Australia and New Zealand Tours 2022 - The Ultimate Guide

 

Torn between Australia and New Zealand for your next vacation? Why not visit both destinations in one life changing trip - it's easier than you think. Our guide to Combined Australia & New Zealand tours will show you how.

New Zealand Australian Holidays

"Which country should I visit - Australia or New Zealand?"

As Australia & New Zealand Travel Specialists, this is a question we are asked regularly. When you're flying a long way to get here, we believe it makes sense to capture your love of travel on both sides of the Tasman. Our recommendations will of course depend very much on what you -  the independent traveller are interested in -  and that can be different for each of us.

Welcome to...the ultimate guide to combined Australia/New Zealand vacations 

-    see how Australia and New Zealand are different 
-    choose where to visit 
-    decide how to get around
-    learn about travel currency and visas
-    stay within your budget
-    create your own Australia & New Zealand itinerary 

Part 1: Why you should visit both Australia and New Zealand - 3 good reasons for starters: 

  1. Ease of travel:  Flight time between the countries is around 3 hours. That's less time than it takes to fly from Sydney to Perth!
  2. It's fascinating: Australia and New Zealand contrasts and compliment each other - visiting both, you are NOT just adding "more of the same".
  3. It's inspiring: Taste a sampler during your first visit to this side of the world.  Come back knowing what you loved and want to see more of.

Let's look at each country in a little more detail:  

Australia and New Zealand are inextricably linked they do have many things in common:  

  • They are close neighbours in the South Pacific 
  • Indigenous cultures with deep and sacred connections to the land.
  • Both are Commonwealth countries whose Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II, and who fought as ANZACS during WWI & WWII.
  • Passionate about sport, especially rugby and cricket - and a Trans-Tasman rivalry that runs deep.

And in both countries, you will find...

  • Fantastic food and wine culture
  • Relaxed laid back lifestyles

So what makes them different?  

Size!

Australia is roughly the size of the USA (minus Hawaii and Alaska). Around 25 million people live there.  
New Zealand, however, is about the same size as California. In fact, it's 29 times smaller than Australia with a population of 5 million (and, famously, 30 million sheep).    

Climate

Australia

Australia is hotter and drier.  35% of Australia is classified as desert where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius in summer.  It's no surprise then that 90% of Australians live within 100km of the coast where temperatures are cooler and the climate is much more pleasant. Most of Australia's big tourist attractions are within 100km of the coast too.  

Australia has 4 seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter except for the tropical Far North, which has a wet and dry season.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a temperate maritime climate. The annual rainfall is a lot higher - which gives rise to lush forests, fertile countryside, mountains, glaciers, and fiords. Plus volcanic landscapes that look like the set of a sci-fi movie.  The country has four seasons.

So when you combine New Zealand and Australia you will be set for experiencing a bit of eveything weather wise. 

Each country has a unique history & culture  

Indigenous Culture Aboriginal Australians have continuously inhabited Australia for an incredible 50,000 years. Their culture is the oldest on earth, with many tribes and over 200 languages known to have existed.

There have only been humans in NZ for around 700 years. The first New Zealanders were intrepid Polynesian explorers, known as Maori.  Maori and Australian Aboriginal history are completely unrelated. But one thing they do have in common is how much life changed for them when European explorers arrived.  Do seek out opportunities to learn more about Maori and Aboriginal history, art and culture when you visit.

And while you're here, be sure to check out the natural history as well as the human variety:   

The wildlife is... wildly different 

Endemic wildlife varies dramatically between Australia and New Zealand. You won't find kangaroos in New Zealand, and you won't spot a kiwi bird in Australia. 

Australia: 

  • Marsupials: Like kangaroos and koalas, wombats and wallabies , for example - your Australian holiday isn't complete until you've seen them.
  • The weird and wonderful: Like spiny echidna, thorny dragons, and a creature that resembles a duck crossed with an otter (the platypus)
  • The deadly and dangerous: Including giant crocodiles, poisonous snakes & spiders, and the world's most venomous jellyfish!   

