Australia, NZ and South Pacific


Overview

Travel guide for New Zealand, Australia and South Pacific that will help you experience the best adventure, nature and Aboriginal culture

Long viewed by snooty Europeans as cultural backwaters, in the last decade Australia and New Zealand have been rocketed to the top of travellers’ wishlists by two spectacular global events: the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the NZ-set Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

So now the world knows what visitors knew all along – that these two little-and-large neighbours pack in more adventure, natural wonder and (breathe it) cultural wallop than almost anywhere else on earth. Add in the 7,500 beguiling isles of the South Pacific – from the enigmatic big heads of Easter Island to the land-divers of Vanuatu – and you have a traveller-friendly region with enormous depth and variety.

The classic first-timer’s tour of Australia – ‘Sydney, Rock and Reef’ – ticks off its world icons: the feelgood harbour city, the jaw-dropping desert monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock), and the divers’ paradise of the Great Barrier Reef.

Many equally rewarding experiences lie further afield. though. Western Australia offers true wilderness adventures in the outback; Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, is perhaps the best place to learn about Aboriginal culture; and Tasmania boasts world class rafting, hiking and rainforest.

New Zealanders like to call their home ‘God’s Own Country’, and for anyone with a taste for outdoors, they’re probably right. The larger, craggier South Island often grabs the headlines, but the North Island is quieter and no less beautiful. Take your pick from fjord-lined Milford Sound, the coastal Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte tracks, the volcanic Tongariro Crossing – and dozens more hiking gems.

Want to go faster? Queenstown is a mecca for adrenaline sports – the bungee jump and many more lunatic endeavours were invented here. New Zealand’s Maori culture is also fascinating and easily accessible through museums, cultural tours and homestays.

This part of the world is often called Oceania, and for good reason: the South Pacific defines everything from Bondi Beach’s surfers to New Zealand’s yachties. And strung out to the north and east of New Zealand, the far-flung islands of Polynesia – settled by pioneering sailors – retain a strong seafaring culture.

Most visited is Fiji, the hub of South Pacific air travel. Here there are luxury resorts a-plenty, but also many chances to experience traditional, conservative Polynesian village life. Nearby(ish) Samoa is emerging as a less-developed alternative. Tonga has world-class humpback whale-watching and the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have great diving and are home to remarkable tribal cultures.

Further afield, paradise islands like Rarotonga, Tahiti and Bora Bora are firmly in luxury honeymoon territory. However, the passenger-carrying freighter Aranui is still the way to visit the remote Marquesas Islands on one of the world’s greatest and remotest boat journeys.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your Australasian adventure today…

Further Reading

Top 10 Australia, NZ and South Pacific travel experiences

Marvel at big heads, dive with big fish, wander round big rocks – you can do it all and more down under

  1. Aboriginal Arnhem Land, Australia – venture into this rarely visited expanse of the Northern Territory for close cultural encounters with the Aboriginal owners.
  2. Marvel at the moai, Easter Island – the stone heads on this far-flung outpost of Chile are as mysterious as they are massive. Trek around the island to see the various statues: some guard the coast, others lay fallen in the massive quarry from which they were hewn.
  3. Meet a kiwi, Stewart Island, New Zealand – the nocturnal and shy kiwi can be hard to spot; for your best chance head out at night with a naturalist guide on New Zealand's little-visited southern island.
  4. Watch the land-divers, Vanuatu – the original bungy jump: between April and June every year some of the men of Vanuatu jump from precariously high platforms with just vines to (hopefully) break their fall.
  5. See Sydney Harbour, Australia – the world's most beautiful city? Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly to best appreciate the marriage of bridge, opera house and ocean.
  6. Swim with whale sharks, Western Australia – from March to June large numbers of pelagics visit WA's Ningaloo Reef. Dive in with whale sharks, rays and a host of other marine life.
  7. Explore Milford Sound, New Zealand – the headline act of New Zealand's Fjordland, Milford is a picturesque glacier-gouged inlet, dotted with waterfalls and wildlife. Drive from Te Anau, fly in for views over the mountains en route, or walk the Milford Track to arrive on foot.
  8. Admire Uluru (Ayers Rock), Northern Territory, Australia – Australia's big red rock is the big draw, but while you're in the area don't miss King's Canyon and the Olgas too; for a true-blue bush experience, camp out in a swag under the stars. 
  9. Raft the Franklin River, Tasmania, Australia – nearly ruined by a dam, the Franklin is a wild and wonderful waterway, best explored on a multi-day rafting trip; look out for the local wildlife as you camp by the riverbank.
  10. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia – stretching for more than 2,600km along the east coast of Oz, this vast wall of coral offers great snorkelling and diving as well as island hopping (try the Whitsundays). Head to the outer reef for the best dive sites.