Top 25 Things to Do in Australia & New Zealand: 2014 Viator Travel Awards

January 14, 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 2014 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, New Zealand, and the nearby Pacific Islands.

The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com 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 2014.

Given their geographical location in the far reaches of the globe, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands 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 – those of which create the well-rounded experience, after a 20 hour flight, of being miles away from ordinary. It’s all about nature here, whether that be the mountains and glaciers of New Zealand, the beaches and the outback of Australia or the lush rainforest of the islands. 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 climbing iconic bridges, learning about indigenous culture, tasting the fruits of the area’s vineyards, and getting up close to local wildlife. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands!

1. Visit the Sacred Site of 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. On an Uluru Base Walk at Sunrise or Uluru Sunrise Tour from Ayers Rock, you can stroll among the Aboriginal sites which are scattered around the base of the rock. Or, see the famous rocks from above on an Uluru and Kata Tjuta Tour by Helicopter from Ayers Rock. To compare for yourself the different spectacle of sunrise versus sunset, the Best of Ayers Rock: Sunset Uluru and Sunrise Kata Tjuta Small Group Tours visit at dusk and dawn, or finish the day with a sunset buffet on the Uluru (Ayers Rock) and The Olgas Tour Including Sunset Dinner from Alice Springs. To truly explore the area in depth, consider signing up for a 2-Day Uluru (Ayers Rock) National Park Explorer Trip from Alice Springs  or a 3-Day Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) via Kings Canyon Tour. 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.

2. Sail New Zealand’s Bay of Islands

Ever since humans have been in New Zealand they’ve been enchanted by the Bay of Islands, a protected pocket of 150 islands that is legendary in its beauty. The original Maori settled this area long before other parts of the country, and British colonists chose the area to establish their original capital. The easiest way to see the area is on a Bay of Islands Day Tour from Auckland, and the most popular tour is to get out on the water on a Bay of Islands Cape Brett ‘Hole in the Rock’ Cruise. You can also feel like an original explorer on the Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on R. Tucker Thompson, or lull yourself to sleep with the sound of waves a Bay Of Islands Overnight Cruise. Or, to truly get a full experience of the beauty of the Northland, a 3-Day Bay of Islands Trip from Auckland also visits the Puketi Rainforest and the dramatic coastline of Cape Reinga.

3. Go wine tasting in the Yarra and Hunter Valleys of Australia

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley

There’s a good chance you’ve sipped Australian Shiraz in a fine restaurant back home, although 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. From Melbourne, the Yarra Valley Food and Wine Small Group Tour visits the popular wineries of Victoria, while the Small-Group Hunter Valley Wine and Cheese Tasting Tour from Sydney and Hunter Valley Wineries and Wilderness Small-Group Tour offer one of the best day trips from Sydney.

4. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney BridgeClimb

Sydney BridgeClimb

From the beaches of Manly and famous Bondi stretching westward to the hills of the Blue Mountains, Sydney is a city with adventures and sights that sprawl in every direction. For a bird’s eye view of the harbor city and to tour its famous monument, lace up your shoes, don’t look down, and enjoy the views from the 440 ft. summit on either a Sydney Bridge Climb or Sydney Shore Excursion: Sydney BridgeClimb. If the feeling of conquering a man-made mountain becomes addicting in its thrill, you can also book one of the Brisbane Story Bridge Day and Night Climbs when visiting the city in Queensland. In neighboring New Zealand, get a sweeping view of the “City of Sails” on an Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb, or tap into the adrenaline that Kiwis are known for by throwing yourself off of the famous bridge on an Auckland Harbour Bridge Bungy Jump.

5. Cruise through the Sounds of New Zealand

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

There are many who would say that the Sounds of New Zealand are the most scenic part of the country—which is saying a lot considering it’s a nation with some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet. Squired away in the southwest of the South Island and preserved in National Parkland, the Sounds of Fiordland offer an unforgettable journey which is almost too scenic to be real. On a Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise, experience a Sound dubbed the “Sound of Silence” for its refreshing isolation. Further north, you can fall asleep beneath the stars on a Milford Sound Mariner Overnight Cruise, and awake to the beauty of Milford Sound before other visitors arrive. If you only have a single day to devote to the beauty of Fiordland, a Full-Day Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park Tour including Milford Sound Cruise and BBQ Lunch from Queenstown is one of the most popular options. For an aerial perspective of the watery fingers plunging in from the coast, consider booking a Milford Sound Full-Day Tour from Queenstown including Scenic Flight. Finally, for those who are based a little closer to the park in the lakeside town of Te Anau, immerse yourself in the mountainous wonder on a Full-Day Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park Tour including Milford Sound Cruise and BBQ Lunch from Te Anau.