New Zealand

  • Feathered friends: you'll see an incredible array of birds here. 
  • Flightless birds: Flightless birds like the Kiwi, Kakapo and Takahe are highly endangered due to the introduction of foxes, possums and other mammals to New Zealand. 
  • Ocean animals: Playful dolphins, tiny penguins, seals and sea lions - NZ's coastline is teeming with marine wildlife. 
  • Shining glow-worms: These little guys light up the darkness with a gorgeous glow.

Part 2: Practicalities

If you're worried that planning for two countries instead of one will be a hassle, we can put your mind at rest. Here are the answers to some common questions:    

  • What travel documents do I need for Australia and New Zealand? 
    Before you travel you'll need to obtain a separate visa for each country.  Most visitors can apply online and in many cases it only takes a few minutes to receive your travel documents.  
  • Do Australia and New Zealand use the same currency?
    Australia's currency is Australian Dollars New Zealand's currency is New Zealand Dollars  These are not interchangeable, so if you are ordering currency for your trip you will need to get both. You could just rely on  your credit card if you prefer.  
  • Will my electrical appliances work in both Australia and New Zealand?
    Good news: both countries use the same type of plug and electrical systems. so you won't need separate travel adapters.  Find out more about adapters and converters for Australia and New Zealand
  • Do I have enough time to visit both Australia and New Zealand?
    Perhaps you're worried that you won't be able to see it all.  If you were travelling to the USA for 3 weeks, (which is roughly the same size as Australia) would you expect to see everything in one trip?That would take months rather than weeks.    

How do I get around Australia and New Zealand?

You most definitely CAN and WILL have a fantastic holiday that you'll remember forever. Whether you want to meander through one or two regions that take your fancy, or zip around as many sights as possible, here are some ways to travel around:    

Car & Campervan: Australia  

Pros: seeing the "real" Australia in glorious detail

Cons: difficult to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
Road travel is easy due to Australia's comprehensive road network. But the distances involved can be huge. You're unlikely to want to drive more than 400km in a day, and when you add rest days in between... it's not quick.  

Car & Campervan: New Zealand  

Pros: Easy to visit of attractions in a short space of time

Cons: Driving conditions can be unpredictable, especially in winter  Being smaller than its bigger sibling, New Zealand is the perfect place for a driving holiday. But you'll find few freeways and lots of twisting single-lane roads, and the occasional one-way bridge!   

Domestic Flights: Australia  

Pros: Drastically cutting your travel time

Cons: Expensive to rely on flying alone  Mix driving with domestic flights to see as much of Australia as possible in the time you have. Most airports have rental car outlets so it's easy to pick up a new set of wheels when you land.    

Domestic Flights: New Zealand  

Pros: Ideal for travelling between main towns & cities

Cons: Again, taking lots of flights will push your budget up.  Driving distances are shorter in New Zealand, but you'll still save time on your journey with domestic flights, athough it can be a convenient way to travel between the North and South Islands.  

Rail Travel: Australia

Pros: Great for regional travel

Cons: Long-distance train travel is expensive

There are plenty of local and regional rail services in most Australian states. They're great for day-tripping to locations like the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Long-distance rail travel in Australia is very much a luxury. You'll sleep onboard in your own cabin and dine in a restaurant car, the old-fashioned way.

Read about the Ghan: a classic Australian rail

Rail Travel: New Zealand

Pros: Some of the most scenic rail journeys in the world!

Cons: Rail network isn't extensive You won't find overnight sleeper trains in New Zealand - the distances are too short! There are only three long-distance rail services, however, the three long-distance services - one in the North Island and two in the South - cross jaw-droppingly beautiful terrain.

A guide to New Zealand by rail

Coach and Bus Travel: Australia

Pros: Extensive, well-priced bus network

Cons: Long distances.

