Top 25 Things to Do in Australia & New Zealand: 2015 Viator Travel Awards

December 18, 2014 by

Australia & the Pacific, Press & Publicity, Things to Do, Viator Exclusives, Viator Travel Awards

Welcome to this year's Top 25 Things to Do in Australia and New Zealand!

Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Things to Do in Australia and New Zealand!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

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Welcome to the 2015 Viator Travel Awards: Australia and New Zealand Edition! In the past, we’ve focused on specific tours for each item on this list, but this year we thought we’d feature some of the top things to do in the most exciting places to visit in Australia and New Zealand.

The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out during the year, and information on which tours in the region travelers book most often. We think you’ll enjoy reading about the array of activities available in each of these places – it’s the little mental vacation we could all use right now – and we also think this list is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip in 2015.

Even with their geographical location in the far reaches of the globe, Australia and New Zealand maintain a strong tourism base, attracting visitors far and wide to explore these unforgettable countries. Here, visitors find larger modern cities in between massive stretches of natural, uninhabited lands. This combination (coupled with the often long flights to get there) really makes you feel like you’re lifetimes away from your routine. We’ve compiled a list of the top 25 things to do in this region, and most of those will have you heading to the great outdoors!

You’ll find all kinds of activities listed below, including visiting glow worm caves, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, seeing a performance at the Sydney Opera House, touring Hobbiton, and lounging on pristine beaches. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Australia and New Zealand!

1. Explore Melbourne

Melbourne's lanes & arcades

Melbourne’s lanes & arcades

Melbourne has justifiably earned its cosmopolitan reputation, and the street art, shopping, and historic architecture is considered the best in Australia. Seeing the city on foot is one of the best ways to get to know it, so a Central Melbourne walking tour may be just the thing, or a Melbourne Lanes and Arcades Walking Tour to focus specifically on the hidden side of the city. You can also choose a Melbourne city afternoon tour of the sights by coach, or a highlights of Melbourne cruise, to give your feet a bit of a break. The city is also a foodie paradise, which might just make a Colonial Tramcar Restaurant tour of Melbourne the best idea – in addition to the delectable cuisine you’ll experience on the tour, local guides can provide valuable insight as to where to eat about town.

2. Be active – or not – on the beaches

Both Australia and New Zealand are known for their beaches, and whether you like to lie in the sun, play in the sand, or enjoy some sport in the surf, there’s a beach ready and waiting for you. Learn about Sydney’s beaches (as well as some other sides of the city) on an afternoon tour of Bondi Beach and Kings Cross in Sydney. Survey the beautiful scenery far below during a helicopter tour of Perth’s beaches and the Fremantle Coast. Explore 90 miles of beaches and Cape Reinga on a tour from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in an off-road coach designed to drive on sand. Keep going off-road to see Australia’s Fraser Island on a 4WD tour from Noosa or Rainbow Beach. And, if you’d like to try out one of the top sports in this part of the world – learning from some serious experts – sign up for surfing lessons on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

3. Visit the Blue Mountains

Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains

Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains

What makes Sydney such a fascinating city is that in addition to beaches and scintillating nightlife you can be hiking in the mountains in less than two hours. On a Blue Mountains Day Trip and River Cruise, escape the city for mountainous hiking trails and gaze out at the famous Three Sisters, or focus entirely on the hiking with a Blue Mountains small-group day hike. Book a Small-Group Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney with River Cruise to take a leisurely river cruise back to the city. To see Australian wildlife in its natural habitat, hang with koalas and kangaroos on a Blue Mountains Nature and Wildlife Day Tour from Sydney, and by evening you’ll be back in the urban hum of the cosmopolitan city. You can also set your own timetable for exploring the region with a Blue Mountains hop-on hop-off tour, with optional Scenic World Rides and Waradah Aboriginal Centre.

4. Be a daredevil

The people who live in Australia and New Zealand are no strangers to adventure. They’re thrill-seekers by nature, and they give you plenty of opportunities to see if you’re as much of an adrenaline junkie as the natives are. Test your resolve on a Sydney BridgeClimb, walking up the 440-foot heights of the city’s iconic bridge. Prepare to get wet during a Shotover River extreme jet boat ride from Queenstown. Fly through the air (down a mountain with views of a lake) on a Queenstown zipline tour. Head out into the surreal landscape of the Pinnacles Desert to see koalas and go sandboarding on a 4WD tour from Perth. Hop into a helicopter for a heli hiking adventure at Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand.

