8 Reasons to Check Australia and New Zealand Off Your Bucket List

by Colin Joliat
Fiordland National Park - New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are on most traveler’s bucket lists, but don’t let their distance prevent you from checking them off. You’ll never regret traveling across the world to visit these two amazing destinations.

Australia

The Australian Outback is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Australia, but the country is vast, diverse, and offers countless opportunities for adventures. Here are four can’t-miss stops.

Great Barrier Reef

The Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland is home to the famed Great Barrier Reef. This system of 2,900 individual reefs stretches for over 1,400 miles. And yes, the claims are true – the Great Barrier Reef is visible from outer space. It’s more fun though to get up close and personal though. You can see some of the more than 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks by snorkeling or diving. If you’d rather stay dry, a glass-bottom boat tour gives you access to the wildlife without the water.

snorkeling on great barrier reef

Sydney Opera House

You’ve seen it on TV a hundred times, but don’t miss seeing the sail-shaped Sydney Opera House in person. We highly recommend a tour of the award-winning building, with both front-of-house and backstage tours available. The architectural icon took 16 years to build and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike many historic attractions though, the Sydney Opera House isn’t just a beautiful building. It hosts more than 1,500 performances per year so be sure to take in an opera, play, or even a magic show while you’re there!

sydney opera house

Kakadu National Park

The Kakadu National Park covers nearly 8,000 square miles in the Northern Territory of Australia, making it much more than a quick visit. Spend time watching exotic wildlife, powerful waterfalls, lush rainforests, and more in this breathtaking environment. Tours range from cultural sites to scenic flights and everything in between. There are birding tours for those who enjoy looking skyward and swimming and fishing for those who prefer the water.

kakadu national park

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains of New South Wales are home to countless geological wonders. The most famous of these is the Three Sisters rock formation, but you’ll also find sandstone plateaus, rich valleys, river gorges, and endless pristine wilderness. For a birds-eye view, take a ride on the Scenic Skyway, which crosses above the Katoomba Falls. The world heritage site was hit hard by the wildfires in 2019, but that hasn’t made it any less of a must-see destination in Australia.

blue mountains

New Zealand

Not to be outdone by its larger neighbor, New Zealand boasts glacial fjords, geothermal wonders, and is considered the adventure capital of the world. Here are four areas to explore while there.

Bay of Islands

More than 144 islands teeming with marine life – penguins, dolphins, whales and more – make up the Bay of Islands. Diving and snorkeling are excellent ways of connecting with nature as are daily cruises and sea kayaking. Bay of Islands is also world-renowned for its big game fishing. If you’re out on a casual boat ride, be sure to float by one of the famous “Hole in a Rock” on Piercy Island, which is as impressive as it is accurately named.

bay of islands

Aukland

This “City of Sails” is the commercial and cultural center of New Zealand. It’s the only city built on a basaltic volcanic field which is comprised of 50 volcanos. If hiking is a hobby, be sure to take a hike on one of the volcanic islands. Aukland also has a thriving sailing community – the city has more boats per capita than any other – and is the home to America’s Cup. And for those who want to take in city life, the Auckland Art Gallery has more than 15,000 works of art, making it a must-see for the art lover.

aukland skyline

Rotorua

Little is more dramatic than the geothermal landscape of Rotorua. It features geysers, colorful hot springs, and the imposing Mount Tarawera volcano. Wildlife lovers can keep an eye on the ground and spot the flightless bird that lends its name to the New Zealanders – the Kiwi. Rotorua is also a hotspot of Maori culture and is home to the National Carving School and National Weaving School. For the adrenaline junkie, check out zorbing (picture rolling down a hill in a giant hamster ball) at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

rotorua

Queenstown

Queenstown is surrounded by the Remarkables, an aptly named mountain range. It’s not just a beautiful backdrop though. Its three mountain bowls are a haven for skiers. That’s only the start of why the city is known as the adventure capital of the world. Thrill-seekers can take flight with skydiving, hang gliding, or paragliding. You can enjoy a fall with bungy jumping, rope swings, and zip lines. And if you’re a water lover don’t miss a chance to go rafting, jet boating, or casually cruising.

queenstown

Want more? Check out current travel itineraries for New Zealand and Australia!

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