Australia has an extensive long-distance bus network, with comfortable air-conditioned coach services. It's a cost-effective way to travel, but for vast distances, you might prefer to fly at least some of the way!

Coach and Bus Travel: New Zealand

Pros: Budget-friendly

Cons: Overcrowding during high season.

If you want to travel by road in New Zealand, buses are the cheapest way to do it. Even smaller towns have regular services. Book ahead if travelling in high season: if buses are full you may have to wait for the next day's service!

Independent coach touring - using public coach services to follow your own itinerary - is an extremely cost-effective way to see and New Zealand.

Ferry Travel: Australia and New Zealand

Pros: Great if you're driving, as you can take the car!

Cons:  Not all car rental companies allow their vehicles to be taken on ferries. Do some research before you commit.

If you're travelling to Tasmania from Melbourne, you can sail across the Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. There are two sailings per day, an overnight crossing and a daytime one.

New Zealand's InterIslander ferry sails between Wellington (North Island) and Picton (South Island). The views of the Marlborough Sound are spectacular. There are several crossings per day and it takes around three hours.

Now you know how easy it is to get around... it's time to decide where you want to go. 

Part 3: Where to visit on your Australia and New Zealand trip

If you can't see everywhere, then how are you going to decide what to see and what to miss out? We've put together some of our favourite places and things to do, organised by theme. 

Use this section to help you choose a variety of places and activies in each country that appeal to you. Simply mix and match a few ideas from each section and you're ready to plan your trip! You could put together a tour of Australia and New Zealand's great wine regions. Or an epic journey around the Soth Pacific's unforgettable natural wonders. 

New World Wine Masters 

You'll find world-class wines in both countries, with gorgeous vineyard views and wineries to sample. Here's a few ideas:

Australian Wine Country

  • Western Australia's Margaret River for spectacular coastline and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • South Australia: visit the Barossa Valley's picturesque villages for elegant Shiraz, or follow the Riesling Trail through the Clare Valley
  • Drive an hour out of Melbourne for the Yarra Valley's stunning mountain views, world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Sample a Semillon or two in the gorgeous Hunter Valley - perfectly located for a day trip from Sydney.

New Zealand Wine Country

  • Escape the hustle & bustle of Auckland with a day trip to Waiheke Island's wineries and beaches
  • New Zealand's sunshine capital, Hawkes Bay is famed for its full-bodied reds, native birdlife and Art Deco architecture.
  • Tour the Marlborough region for picture-perfect coastline and world-renowned Sav Blanc.
  • Arguably the most scenic wine region, Central Otago's breathtaking lake and mountain backdrop is located on Queenstown's doorstep.

Natural Wonders of Australia & NZ

Australia

  • Uluru (Ayers Rock) - Australia's most iconic and sacred natural wonder, towering 348 metres high in the Red Centre desert.
  • Great Barrier Reef - discover the abundant marine life and beautiful corals in the Reef's clear turquoise waters.
  • The Blue Mountains - be awed by rugged cliffs, hidden canyons, towering waterfalls and gorgeous eucalyptus forests.
  • Daintree Rainforest - wander beneath the stunning canopy of oldest living rainforest on the planet.
  • The Twelve Apostles - giant limestone rock stacks rising majestically from the Southern Ocean. A must-see when driving the Great Ocean Road.
  • Pinnacles Desert - ancient limestone pillars rising straight out of the desert sand. 

New Zealand

  • Milford Sound - sailing the length of the Sound, dwarfed by towering cliffs and waterfalls all around, is an experience you'll never forget.
  • Rotorua - In this geothermal landscape giant geysers rocket into the air, while colourful sulphur terraces hiss and boil.
  • Tane Mahuta - Visit the ancient Waipoua Kauri Forest to see the largest Kauri tree of all: Tane Mahuta, the 51-metre-tall "Lord of the Forest"
  • Glacier Country - An ice-capped world of giant glaciers awaits you in New Zealand's South Island. Franz Josef, Fox, and the Tasman Glacier are the best-known.
  • Pancake Rocks - Punakaiki's bizarre, flattened rock stacks were sculpted over 30 million years, beaten into shape by the ocean.