6. Discover Melbourne’s Lanes and Arcades

Melbourne has justifiably earned its cosmopolitan reputation, and the street art, shopping, and historic architecture is considered the best in Australia. Get intimately acquainted with the Melbourne street life on a Melbourne Lanes and Arcades Walking Tour, where you’ll have the chance to stroll around the city and peruse its famous walkways. The city is also a foodie paradise, and in addition to the samples of delectable cuisine you’ll experience on the tour, local guides can provide valuable insight as to where to eat about town.

7. Explore Middle Earth on a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit tour

See Hobbiton; where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.

See Hobbiton; where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.

More so than the storyline, the characters, and the dazzling special effects, it was the enchanting landscape of Middle Earth which helped make the movies so popular. On tours such as Wellington’s Lord of the Rings Locations Tour including Lunch and The Lord of the Rings and Palliser Bay Tour from Wellington, you can journey to movie location such as the Elvish capital of Rivendell or the dramatic canyons of Helm’s Deep. On the South Island, a Lord of the Rings – Journey to Edoras from Christchurch lets you stand in the windswept plains of Mt. Sunday where the city of Edoras once stood. For movie fans who want to begin their journey where the adventurous saga all started, a Small-Group Tour: The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from Auckland, or a Lord of the Rings’ Hobbiton Movie Set Tour bring you directly into Bilbo’s home and the surrounding Hobbit holes of the Shire. To beat the crowds, a Viator Exclusive: Early Access to The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set lets you tour the Shire in the quiet which it’s known for, and on a 2-Day Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton Movie Set and Rotorua Tour from Auckland you can combine the serenity of peaceful Hobbiton with adrenaline-fueled adventure.

8. Get your adrenaline pumping in Queenstown

Skydiving in Queenstown

Skydiving in Queenstown

It doesn’t take long to see why Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the Pacific. Bungy jumping was born in this town at the base of the Southern Alps, and travelers regularly bungy jump off of the historic Kawarau Bridge. You can scuba dive beneath a white water river, go rafting through the rapids, or leave tracks on powdery slopes during the peak of the winter ski season. You can also jump out of a small airplane during a day with Skydive Queenstown, or get a birds-eye view of Lake Wakatipu at the Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Luge.

9. Explore beyond the beaches of Fiji

For many travelers, Fiji is a blissful four letter word synonymous with tropical shorelines. While there’s no doubting the white-sand shorelines are a tempting way to spend the day, there’s more to this Polynesian archipelago than lounging beneath a palm. Experience local Fijian culture during a Navua River Village and Kava Ceremony Tour, or explore the mountainous interior of Viti Levu on a Vuda Lookout, Sabeto Valley and Garden of the Sleeping Giant Tour. You can go trekking in the jungles of Taveuni or see farming in the Nausori Highlands, and Fiji has just as many inland adventures as you’ll find along the shoreline.

10. Take an unforgettable drive on 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. Stroll along the beach on a Private Tour: Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, and enjoy the charm of coastal towns such as Lorne or Apollo Bay. 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.

11. 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 the 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, a Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns, a Low Isles Great Barrier Reef Sailing Cruise from Cairns, or a Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns are all convenient and comfortable ways to come face to face with the reef. Once you’ve experienced the reef from Cairns, head farther north to Port Douglas for the chance to dive an entirely different reef structure. On a Great Barrier Reef Sailing and Snorkeling Cruise from Port Douglas or Outer Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise from Port Douglas you’ll see why the variety of this reef can literally change over a couple of miles.

