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Set out by private jet to explore Australia and New Zealand’s stunningly diverse landscapes—from wild Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef to magnificent Lake Taupo and Milford Sound. Experience the wonders of both countries in one seamless journey, encountering coral reefs and rain forests, glacier-carved fjords and ethereal desert plains. Explore the vibrant cities of Sydney, Hobart, and Queenstown, and get acquainted with the indigenous cultures that call these epic landscapes home.
Stay at three spectacular properties that are part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, with nights spent in the heart of the Australian outback, on Kangaroo Island, and along the Great Barrier Reef.
In Australia, soar above Queensland’s tropical canopy on a gondola, delve into the Aboriginal legends of Uluru, and go snorkeling or diving amid the spectacular marine life of Lizard Island.
Explore the geothermal wonders and Maori traditions of New Zealand’s Lake Taupo, and walk on a glacier overlooking Milford Sound.
Take a ferry to visit the renowned Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Opera House.
Itinerary - 17 Days
Days 1 & 2 — Sydney, Australia
Arrive independently on a commercial flight to Sydney. Meet experts, staff, and fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner. Then begin our journey by exploring Sydney’s multicultural metropolis. Located on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, this spectacular city is a global financial hub and a dynamic center for arts and culture.
Set off on a guided walk through the Rocks district, which marks the spot of the first European settlement in Australia. Peruse boutiques and galleries, take in views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, and observe the historic sandstone buildings for which the area was named. Opt to experience the Harbour Bridge on a thrilling climb, enjoying a bird’s-eye view of Sydney Harbour. Walk along catwalks and up ladders as you ascend to the summit of the bridge, and learn about its colorful history, which dates back to 1932.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Opera House, the architectural masterpiece designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. This renowned performing arts center is perched on the harbor and crowned by a soaring roof of vaulted “shells” that has made it one of the world’s most recognizable buildings. Or come face-to-face with Australia’s native wildlife on a private tour of the Taronga Zoo and learn about conservation efforts to protect endangered species like the koala and the Tasmanian devil.
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney (D; B, L, D)
Day 3 — Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Fly south to the beautiful island of Tasmania, which was once the site of Australia’s most notorious penal settlement. Today, the island is known for its dramatic landscapes—from glaciated mountains to rain forests and white-sand beaches—as well as its thriving cultural scene.
Arrive in Hobart, the island’s vibrant capital and Australia’s second oldest city, situated on the Derwent River. Hobart’s deep-water port led to rapid growth during the 1800s, when Hobart became a center for the whaling and sealing industries; today, the port continues to play a vital role in the city’s economy. Take in the Georgian architecture of Richmond, a colonial village near Hobart that was once an important military staging post. Venture to the Rosny Hill Lookout, which offers panoramic views of Hobart, its surrounding waters, and majestic Mount Wellington. Then step back in time as we stroll amid the charming cottages and gardens of Battery Point, one of Hobart’s oldest areas.
Tour Tasmania’s whiskey distilleries and learn how local distillers craft malt whiskey using a fine-tuned process. Or experience the real-life account of a female convict in Tasmania during the 1830s through “Her Story,” a live historical drama. This evening, take a ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Australia’s largest private museum, which is renowned for its diverse collections and innovative design. Situated on the grounds of a historic vineyard, the museum features subterranean galleries built into the sides of cliffs. Enjoy a private tour of the museum, followed by dinner in the Nolan Gallery.
Henry Jones Art Hotel (B, L, D Daily)
Days 4 & 5 — Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Arrive in Adelaide, our gateway to exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Kangaroo Island. For the next four days, we will split into two groups and complete the same activities in reverse order, spending two nights in each location.
Fly by private jet to the vast desert plains of Australia’s Red Center. Settle into your luxury tent at Longitude 131°, a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection poised at the edge of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. From your window-walled bedroom, enjoy magnificent views of the staggering sandstone dome of Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock)—the largest monolith on Earth.