Beautiful Beaches of Australia & New Zealand: try these...

Australia:

In New South Wales...

  • Byron Bay - for laid-back bohemian vibes 
  • Bondi - for beachside glamour a stone's throw from Sydney city

In Queensland...

  • Whitsunday islands - for soft white sands and colourful coral 
  • Surfers Paradise - for family fun and theme parks by the ocean
     

In Western Australia...

  • Margaret River for turquoise waters and spectacular surf breaks 
  • Coral Coast for snorkelling and marine wildlife
     

In Tasmania...

  • Bay of Fires - for unique, stripey rock-covered landscapes
  • Wineglass Bay - the hidden beach with a beautiful pink mountain backdrop
     

In New Zealand's North Island...

  • Coromandel Peninsula - for digging your very own hot pool
  • Bay of Islands - for golden sands fringed by native trees
  • Piha - for black-sand surf beaches and rugged coastline
     

In New Zealand's South Island...

  • Golden Bay - warm, shallow waters for younger swimmers
  • Abel Tasman - for lush green forests and secluded bays

City Hopping

Australia

  • Perth: With soft-sand beaches, towering skyscrapers, lush green parks and a vibrant street art scene, Perth is a fascinating town to explore.
  • Melbourne: Stylish Melbourne has hidden charms around every corner, beautiful gardens, chic city squares and boutique shopping galore.
  • Sydney: the oldest and grandest of Australia's cities, Sydney's glorious natural harbour and a blissful climate will win your heart.
  • Adelaide: With spacious boulevards, sophisticated architecture, gorgeous gardens, and a thriving foodie scene, cosmopolitan Adelaide has it all. 
  • Brisbane: Queensland's capital city enjoys subtropical weather all year round. It's a hotbed of cultural attractions, world class arts and impressive natural wonders.
  • Hobart: A harbour city with heritage charm, at the foot of Tasmania's Mount Wellington. This lovely city is known for its art and gourmet food scenes.
  • Darwin: Closer to Singapore than Sydney, this modern, multicultural and chilled-out city still has a "frontier town" feel.

 

New Zealand

  • Auckland: As well as its volcanoes, New Zealand's biggest city is famous for its waterfront lifestyle and harbour bridge.
  • Napier: Flattened by an earthquake in 1931,Napier was rebuilt in Art Deco style. It's one of the few fully intact Art Deco cities in existence.
  • Wellington: Often referred to as "New Zealand's Cool Little Capital", Wellington boasts colourful streets, quirky shops & galleries, gourmet food and heaps of charm. 
  • Christchurch: English heritage buildings sit side-by-side with innovative post-earthquake regeneration in the South Island's capital city.
  • Dunedin: See gothic spires, Victorian architecture and New Zealand's only castle in the South Island's second-largest city.

Great Railway Journeys of Australia and New Zealand

Australia

  • The Ghan: An epic 2-night journey from Adelaide to Darwin via the Red Centre deserts.
  • The Indian Pacific: Experience the vastness of Australian landscape on a 3-night rail trip from Sydney to Perth
  • Spirit of the Outback: a 24-hour expedition from Brisbane to Rockhampton takes you to historic and authentic outback towns

New Zealand

  • TranzAlpine Scenic Railway (Christchurch to Greymouth): Snake through Arthur's Pass and descend into spectacular gorges. World-class.
  • Northern Explorer (Auckland to Wellington): Experience the North Island’s scenery, from Waikato farmlands to the Kapiti coast.
  • Coastal Pacific (Picton to Christchurch): With the ocean to your left and the mountains to your right, it doesn't get more scenic than this.
     