12. Get up close to the local wildlife

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 from the safety of a professional tour. For a general overview of the fascinating fauna, the Sydney Taronga Zoo General Entry Ticket and Wild Australia Experience, Sydney Taronga Zoo General Entry Ticket, and Sydney Taronga Zoo’s Australian Animals Tour and Sky Safari all visit Sydney’s famous zoo where you can cuddle with koalas and keep an eye out for kookaburras.  To get a sense of what’s under the water in the vast corner of the Pacific, the Sydney Aquarium VIP Guided Tour and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium VIP Guided Behind the Scenes Tour provide fascinating insights on Australian marine life from penguins to crocodiles and large, toothy sharks. For the chance to see the marine life in the wild, a Sydney Whale-Watching Cruise will ply the waters in search of migrating humpbacks, and adrenaline-junkies in search of excitement should plunge in the water of the Shark Diving Xtreme in Sydney. Finally, far 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.

13. See Australia from above

Yarra Valley balloon flight

Yarra Valley balloon flight

Why not add a twist to your holiday by seeing the Land Down Under from high up above? Start the day with a Melbourne Balloon Flight at Sunrise or Hot Air Ballooning including Champagne Breakfast from the Gold Coast or Brisbane. You can also book Sunrise Ballooning in Alice Springs to see famous Uluru glow red in the dawn, or cruise out over the Great Barrier Reef on a Hot Air Ballooning Tour from Cairns. If a glass of wine would calm your nerves from flying so high in the air, a Yarra Valley Balloon Flight and Winery Tour combines the aerial scenery of the valley with the grapes which make it so famous.

14. Explore 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. Book a Small-Group Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney with River Cruise to take a leisurely river cruise back to the city, or a Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves Motorcoach Day Tour to go over—and under—the famous hills. 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,

15. Walk on a glacier at Franz Josef in New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

One of the best adventures on the South Island of New Zealand involves strapping on crampons in the middle of the rainforest. On a morning tour of Heli Hiking Franz Josef, fly from a valley which is dripping in greens to an alpine glacier surrounded by white. This river of ice has sculpted the valley which spills its way down from the Southern Alps, and gain aerial views of towering Mt. Cook as it reaches up and pierces the clouds. From town, trek to the base of the slowly-retreating glacier on a Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk or a Small-Group Franz Josef Glacier Walk with detailed history of the glacier.

16. Learn to surf at Bondi Beach in Sydney

The classic image of bronzed Aussie’s dominates the beaches of Sydney, and the best way to be a part of the scene is with Surfing Lessons on Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Learn the proper technique for paddling and where to sit on the wave, and then paddle out with a professional instructor for the chance to stand up and ride.

17. Explore underground in New Zealand

You’d never think that millions of worms could look like a sky full of stars. On a Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour, however, slowly glide along a subterranean river where the ceiling is flecked by shining worms. To ramp up the excitement inside of the cave, strap on a helmet and head to the North Island for a Black Water Rafting Waitomo Caves Tour. This underground river system is so expansive that you can literally raft underground, all the while accompanied by glow worms which illuminate the cave from above.

18. See a show (or go backstage) at 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. On a Sydney Opera House Guided Backstage Tour, stand in the orchestra pit and explore the dressing rooms of the theater’s biggest stars. Cruise visitors making a stop in the city can stretch their legs around the famous building with a Sydney Shore Excursion: Sydney Opera House Walking Tour, or have a romantic date night of dinner and a show with a Sydney Opera House and Opera Australia Dinner Package. If the show itself is more of a draw than a guided tour of the building, spend an unforgettable night enjoying an Opera Performance at the Sydney Opera House.

19. Go island hopping in Fiji

Fiji

Fiji

Fiji is a nation where new adventures are awaiting on every horizon. The Mamanuca island chain has world-class beaches, and lush Taveuni has waterfall treks and colorful reefs for diving. Climb the pinnacles of the dramatic Yasawas or join in a kava ceremony, or explore inland Viti Levu in the green Nausori Highlands. To jump between islands when staying in Nadi, a Fiji Mamanuca Islands Sailing Cruise will ply the waters of the nearby Mamanucas before returning to Nadi, or sail the same waters aboard a tall ship on the Fijian Islands and Snorkel Full-Day Whales Tale Cruise including Beach BBQ Lunch. You can also hop aboard the Nadi Tivua Island Cruise for the chance to bounce between islands, or head all the way to the mountainous Yasawas on a Yasawa Islands Day Cruise with Snorkeling and Lunch. Finally, if you end up traveling all the way to French Polynesia, a Bora Bora Snorkel, Shark and Ray Feeding Excursion will leave you enchanted by the feeling of becoming one with the ocean.