5. Dine with a view

Enjoy a dinner cruise on the Yarra River.

Enjoy a dinner cruise on the Yarra River.

In a place as scenic and exciting as Australia, there’s no reason that the sightseeing should stop simply because it’s time for dinner. To pair your dinner with an aerial view of the famous Sydney skyline, the Sydney Tower 360 Bar and Dining and Sydney Tower Restaurant Buffet offer views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from 88 stories above ground. Enjoy the views over New Zealand’s adventure capital at the Queenstown Skyline Restaurant, reached via gondola ride. Savor your meal with a romantic dinner cruise in Auckland Harbour, watching the city sights drift by as you eat. Get cultured with a Rotorua Maori Hangi dinner and performance.

6. Drive the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

Of the tens of thousands of miles of coastline that ring the Australian Mainland, the section known as the “Great Ocean Road” is arguably the most dramatic. This beautifully eroded stretch of road hugs the shoreline for 150 miles, and along the way passes coastal formations such as the famous 12 Apostles. Hit the pavement with a Great Ocean Road day trip adventure from Melbourne or a Great Ocean Road small group eco-tour from Melbourne. You can up the romance factor with a full-day Great Ocean Road sunset tour from Melbourne, watching the last rays of sunlight dip below the horizon before heading back. To combine the drive with the sights of Melbourne as well as wild penguins, a Melbourne Super Saver: Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island plus Melbourne Attraction Pass lets you experience the cosmopolitan and coastal side of Australia’s favorite cities. Or, for an in-depth look at the Victorian coastline and the surrounding natural beauty, a 3-Day Great Ocean Road and Grampians Tour from Melbourne visits sights from the sculpted shoreline to the waterfall-laden interior.

7. Take a wildlife cruise

Two things that are in abundance around Australia and New Zealand – water and wildlife. Combine the two for a wildlife cruise, which can be a relaxing way to see some of the region’s many indigenous animals. Take a whale and dolphin safari cruise from Auckland, a Kaikoura whale watch day tour from Christchurch, or a whale-watching cruise from Sydney that includes lunch. See animals and get out to play a bit with a Port Stephens day trip including dolphin watching, sandboarding, and Australian wildlife. Take a wilderness cruise from Te Anau to Doubtful Sound to see seals and dolphins.

8. See the penguins of Phillip Island

Penguins on Phillip Island

Penguins on Phillip Island

Australia has a number of islands off its coasts, some more interesting to visit than others. Off the southeastern coast of the country, about 87 miles from Melbourne, is Phillip Island – known primarily for its beaches and its penguins. The latter is a daily tourist draw. You can visit Phillip Island for the “Little Penguins Parade” evening tour from Melbourne, or a Phillip Island penguin small group eco-tour from Melbourne to see the adorable birds, or upgrade to the Phillip Island ultimate penguin eco-tour or skybox experience for a personalized visit or an elevated view of the nightly parade. There’s more to the island than just flightless birds in tuxedos, however, and you can enjoy each of Phillip Island’s 3 parks with a pass to see the Penguin Parade and even more. You can also join a Phillip Island day tour from Melbourne to see penguins, koalas, and kangaroos.

9. See Sydney Harbour from any angle

It’s always a good idea to get out on the water when you visit a place on the shore. In Sydney, that’s an especially good idea, since so much of the life that is the city’s social scene is in or on Sydney Harbour. Take a day tour of Sydney with an optional Harbour lunch cruise (and definitely go for that optional cruise). Get your caffeine fix while you sightsee with a Sydney Harbour coffee cruise, or cap off a romantic day with a Sydney Harbour dinner cruise. See the sights on a Sydney Harbour cruise with an entry ticket to Taronga Zoo, which you need to take a boat to reach, anyway. Get out of the city for a bit with a Sydney Harbour cruise and Goat Island walking tour to learn about Australia’s convict history.