History & Culture Hotspots of Australia & NZ

Australia

  • Discover Australia's notorious convict history at Port Arthur Heritage Site in Tasmania
  • Take a guided walk with Indigenous elders to Kakadu's ancient Rock Art Sites
  • Visit Sovereign Hill and experience the excitement of Victoria's 19th century Gold Rush
  • Take a guided hike through the ancient Nitmiluk National Park, home of the Jawoyn people, with an indigenous guide.

New Zealand

  • Explore the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where Maori elders and European settlers signed their historic agreement
  • Take a historic steamship cruise on Queenstown's TSS Earnslaw
  • Enjoy a Maori hangi feast and cultural show in Rotorua
  • Join local Maori guides on a tour of South Canterbury's rock art sites

 

Wonderful Aussie & Kiwi Wildlife

Australia

  • Phillip Island - penguins on parade
  • Adelaide River - see crocodiles up close 
  • Kangaroo Island - a haven for Australia's native wildlife  
  • Kakadu National Park - 280 different types of birds call Kakadu home
  • Ningaloo Reef - manta rays and whale sharks (you can swim with them too!)
  • Jervis Bay - the best place to watch whales
  • Daintree Rainforest - home to rare and unusual animal species found nowhere else on earth
  • Rottnest Island - home of the world's smiliest marsupial - the quokka

New Zealand

  • Waitomo - twinkling glow worms in underground caves
  • Kaikoura - whales, seals, giant albatross, and wild dolphins you can swim with
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island - rare NZ birds of every shape and size
  • Hawkes Bay - the world's largest mainland gannet colony
  • Stewart Island - kiwi birds in the wild 
  • Oamaru - the world's smallest penguins

Part 4: Building Your Australia & New Zealand Tour

From start to finish, here's how to get your trip off the ground in 6 easy steps:

1) Figure out your must-see destinations and activities
2) Figure out how long to spend in each country
3) Decide how you want to get around
4) Work out your budget
5) Create your itinerary
6) Book your dream trip!

Step 1: Decide on your must-see destinations & activities

We get it: there are too many amazing experiences to be had, and it's hard to whittle them down. But unless you have unlimited time, it must be done!

Make a list of everywhere you'd like to go (revisit Part 3 of this article to get you started)

Divide your list into 3 categories:

Must-see: Add the bucket-list places and activities you absolutely CAN'T miss.

Want to see: Add anything you would really like to do and see.

Might like to see: Add any places that you like the look of, but don't mind missing if you run out of time.

Armed with this information, head on to step 2!

Step 2: Figure out how long to spend in each country

Look at your "Must see" destinations list.

How many destinations on your must see list are in Australia? How many are in New Zealand?

Do the same with the "Want to see" and "Might like to see" destinations on your list. 

Are more of your "must see" and "want to see" destinations in one country? If so, what's the split? 60/40 to Australia? 70/30 to New Zealand?

Think about the *types* of places and experiences on your list too:

Consider spending more time in Australia if you love...
- white-sand beaches
- coral reefs
- touring big cities
- vibrant nightlife
- unique marsupials and native wildlife
- desert landscapes

Consider spending more time in New Zealand if you love...
- adventure sports
- spending time in the great outdoors
- watching wild birds and marine animals
- lakes, mountains, fiord and glacier views
- volcanic landscapes and natural hot pools
- milder summer temperatures
- Lord of the Rings

Once you've considered these things, you'll have a much better idea of how much time to spend in New Zealand versus Australia.

