Australia & New Zealand 39 Day RV Caravan
Kia Ora! Upon arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand, you’re bound to hear this traditional Maori greeting. But no worries – the language here is English, and although you’re going to learn some distinctive Kiwi phrases during your visit, communication with the friendly folks Down Under is not a problem.
This Fantasy tour of a lifetime begins in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island. We’ve got two first-class hotel nights here – time to relax after the long flights, but also time to explore this beautiful English-themed city that’s rebuilding itself after the devastating earthquakes of a few years ago.
After our Get-Acquainted Party, Orientation and Welcome Dinner, we spend the next day on a city tour of Christchurch, including a visit to the International Antarctic Center, which may be the closest we’ll get to Antarctica without launching our own expedition! We’ll learn about modern life in Antarctica, hang out with some Little Blue Penguins and even ride the famous Hagglund snow vehicle.
The next morning, our RV adventure begins when we pick up our ‘homes on wheels’ and begin learning to drive on the left side of the road. Again, no worries – we’ll soon get used to it! We have a short drive down the South Island’s beautiful east coast to Oamaru with a stop along the way to pick up groceries and supplies, and a visit to the world’s smallest penguins in their natural environment at the Blue Penguin Colony.
We hit the road the next day and travel to Dunedin – aka the Edinburgh of New Zealand due to the influence of early Scottish settlers. On the way, we stop at the spherical Moeraki Boulders, which have intrigued visitors for centuries. Once in Dunedin, we take in the sights on a guided bus tour of the city. We learn how that delicious New Zealand chocolate is made at the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and also visit the picturesque Larnach Castle and Gardens – New Zealand’s only castle!
We turn inland and it’s only a short drive to one of New Zealand’s most popular and picturesque destinations – Queenstown, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by The Remarkables, magnificent mountain peaks. We ride up one of them on a gondola, marveling at the stunning views. And there’s more fun ahead – we come back down in a thrilling gravity-fueled luge ride!
On the way to our next night’s stop in the charming town of Wanaka, we stop in Arrowtown to visit the restored Chinese Settlement, a tribute to the contributions of Chinese gold miners of the late 19th century.
We cross renowned Haast Pass to begin our drive up the rugged but beautiful west coast of the island. We stop at Franz Josef Glacier, where we can either walk or drive right to the glacier’s base. Fantasy has left time for an optional helicopter flight with amazing views of the glaciers, Mt. Cook to the east and the stunning coastline to the west.
There are several must-see stops as we head north to Westport. In Hokitika, we can visit pounamu (iconic New Zealand greenstone) factories and shops (and maybe even make a purchase or two). Further up the coast, we can take a short walk to the Punakaiki Rocks, better known as the Pancake Rocks due to their giant pancake shapes. At Tauranga Bay, we can stop to view the Cape Foulwind Seal Colony, a 10-minute walk to viewing platforms over the seal colony below.
We spend the night in Picton, and the following morning we and our rigs board the interisland ferry to the North Island. We cruise through the magnificent fjords of the Marlborough Sounds, cross Cook’s Straight and land in Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand. Here, we have time for an optional visit to Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum that brilliantly portrays the history and culture of this land through major exhibits and artwork.
Our journey through the North Island continues as we head to Napier, which has the feelings of a 1930s time capsule. In 1931, a massive earthquake rocked this area, destroying most of Napier’s commercial buildings. The city quickly rebuilt, and the new buildings reflected the architectural style of the times – Art Deco.
We continue on to Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, where we may opt to take a rapids jet-boat ride. (After all, jet boats were invented in New Zealand!) On the way to New Zealand’s ‘coolest hot spot,’ Rotorua, we stop at Huka Falls for a guided boat cruise and a visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, New Zealand’s most colorful volcanic area, where we’ll see all kinds of geothermal activity. Surrounded by volcanic crater lakes, spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools and hissing fumaroles, the town of Rotorua has attracted visitors from all over the world since the early 1800s. Here, we’ll marvel at the abilities of working sheep dogs at the Agrodome Farm Show and learn how wool is processed from the sheep’s back eventually to our own. That evening, we’ll enjoy a traditional Maori Cultural Show and traditional feast prepared in Hangi style.