10. Visit a theme park

Australia has its fair share of theme parks and attractions, but these aren’t your average amusement parks – they’ve all got a bit of a “Down Under” twist to them. Take your kids, or treat your inner child. Spend a day at the Gold Coast with a theme park pass, good for Movie World, Sea World, and Wet n Wild. Skip the line with a ticket for the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium or skip the line with tickets to the Melbourne Aquarium to see some of the region’s sea life. Visit the Australian wildlife with a ticket to the Sydney Taronga Zoo and Wild Australia Experience. Learn to throw a boomerang during a Tobruk Australian Outback experience including an Aussie BBQ lunch on a tour from Sydney.

11. See the Sydney Opera House

Get an up-close look at the Sydney Opera House on a backstage tour

Get an up-close look at the Sydney Opera House on a backstage tour

No building is more iconic to Sydney than the famous Sydney Opera House. While there are millions of visitors who have famously snapped a photo with the Opera House in the background, only a handful of visitors will have the chance to explore behind the curtain. You can learn some insights into the building’s history on a Sydney Opera House guided walking tour, or get a behind-the-scenes look on a Sydney Opera House Guided Backstage Tour to stand in the orchestra pit and explore the dressing rooms of the theater’s biggest stars. Get tickets to see an Opera Performance at the Sydney Opera House, or see one of the other kinds of performances that use the same stage – you can choose a Sydney Opera House and Australian Ballet dinner package, or a Sydney Opera House and Sydney Symphony Orchestra dinner package.

12. Go wine tasting

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley

There’s a good chance you’ve sipped Australian Shiraz in a fine restaurant back home, but the best way to experience the red varietal is to visit the terroir itself. Australian wines are gaining prominence among the world’s most notable wines, and oenophiles should plan for a wine-themed day trip when traveling through the country. You can take a Yarra Valley wine and winery tour from Melbourne, or add a little old-fashioned transportation to the mix with a Yarra Valley wineries and Puffing Billy steam train day tour from Melbourne. From Sydney, head into the Hunter Valley wilderness to visit wineries on a small-group tour. Take a small-group Barossa Valley wine and food tour from Adelaide with stops at five wineries and a gourmet lunch. Live the life of luxury with a Swan Valley wine cruise from Perth, with afternoon tea and wine tastings on board and a behind-the-scenes winery tour.

13. Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Explorers and divers have been fascinated by this reef ever since Captain Cook accidentally ran into it. At over 1,500 miles in length, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and home to thousands of underwater species. Though scouring the length of the entire reef could take a lifetime of aquatic exploration, even a single day spent on the reef is an introduction to this aquatic wonderland. To experience the reef in all its wonder, sign up for a Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns, or up the ante with a Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns. You can also marvel at the sights from the water’s surface, too, with a Great Barrier Reef cruise from Cairns, with options to go snorkeling or ride in a glass-bottomed boat; or get just a hint of an idea of what it might look like from space with a Great Barrier Reef scenic helicopter tour and cruise from Cairns. And to get away from the bulk of the crowds, head for the outer Great Barrier Reef on a dive and snorkel cruise from Cairns.

14. Take advantage of reverse seasons

Winter in the southern hemisphere is from June through August – that may be summer where you come from, so it may seem odd to venture “Down Under” from your summer to be faced with their winter. Odd, that is, until you see some of the excellent winter activities you can participate in. Take a break from the cosmopolitan city for a Mt. Buller ski tour from Melbourne or a Thredbo or Perisher Blue weekend snow trip from Sydney. And if one or two days on the slopes isn’t enough, don’t worry. You can book a three-day Thredbo or Perisher midweek madness snow adventure from Sydney, a four-night Queenstown snow and ski package in New Zealand, or really get away from it all with a six-day Thredbo or Perisher snow adventure from Sydney.

15. Go on a cruise

Take a Gordon River Cruise

Take a Gordon River Cruise

Australia may have lots of land in its center, far from the coast, but since most of the population lives at the edges – near water – it’s no surprise how much Aussies love to be in or on the water as much as possible. Getting out on the water for a sightseeing cruise is a great way to see Australia’s cities. Take a whale-watching cruise from Sydney that includes lunch, or finish off a day of being touristy with a Spirit of Melbourne dinner cruise. Find out if the country looks different on its western side with a Perth City of Lights dinner cruise. Get out into the gorgeous Whitsundays with a Whitehaven Beach and Hamilton Island cruise. Step back in time on a wooden paddlesteamer with a Brisbane River dinner cruise.