Step 3: Choose your method of transport

Here's what you need to consider when deciding on transport:

Do you enjoy the journey as much as the destination...
If so, a self-drive holiday is the obvious choice - you'll enjoy the freedom of pulling over and investigating little towns, roadside fruit stalls and little surprises along the way.
Do you prefer more time in each location?
A Fly-Drive or No-Drive vacation might suit you better. A guided tour, where someone else does the driving for you, is a great idea too. 
How long do you have available? 
If your time is short, domestic flights are a no-brainer. Why not treat each city you land in as a "hub" and take day trips in the surrounding region? This saves you carrying your luggage around and changing hotels every night! Here are some cities with major airports which work well for this:

Sydney day trips: Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley
Melbourne day trips: Phillip Island, Yarra Valley, Great Ocean Road
Cairns day trips: Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas
Christchurch day trips: Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, Kaikoura, Akaroa
Queenstown day trips: Wanaka, Otago Wine Region, Milford Sound
Nelson day trips: Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay, Kaiteriteri,

Step 4: Work out your budget

We have a couple of guides to help you work out how much money you will need per day: 

How much things cost in Australia

A guide to what things cost in New Zealand

Looking for ways to economise? Try these:

  • Book flights for May (late autumn/fall) or September (early spring) - airfares tend to be cheapest during these months.
  • Book accommodation as far in advance as possible, especially if you are travelling in high season (December to February)
  • If you like dining out, choose lunch rather than evening meals - the menus are usually cheaper, but just as good!
  • Hiring a car? Pick a circular route, where you start and end your journey in the same city. It's cheaper than starting and ending in different cities.

Step 5: Create your itinerary

This is the exciting part! You've make all the important decisions: now you can start to build your itinerary.

How to create your Australia & New Zealand itinerary yourself
First, grab a map (or use Google Maps online) and mark your "must-see" destinations on it. 

Next, scan your list of "want to see" places. Are any of them within a reasonable travelling distance from your must-see places? If so, add them to the map. 

Distance Calculator for Australia

Distance Calculator for New Zealand

Are you starting to see any patterns? Any destinations that fall in a line? Now you're starting to build a route.

Do the same with your list of "might like to see" places - if they lie along any of the routes you're creating, they might fill in a gap between long drives.

Need Inspiration? Try our Itinerary Library
Check out our Australia and New Zealand Combination Fly Drive Tours for inspiration: we have pre-designed Australia & New Zealand itineraries from as little as 15 days in length. 

Or why not browse our Australian self-drive itineraries, pick one you like and combine it withwith one of our New Zealand self-drive itineraries? Then you can mix it up a bit according to your own interests.

For example, you could hit the desert on a 6-day Red Centre tour to Alice Springs and Uluru, and then cool down with a 7-day circuit of New Zealand's Southern Alps: how's that for contrast?

Step 6: Book your trip!

Booking your flights, accommodation, transport and activities is the most time-consuming aspect of building your trip. But you don't have to do it yourself if you don't want to.

If you don't fancy doing this step yourself, a good travel agent with sound local knowledge is worth their weight in gold. They can fine-tune your schedule, suggest places based on your interests, and make all your bookings so you don't have to lift a finger.

Now that you have worked out your destination wish-list, your budget and how you'd like to travel using the steps above, you can easily forward this information to an Australia & New Zealand travel specialist like First Light Travel. We can even handle all of the bookings for you: here's how it works.

The 100% Stress-Free Option: Let Us Plan Your Australia & New Zealand Trip!

Our COVID-19 Flexibility Promise
While you're busy getting on with life, First Light Travel will custom-design a bespoke self-drive itinerary just for you, an itinerary which:

  • Fits your budget
  • Blends seamlessly with your timeframe & travel style
  • Puts your bucket list items front & centre
  • Offers exceptional, handpicked accommodation to suit your wallet
  • Immerses you in the beauty and diversity of these two incredible countries


We'll work with you to fine-tune the itinerary until you're 100% happy, then take care of every booking and offer 24/7 support while you are exploring our part of the world.

Are you ready? Let's plan your perfect vacation! Simply fill out our Enquiry Form and someone will be in touch within 24 hours.

Be Inspired by our Australian Website 

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Maz
By
Marianne Davies
: 15 Nov 2019 (Last updated: 15 Feb 2022)

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