New Zealand’s natural wonders never cease, and we move on to Waitomo, where we tour the Ruakuri Glow Worm Cave, weaving our way through natural vast caverns and getting up close to glowworms, limestone formations, underground rivers, hidden waterfalls and sacred Maori sites.
We begin to experience a more tropical climate as we head north to Orewa Beach, spending the night at our campground right on the beach. And then it’s on to Paihia. We visit the Maori Treaty Grounds with panoramic views of the Bay of Islands and stop at the Treaty House, a carved Maori meeting house and New Zealand’s most important historic site This is where the Treaty of Waitangi, the country’s founding document, was signed in 1840. The world’s largest war canoe also resides on the grounds.
Our New Zealand adventure comes to a close in the country’s largest city – Auckland. We return our motorhomes and move into a first-class hotel for two nights. We enjoy a city tour and visit the War Memorial Museum, where we learn about New Zealand’s compelling involvement in battles around the world. We enjoy the views of the city and harbor as we have lunch at the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower. And our Kiwi experience ends with an Auckland harbor cruise, where we can view the city sights of the ‘City of Sails’ from the water.
It may be farewell to the Land of the Long White Cloud, but our adventures Down Under certainly aren’t over. We fly to Cairns, where Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (the world’s largest coral reef) is located just off the coast. We’ll stay in a beach-front hotel for the next two nights. And there’s plenty to do, beginning with a cruise and lunch on the Reef, with the option of swimming and snorkeling in the crystal-blue waters. For those who choose not to get wet, our next adventure is to tour the Reef in a semi-submersible submarine, which cruises right at fish level just one meter below the water’s surface.
The following day we board the Koranda Scenic Railway and travel to The Wet Tropics (a World Heritage site), a rainforest with 1,200+ species of flowering plants, 800 different rainforest trees, spectacular orchids, tumbling waterfalls and hundreds of unique animal species. Next, we board gondolas to glide above the rainforest canopy aboard the Skyrail, truly becoming a part of the rainforest environment.
We stop for lunch at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, where we witness indigenous performers bring the world’s oldest living culture to life through their traditional dance, art and demonstrations.
After breakfast at our hotel the following morning, we catch a flight to Brisbane, where we pick up our motorhomes and stop for groceries and supplies. We also find time to visit the home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo, inhabited by koalas, wombats, kangaroos and other native birds, animals and amphibians, not to mention those renowned crocs! The next day, we begin our drive south past the legendary beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast, stopping for some koala cuddles and wombat visits at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
As we drive down the gorgeous Sunshine Coast, we stop at South West Rocks and visit the Trial Bay Gaol, a prison that opened in this beautiful setting in 1886. Originally, the thought was that prisoners would construct a breakwater, making the area a safe harbor between Sydney and Brisbane. Unfortunately the plan failed, but the prison remained and is today a picturesque museum. We temporarily leave the coastline, turning inland to Blackheath in the magnificent Blue Mountains. We ride the world’s steepest passenger incline railway into an ancient rainforest to overlook the Three Sisters rock formations and get even more scenic views from a glass-floored gondola suspended above the steep gorge.
Our final destination is Sydney, where we return our rental rigs and spend three nights in a first-class hotel. We enjoy a guided tour of Australia’s largest city, including visits to the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge, the golden sands of Bondi Beach and the perfect-picture spot – Mrs. Macquarie’s chair – a great viewing point of Sydney Harbor and the Sydney Opera House. The chair itself is a sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench. Mrs. Macquarie was the homesick wife of Major General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. It is rumored that she would sit on the rock and watch for ships arriving from England.
We look at this fabled city from a new perspective when we enjoy lunch aboard a harbor cruise, stopping to tour the Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and where more than 1,600 concerts, operas, plays and ballets are performed each year.
We’re left with time to further explore this exciting city on our final day of the tour. Some of the braver souls in the group may opt to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. But we will all gather together for our Farewell Dinner, where we can relive our experiences Down Under before flying home.
But wait – for those who want even more of a true Oz experience, check out Fantasy’s optional Aboriginal Outback Adventure!