Akers.
If I only did three things in each country, what should they be?
“The Barrier Reef is a must as are Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House – plus everyone should visit Bondi Beach at least once. And you must see sunrise or sunset over Uluru,” says Andrew Darnell. “For New Zealand, Queenstown gets our vote as it offers year-round activities and fantastic dining. We’d recommend a visit to Rotorua with its hot springs, mud pools and exploding geysers. And Milford Sound is one of the country’s most scenic areas.”
• For more information on Trailfinders’ group tours and tailor-made holidays, call 070 7368 1200 or visit www.trailfinders.com
Planes, Trains, Boats and Automobiles
Here's our pick of some of the best Australian and New Zealand holidays
Jules Verne (www.vjv.com) has a 22-night Iconic Australia trip travelling from vast desert landscapes to white sandy shores and onto world-class wineries and wonderful wildlife encounters as well as an overnight trip on the iconic Ghan Train. From £6,695 including flights.
For lovers of life at sea, Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) has an 18-day trip sailing from Adelaide with 10 stops including Melbourne, Dunedin, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland. Prices start from £2,089 per person. All meals are included, but flights aren’t.
Titan Travel (www.titantravel.co.uk) offers several fully-escorted trips. The 19-day Highlights of Australia takes in Sydney, Melbourne, Uluru, Perth and the Great Barrier Reef with prices starting from £4,099, while the 21-day Best of New Zealand is from £4,999. Both include international flights.
Behind the Wheel
Prefer the freedom of fly-drive? If so, Austravel (www.austravel.com) has several options from a 14-day Best of Sydney
and Surrounds (from £2,195) to a 16-day Ultimate Outback Explorer (from £3,029). Both include flights, car hire and accommodation.
Audley (www.audleytravel.com) has a 14-day trip taking in Australia’s southwest. Starting in Perth, it explores the wonderful Margaret River wine region, ancient Karri forests, as well as opportunities to hang-out with super cute Quokkas on Rottnest Island and relax on some of Australia’s finest beaches. Prices start from £2,705 including flights.
How about taking the Ghan train from Darwin to Adelaide? From the top of the Northern Territory to the capital of South Australia, the four-day train journey showcases the best of Australia whilst travelling in luxury. Prices start from £2,545 through Austravel (www.austravel.com). Rail specialists Ffestiniog Travel (www.ffestiniogtravel.com) is registering interest for a 2019 departure of its 24-day Antipodean Tour in which you’ll journey across Australia and New Zealand on some of the world’s most iconic trains.
Family Australia is a 16-day journey especially created by Audley (www.audleytravel.com) to try and make a sizeable snapshot of the country accessible. It takes in Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns seen through trips to the Barrier Reef and into tropical rainforest, a 4x4 adventure on Fraser Island and, of course, kangaroo and koala sightings. Accommodation is in two-bedroom apartments and the trip costs from £2,985 including flights.
Into the Wild
Australia and New Zealand are both renowned for wildlife. The 20-day Nature Discovery from Austravel (www.austravel.com) explores vast terrains and turquoise oceans as you make your way around a handful of states, visiting some of the country’s most extraordinary national parks, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and being surrounded by flora and fauna. Prices start from £4,199 including flights. Naturetrek (www.naturetrek.co.uk) also offers Australia and New Zealand itineraries steeped in the natural world with prices starting from £4,995 including flights for a 13-day journey.
From Rotorua’s steaming geysers to Milford Sound’s dramatic cliffs, a 15-day New Zealand trip from Austravel (www.austravel.com) takes in highlights of a country regularly voted one of the world’s most stunning. You’ll view glaciers at Franz Josef, discover Maori culture, and experience a whole host of thrills in adventure capital Queenstown. From £4,149 including flights. Also look at Mystical New Zealand from Jules Verne (www.vjv.com) – a 23-night journey costing from £5,975.
If you want to take the flexibility of fly-drive to another level, Freedom New Zealand (www.freedomnewzealand.co.uk) can set you up with a luxury camper van. Fully equipped kitchens, showers, bed linen, heating and TV/DVD – in fact just about everything you need for a go-as-you-please holiday. Four-berth vehicles start from £79 a day. Also try Freedom Australia (www.freedomaustralia.co.uk).