20. Travel by rail

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, Skyrail, Great Barrier Reef Helicopter Tour and Cruise. Or, combine the railroad with a journey north with a Cairns Super Saver: Great Barrier Reef Cruise plus Kuranda Scenic Railway plus Cape Tribulation Day Trip. Across the ditch on the South Island of New Zealand, cruise visitors can step back into the 19th Century on a Dunedin Shore Excursion: Taieri Gorge Railway Tour that also includes sightseeing around the University town.

21. Take a romantic cruise

Take a Gordon River Cruise

Take a Gordon River Cruise

Not many travelers associate Australia with rivers, but floating along an inland waterway can be the most relaxing way to get out and sightsee. Wrap your arm around your travel companion and let someone else do the driving, and sip a glass of wine as the beauty of Australia goes scrolling past the window. When visiting Perth, book a Swan River Scenic Cruise to enjoy the city from the water, or take a Swan Valley Wine Cruise from Perth to pair the skyline with wine from Margaret River. In Melbourne, explore the city on a Melbourne City Sights Morning Tour with Optional Yarra Cruise, or when visiting Tasmania, delve into the wilderness of a World Heritage site on board a six-hour Gordon River Cruise from Strahan.

22. Go wine tasting in one of New Zealand’s top wine regions

New Zealand has justifiably gained a reputation as one of the best wine regions in the world. While the Sauvignon Blanc of Marlborough is legendary, the Otago Pinot Noir, Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, and ocean-view vineyards of Waiheke Island make this South Pacific nation a wine-lover’s dream. On the South Island, spend a day on a Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown and taste the flavors of the world’s southernmost wine region. On the North Island, trade the capital for a day in the vineyards on a Martinborough Wine-Tasting Tour from Wellington. Seeing as the region produces only 1% of the nation’s overall wine output, expect to spend the day sipping wine in the tasting rooms of boutique vineyards.

23. Explore Tasmania

Climbing Cradle Mountain

Climbing Cradle Mountain

A large percentage of travelers to Australia never make it to Tasmania. Separated from the Mainland by one of the world’s roughest channels and rugged in its natural beauty, Tasmania in some ways is like visiting another country compared to the rest of Australia. To experience the beauty of the Tasman coastline, a Full-Day Tasman Peninsula Tour from Hobart will take you to the base of the country’s tallest sea cliffs. Head south of the city on a Full-Day Bruny Island Tour from Hobart to spot colonies of fur seals, and then finish the day with a Hobart Historic Afternoon Tour to see the city’s colonial heritage. For more of the island’s unique history, spend a full day on a Port Arthur Tour from Hobart for a look back on the days when it was an island of convicts who were marooned on this faraway island.

24. Learn about Maori culture in New Zealand

The islands of Aotearoa (New Zealand) form the southwestern corner of the Polynesian Triangle. From Rapa Nui (Easter Island) north to the islands of Hawaii, all of Polynesia shares a similar heritage which is reflected in language and legend. When traveling in New Zealand, you, too, can experience this culture on a Maori cultural tour. The city of Rotorua has the highest percentage of Maori of any city in New Zealand, and at a Rotorua Maori Hangi Dinner and Performance you can literally get a taste of this fiery culture and watch a traditional haka dance. If you’re only in the country for a couple of days and won’t make it far beyond Auckland, you can still get a dose of native culture without even leaving the city. At the Auckland Maori Tour and Cultural Performance, you’ll learn the history of how Polynesians navigated their way to New Zealand, and hear the chants and spirited dance of legends still told today.

25. Have dinner 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. In Melbourne, the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant Tour of Melbourne lets you see the sights of the modern city from the comfort of an old-fashioned train. Or, on the Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise, enjoy your dinner as you casually motor on the waters of the Yarra River. 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. You can also get views of Queensland’s largest city on a Brisbane River Dinner Cruise, or sample the cuisine of Western Australia on the Perth City of Lights Dinner Cruise.

- Viator Travel Team

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2 Responses to “Top 25 Things to Do in Australia & New Zealand: 2014 Viator Travel Awards”

  1. Hannah Gutsell Says:

    Thanks

  2. aneesh ahmad Says:

    Nice your fiji islands list…………..

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