There are a lot of things that pique someone’s interest in “heading down under.” Maybe you added Australia to your bucket list the first time you saw a kangaroo or New Zealand to the list after watching the majestic scenes filmed here for the Lord of the Rings movies. The fact is that when it comes to “heading down under” there are millions of reasons to visit.
This region is large, from the vast continent of Australia to the island paradises of the South Pacific. You could easily spent a whole lifetime exploring here and not see everything. If you only have a few weeks to visit though, here are some possible highlights of the region to get you started.
Australia is huge with nearly the same land mass as the continental United States. While the natural beauty of the country spreads from coast to coast, most of the population centers are located on the edges of the country, with the vast open Outback filling the center of Australia. There are plenty of Australian tour breaks on offer if you don't want to do the planning yourself.
Many people begin their visit in the south with a stop in Melbourne, Australia’s cultural capital, a city filled with great theaters, museums, and architecture. From there you could head inland for a stop at the famous Ayers Rock (or Uluru) and for a chance to experience a bit of the Outback. For a complete change in scenery, head back to the coast and visit the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most amazing sites. On your way down the coast, stop at the Australia Zoo, located just outside Brisbane, made famous by the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Last but not least, plan on spending some time in Sydney and don’t forget to check out the world famous Opera House.
New Zealand Highlights
A lot of visitors “heading down under” never make it out of Australia which is a real shame when the amazing country of New Zealand is such a short flight away. Known for its incredible natural beauty, New Zealand really packs in the highlights.
Visits to New Zealand usually start in the country’s largest city - Auckland - before heading south to Rotorua, a region where you can experience the local Māori culture and see interesting geothermal activity in the form of geysers and hot springs. Also on the North Island are the fascinating Waitomo Caves which literally glow in the dark thanks to the unique adaptation of the regions glowworms. Before heading to South Island, be sure to also stop for a bit in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. On the South Island, Christchurch, known as the Garden City, is the main destination with the city of Queenstown, adventure capital of the world, also being a popular destination. Another must-see highlight of South Island is the Franz Josef Glacier, where you can book a helicopter tour to drop you literally on top of the glacier for a unique hiking experience.
South Pacific Highlights
If you are heading down under and have the time, consider broadening your vacation sights to the north for a chance to experience luxury island paradise in the South Pacific. Made up of countless island chains, visits to the South Pacific are all about white sand beaches, crystal clear ocean waters, and peaceful relaxation. Top island choices include Fiji, once famous for cannibalism but now more popular as a honeymoon destination, Tahiti and Bora Bora, both part of French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands, nicknamed the “Hawaii down under.”
As you can now see, “heading down under” is about way more than visiting the Outback or a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. With so many highlights, you might have to plan a longer trip.