16. Island hop

You might be thinking that Australia is an island, but it’s continent-sized – and there are more than 8,200 islands within Australia’s maritime borders. You read that right – more than 8,200 islands. It’s almost not an option, then, to not visit at least a few of them. You can visit some of the tropical islands in the Great Barrier Reef on a Green Island day trip from Cairns or a Fitzroy Island day trip from Cairns, spending time snorkeling, hiking, and having lunch. You can set off from the larger island of Tasmania to see wildlife and sample local delicacies on a Bruny Island sightseeing and gourmet tour from Hobart. Head for a Stradbroke Island day trip from Brisbane to see resident kangaroos and koalas and swim in freshwater lakes. Spend time checking out the abundant wildlife on Kangaroo Island in a day tour from Adelaide.

17. See your favorite TV and movie sights

See Hobbiton in New Zealand

See Hobbiton in New Zealand

By now, pretty much everyone knows that New Zealand served as the backdrop for much of the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films. Those aren’t the only things filmed “Down Under,” however. In Melbourne, you can visit the sets of the longest-running Australian soap opera on the official “Neighbours” tour of Ramsay Street, including a chance to meet a cast member. In Sydney, you can visit the outdoor filming locations made famous by the Australian television show on a “Home and Away” tour of Palm Beach – you might even see the show being filmed. And of course, throughout New Zealand you can see the sights of Middle Earth. Take a Waitomo Caves and “Lord of the Rings” Hobbiton movie set day trip from Auckland, join a Glenorchy “Lord of the Rings” movie locations tour from Queenstown, or take a tour of the Weta Cave Workshop in Wellington, where the film’s special effects were created.

18. Take a food tour

Australia and New Zealand continue to grow in stature as foodie destinations. It shouldn’t be surprising, given the long-standing wine industry, but somehow the food tours you can take in both countries still surprise and delight. Enjoy the great cuisine along with some of that world famous Australian wine during a small-group Barossa Valley food and wine tour from Adelaide, or a small-group tour of the Swan Valley food and wine trail from Perth. Sample New Zealand’s less famous (but no less world class) wines on a couple different food tours from the largest city – a food and wine-tasting tour of Waiheke Island from Auckland or a small-group Matakana Coast food and wine tour from Auckland. You can even get out into the Outback with a Bush Tucker indigenous food tour from Ayers Rock.

19. Watch the sun rise (or set) over Uluru

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

You’d never know that such an empty plain could be full of so much adventure. Famously located in the middle of nowhere, the sacred rock formations of the Northern Territory offer a spiritual journey into Aboriginal culture which is one of Australia’s most popular attractions. Though you can feel the power of towering Uluru during any time of day, these slabs of stone offer the most spectacular colors when seen at dusk and dawn. You can take the Uluru camel express on sunrise or sunset tours to see the landscape at its most beautiful. You can extend your evening with an Uluru Outback barbecue dinner and star tour inside the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. Or, to dine outside beneath the stars in the middle of the Australian Outback, the award-winning Sounds of Silence Restaurant is a culinary experience you’d never expect to find out here in the middle of nowhere. See the famous rocks from above on an Uluru and Kata Tjuta Tour by Helicopter from Ayers Rock. To truly explore the area in depth, consider signing up for a 3-Day Alice Springs to Uluru via Kings Canyon Tour.

20. Learn about the Aboriginal people

Part of what makes Australia so fascinating is its Aboriginal culture, and a visit to the country without learning more about the native cultures is really a missed opportunity. Take an Aboriginal cultural tour from Alice Springs to sample traditional food and try your hand at traditional art. Get an entry ticket to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to listen to “Dreamtime” stories. Visit the UNESCO-listed Aboriginal Cultural Daintree Rainforest on a tour from Cairns or Port Douglas, learning to fish the traditional way. See Aboriginal sacred sites on a Wave Rock and York and see wildflowers on an Aboriginal cultural tour from Perth. You can even get more in depth with a two-day Aboriginal culture and Kakadu National Park tour from Darwin.