Embark on a variety of excursions in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, immersing yourself in the ethereal beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk around the base of Uluru and learn about it spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people, whose ancestors left ancient rock paintings that still can be seen today. Admire the mystical red domes of Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas), and explore its crevices on a guided hike through the Walpa Gorge, which cuts between two of the site’s 36 domed-rock formations. Visit the nearby Cultural Centre to delve deeper into the area’s geological and spiritual histories and to view Aboriginal art on display. If you wish, go mountain biking through the outback, or visit a local gallery. At sunset, return to our lodge and sip champagne as you watch the descending sun set Uluru’s red rock ablaze. Then enjoy an evening of stargazing as we savor an Australian barbecue.
Longitude 131° (B, L, D Daily)
Days 6 & 7 — Kangaroo Island, Australia
From Adelaide, travel by local aircraft to Kangaroo Island, considered Australia’s Galápagos for its wealth of endemic species and wild, pristine landscapes. Stay at one of the world’s top island properties, Southern Ocean Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Curving along a cliff top above Hanson Bay, this spectacular lodge was designed to reflect and embrace its natural surroundings. Explore the island—known as a “zoo without fences”—and discover its many native inhabitants, including Tammar wallabies, which are considered rare on the mainland, and the island’s endemic kangaroos. Witness nature’s raw power at Remarkable Rocks, massive granite boulders sculpted by the elements over millions of years. At dusk, sample fine Australian wines in an open paddock where kangaroos graze. Top off our visit at the Seal Bay Conservation Park, observing sea lions on the sandy beaches.
Southern Ocean Lodge (B, L, D Daily)
Day 8 — Cairns, Australia
Fly to the coastal city of Cairns, located in the heart of northern Queensland and renowned for its proximity to two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland. Take your seat aboard one of the world’s longest gondola cableways, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, and soar above Queensland’s tropical canopy. Glide over several miles of rain forest in one of the most botanically rich places on Earth, enjoying panoramic views of the Coral Sea, Barron Falls, and the deep chasm of Barron Gorge. Marvel at the lush foliage of giant ferns, palms, and towering trees; glimpse electric-blue Ulysses butterflies; and listen to the calls of cockatoos as a local guide introduces us to this remarkable rain forest ecosystem.
Shangri La Hotel, The Marina (B, L, D Daily)
Days 9, 10, & 11 — Lizard Island and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Take in spectacular views of the Australian coast on a charter flight to Lizard Island National Park, a ring of islands bordered by the Great Barrier Reef. Our destination is Lizard Island Resort, the island’s only hotel development and a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. At this secluded lodge, set on a stretch of white-sand beach and accessible exclusively by plane, enjoy unparalleled access to the world’s largest reef system.
Over the following days, choose from an array of activities designed to immerse you in the aquatic wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef. Glide across crystalline waters in a glass-bottom boat, spotting a breathtaking variety of marine life—from sea turtles and scorpionfish to feather stars and reef sharks. Go snorkeling or diving amid the brilliant coral formations that surround Lizard Island, or take a boat to a secluded bay to go swimming and beachcombing. Explore the island’s many nature trails, meandering through eucalyptus and acacia woodlands. At the Lizard Island Research Station, which attracts coral reef researchers from around the world, learn about efforts to protect the reef’s fragile ecosystem. After each day’s adventures, unwind at the resort’s spa or take a sunset stroll on the beach, enjoying the tranquility of this tropical paradise.
Lizard Island Resort (B, L, D Daily)
Day 12 — Auckland, New Zealand
Surrounded by stunning ocean vistas, Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population in the world and is considered to be one of the more culturally diverse capitals in the Southern Hemisphere. The city’s glittering horizon boasts the tallest manmade structure in New Zealand, Sky Tower—an otherworldly skyscraper featuring 50-mile views in every direction on a clear day. After spending a night in Auckland, take a charter flight to Lake Taupo.
