Just because you don’t have a few months off work doesn’t mean that you can’t explore Oceania. Not everyone has the luxury of traveling slowly. I experienced one of my most epic adventures yet on my recent trip to New Zealand and Australia… in just ten days.
Get ready to move quickly and hit the highlights…. Here’s my 10 Day New Zealand and Australia Itinerary:
Day One – Sydney
With jet lag rearing its ugly head, spend your first day in Sydney, Australia relaxing at the city’s beaches. Start at Bondi Beach and begin the famed scenic walk to Coogee Beach, stopping for lunch at the iconic Bondi Icebergs Club. Later that evening get your first views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House on your sunset dinner cruise with Captain Cook Cruises.
Stay: ADGE Boutique Apartment Hotel. This trendy hotel offers spacious apartment-style rooms and is located in the midst of the hip Surry Hills neighborhood, known for its great eateries and nightlife.
Day Two – Sydney to Christchurch
Get an early start and grab breakfast at one of the organic cafes near your hotel in Surry Hills before heading off for an unforgettable experience – climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney. Once you’ve seen the city from above, explore The Rocks, the oldest part of Sydney, and then hop on a historic walking tour. Catch a late flight to Christchurch, New Zealand.
Stay: Sudima Christchurch Airport Hotel. This basic business-traveler style hotel is located at the airport so it’s a convenient choice for catching a good night’s sleep after a late flight.
Day Three – Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook
Wake up early to make the most of your first day on New Zealand’s South Island! Drive to Lake Tekapo to explore the aqua beauty and see the Church of the Good Shepherd. Grab lunch with a view at Astro Cafe before continuing the scenic drive towards Lake Pukaki and onward to Mount Cook. Today’s drive won’t seem like a chore at all – the scenery is spectacular. Once you arrive in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park you can go for a short hike or grab dinner in the village and soak up the area’s natural beauty with a glass of vino in hand.
Stay: Aoraki Court. Accommodations are spacious and modern with patios opening up to fantastic mountain views.
Day Four – Mount Cook to Wanaka
Do a short hike around Tasman Lake to see the floating icebergs first thing in the morning. After you’ve gotten your blood pumping a bit, head to Mount Cook Airport to heli-hike with Alpine Guides. You’ll be taken via helicopter to the top of Tasman Glacier, an experience which is sure to top your bucket list. You’ll experience the hike of a lifetime atop the glacier for about the next two hours. Once you’re back on solid ground drive to Wanaka. Spend the rest of your day exploring Wanaka, often described as Queenstown’s smaller, laid-back sister-city.
Stay: Minaret Lodge. This luxury boutique lodge offers the perfect comfortable retreat and is just a 10-15 minute walk along the lake to Wanaka’s downtown area.
Day Five – Wanaka
Spend today slowing down. Hire a boat and cruise around Lake Wanaka or rent mountain bikes and cycle around it, stopping for a dip in the lake’s cool water when you need a break. Enjoy Wanaka’s relaxed pace as you walk around town sampling the culinary scene and local brews. Grab dinner at one of the city’s restaurants with breathtaking mountain and lake views.
Day Six – Glenorchy
Today you’ll drive from Wanaka to Glenorchy. Stop in Arrowtown for lunch or choose to dine at one of the many wineries in the area. Once you arrive in Glenorchy, head out for a hike or a scenic drive to experience the mystic landscape made famous by the Lord of the Rings movies. Take the boat across the lake to the tiny town of Kinloch and enjoy peaceful views of Lake Wakatipu as you eat dinner at Kinloch Lodge.
Stay: Glenorchy Lake House. This elegant B&B is perfectly located and offers the perfect peaceful getaway. Bring your swimsuit and enjoy stargazing from the hot tub in the evening.
Day Seven – Queenstown
Since Glenorchy is known for its spectacular hikes, squeeze in one more this morning, or choose to start your drive to Queenstown straight away. Spend your day wandering around and enjoying the city’s sights, sounds and tastes if you prefer to take it easy. Or, try your hand at skydiving, bungee jumping or one of the other adventure activities that Queenstown has become a mecca for if you’re a thrill-seeker. Take the gondola up the mountain at sunset to experience sweeping vistas before indulging in the city’s legendary nightlife.
Stay: Azur. Queenstown is bustling with a ton to do and see in the surrounding areas, so splurge on ultra-luxury accommodations to for a relaxing retreat from the city.
Day Eight – Day Trip to Milford Sound
The drive to Milford Sound is an arduous one and can be near impossible if you’re on a tight schedule, so skip it and hop a flight with Air Milford instead. The company offers multiple options, but I’d recommend the fly/nature cruise/fly trip. You’ll soar above the fjords in a prop plane during the 35 minute scenic flight to Milford while your Captain provides commentary about the area’s history, flora and fauna. When you arrive you’ll be escorted onto your ship for the nature cruise with Southern Discoveries, After cruising the length of the sound, you’ll head back to Queenstown via a different flight route so you’re able to experience even more of New Zealand’s natural beauty from above.
Day Nine – Central Otago Wine Country Trip
No trip to New Zealand would be complete without sampling an array of the country’s award winning wines. Hop on the Pinot Country Tour with New Zealand Wine Tours to explore the area’s best wineries with Jake, your entertaining and knowledgeable sommelier guide. The tour is restricted to seven or less passengers for a more personal experience, and each tour changes slightly since Jake tailors the afternoon itinerary to fit the guests’ preferences. You’ll experience a handful of top-notch wineries in Central Otago wine country, including the Gibbston, Cromwell and Nevis areas.
Day Ten – Dunedin
From Queenstown drive south to Dunedin, a lovely coastal city settled by the Scottish. If you have time, make the trip out to the Otago Peninsula for a chance to spot fur seals, sea lions, rare yellow-eyed penguins, and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world. Head straight to Dunedin if you’re tight on time and explore Larnach Castle or the historic Dunedin Railway Station, pictured above. Make sure to set aside some time to walk around the city’s vibrant and quirky downtown area before your flight leaves in the morning.
Stay: The Birches. This luxury B&B has perfected high-end personalized service. You’ll be treated to a beautiful home with gracious owners who go above and beyond to make your stay memorable.
A note about this itinerary: Is there a ton more to do and see in New Zealand and Australia? Yes, of course. This itinerary is planned for those on a tight time frame who want to hit as many of the area’s highlights as possible.
New Zealand Road Trip Route:
What do you think of my 10 Day New Zealand and Australia itinerary? How would you spend 10 days in this gorgeous part of the world?
*This is a preview post of my recent trip to Sydney and New Zealand. Stay tuned for more posts from the trip coming soon!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of some of the above companies, but as always, all opinions are my own. cc header image from flickr: The Milky Pink Sea at Milford Sound by Trey Ratcliff.
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