21. See Australia and New Zealand by railway

Even as the world gets new technologies and the pace of life seems to quicken by the year, there will always be something incomparably romantic about seeing the world from a railcar window. In Australia, the Tasmania West Coast Wilderness Railway Tour lets you tour a coastline which is rarely visited and without the hassle of driving. Chug your way through wine country on a Puffing Billy Steam Train, Yarra Valley and Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary Day Tour from Melbourne, or climb high into waterfall-laden hills on a Kuranda scenic railway day trip from Cairns or a Skyrail Ranforest Cableway day trip from Cairns. In New Zealand, spend a day on the Taieri Gorge Railway and the Otago Peninsula on a day trip from Dunedin.

22. Get up close and personal with animals

With a wombat at Sydney Taronga Zoo

With a wombat at Sydney Taronga Zoo

Australia is famously known as the country with the most number of animals which can kill you. Luckily for travelers with an interest in animals, there are numerous ways to get close to the wildlife in both Australia and New Zealand from the safety of a professional tour. Visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with a Brisbane River cruise to see one of Australia’s most famous (and reclusive) animals. Way up north, a Darwin Jumping Crocodiles Cruise on Adelaide River is an authentic way to see the notorious predators lurking on riverbanks in their native habitat. Take a Walter Peak High Country farm tour and cruise from Queenstown in New Zealand to see a working farm and learn about traditional farming life, or choose the Dunedin and Otago Peninsula wildlife tour if you want to see rare penguins and albatross. Increase your chances of seeing wildlife with an extended tour like a five-day Adelaide and Kangaroo Island tour including Barossa Valley wine tasting.

23. Celebrate New Year’s in Australia

It can be challenging to figure out how to ring in the new year in a memorable way. If you choose to do it in Australia, you’ll be greeting the new year long before your friends back home – and, what’s more, you’ll be doing it in the height of summer. Spend the evening on the water with a Melbourne New Year’s Eve party cruise, a Sydney Harbour New Year’s Eve cocktail cruise, or a Sydney Harbour New Year’s Eve tall ship dinner cruise. Enjoy spectacular views as you count down to midnight with New Year’s Eve at Sydney Tower 360 Bar and Dining. Or get sophisticated at the New Year’s Eve Opera Gala at the Sydney Opera House.

24. Take a shore excursion

Making the most of your limited time in port during a cruise can feel like a daunting task, but with some truly excellent shore excursions on offer in Australia and New Zealand you won’t have anything to worry about. In Australia, enjoy skip-the-line access to WILD LIFE Sydney on a Sydney shore excursion, or set your own pace with a Sydney and Bondi hop-on hop-off tour on a Sydney shore excursion. Spend a day on an island in the Great Barrier Reef with a Green Island day trip on a Cairns shore excursion. In New Zealand, check out the Banks Peninsula and Christchurch city sights on an Akaroa shore excursion. Explore the beautiful natural surroundings on a Taieri Gorge Railway Tour and city sightseeing on a Dunedin shore excursion.

25. Explore the Cave of Wonders

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves

You’d never think that millions of worms could look like a sky full of stars, but that’s just what you’ll think when you see the sureal sight. In New Zealand, on a Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour you’ll slowly glide along a subterranean river where the ceiling is flecked by shining glow worms. Take a day trip from Auckland to Rotorua including the Waitomo Caves, and you’ll see stalactites as well as glow worms. Australia has its share of glow worm caves, too. Visit one of the largest colonies of the worms in the country with a glow worm cave and a natural bridge tour from the Gold Coast. You can see the natural wonders both above and underground with a Mt. Tamborine National Park 4WD nocturnal rainforest and glow worm tour. And if you like caves but aren’t so interested in worms, go for a motorcoach day tour to the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves from Sydney to abseil and squeeze into caves with incredible mineral formations.

- Viator Travel Team

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2 Responses to “Top 25 Things to Do in Australia & New Zealand: 2015 Viator Travel Awards”

  1. Hannah Gutsell Says:


  2. aneesh ahmad Says:

    Nice your fiji islands list…………..

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