Hilton Auckland (B, L, D Daily)
Days 13 & 14 — Lake Taupo, New Zealand
More than 20,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions rocked New Zealand’s North Island and forged the caldera, or crater, that became picturesque Lake Taupo. Today, the country’s largest lake is still a hotbed of geothermal activity, with steaming vents, bubbling mud pools, and spectacular geysers serving as a reminder of the area’s fiery origins.
Set out on a private cruise to experience this vast lake, which is ringed by snowcapped mountains. Spot Mount Ruapehu in the distance—the North Island’s highest point and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. From the water, observe huge Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, including a depiction of Ngatoroirangi, a Maori high priest and navigator believed to have sailed to New Zealand by canoe in the 13th century. Back on shore, continue your exploration of the area’s natural treasures on a hike or a mountain bike ride. Or try your hand at fly-fishing on the Waikato River, home to a wide variety of fish including brown and rainbow trout.
The Lake Taupo area has long been inhabited by New Zealand’s first settlers, the Maori, and the region continues to hold cultural significance for Maori tribes living here. Get acquainted with Maori culture on a visit to a nearby village, where we’ll explore a meeting hall, carving workshop, and church. Learn how the Maori harness the area’s geothermal resources for cooking and bathing, carrying on their ancestors’ ancient traditions.
Huka Lodge (B, L, D Daily)
Days 15, 16, & 17 — Queenstown and Milford Sound, New Zealand
Fly to New Zealand’s South Island and arrive in Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of the world. Surrounded by the craggy peaks of the Remarkables and fringed by Lake Wakatipu’s sapphire waters, Queenstown provides access to the region’s splendid landscapes, carved over thousands of years by slow-moving glaciers.
Embrace the city’s thrill-seeking spirit on a helicopter ride over the glacial fjord of Milford Sound. Fly over rugged cliffs, lakes, and forests, and witness the staggering scale of the terrain, which the Maori believe was shaped by a powerful god. Observe the majesty of Mitre Peak, which rises above the sound. After viewing the fjord from above, take a memorable walk along the icy ridges of one of the glaciers that have sculpted this dramatic landscape.
Wander the quaint streets of Arrowtown, a 19th-century gold-mining village that retains more than 60 of its original cottages, shops, and churches. Then embark on a jet-boat ride through the narrow canyons of the Shotover River, which was once the location for one of the world’s richest gold mines.
Celebrate our journey with a festive farewell dinner. The following day, connect with your commercial flight home.
Millbrook Resort (B, L, D; B)
A world-class team of experts will accompany this expedition to share their knowledge and insights with you and bring each destination to life. The expert featured below will be part of the expedition team on the date noted.
Award-winning author and photographer Roff Smith has written more than 20 feature stories for National Geographic magazine, plus numerous features on National Geographic’s daily news website. A contracted photographer for National Geographic Creative, he has published two travel books—Cold Beer and Crocodiles and Life on the Ice (about his extensive travels around Antarctica)—with National Geographic Adventure Press, contributed to large-format titles for the National Geographic book division, and written the National Geographic Traveler: Australia guidebook. Roff is also a highly experienced touring cyclist and adventurer. He has completed a 10,000-mile solo odyssey around Australia, along with solo treks in Africa, Europe, North America and Britain. He has cycled on all seven continents, including Antarctica, where he says he “once rode 'round the world in under ten seconds while on assignment at The South Pole.” Roff has written extensively on bicycle touring, edited two books on bicycle frame building and is a London City & Guilds certified bicycle mechanic and wheel builder.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $6,950. Transportation by private Fokker 70 jet and other conveyance, as noted in the itinerary, is included in the expedition cost.
Airfare to Sydney, Australia and from Queenstown, New Zealand is not included in the expedition cost.
Our Fokker 70 jet is ideally suited for this extraordinary expedition. Its ability to
land in smaller airports affords us unmatched flexibility. We set our own schedules,
flying direct and avoiding layovers, which gives us the freedom to make the most
of our adventures on land. The jet’s interior provides the ultimate in comfort and
convenience, accommodating only 45 guests in two-by-two VIP-style seats.
For your protection, all payments are secured in a bank escrow account. See special terms and conditions for this expedition.