Wanderlust: New Zealand and Australia

By Kate Riley February 11, 2015

This November while most of the USA is getting ready for Thanksgiving we’ve decided to travel for 3 ½ weeks to a part of the world we’ve been wanting to visit forever. We’re off to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, and we’re booking flights now with our saved up funds and miles. We decided on November for a few reasons, weather wise it’s the equivalent of May in the States so it is an ideal time to go.

The kids will miss two weeks of elementary school but thankfully they can keep up with independent study and they have the week of Thanksgiving off as well. We decided it’s now or never since they will be too busy in junior high and high school for us to go during the school year and we want to be there in good weather. Also, my two American born cousins are married to Aussies and live on the east coast (one in Melbourne, one in Gold Coast) and we’d like to pay a visit to their families too. 

australia new zealand fiji

First stop, Fiji, I’ve been dreaming of this place forever.


Next up, New Zealand, land of beautiful landscapes and outdoor adventures.

new zealand

Finally, we would like to spend 12 or so days in Australia along the eastern coast from Melbourne up to Brisbane with a stop in Sydney in between.


Many of you have been to or live in these countries, I would absolutely LOVE if you shared any tips on traveling here, and any recommendations on where we might stay and what we should see along the way so I can plan our route. Thanks so much for any input!


  1. I live in New Zealand! In November it won’t necessarily be all that hot so I recommend heading south rather than risking a beach holiday – the area around Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound and maybe pop over to the west coast. All in the South Island. A really good loop is to fly into Christchurch and spend a day checking out what an earthquake does to a city, then spend a night at Hanmer Dpribgs relaxing in the hot pools. Then over to the west coast for beautiful bush and gold rush historical tourism – Lake Ianthe, goldsborough and Hokitika are great spots. Then head down the coast, leaving the beaten track for some great waterfall walks and lake swims. Do a boat trip for a day to see Milford Sound. Paradise and Kinloch at the bottom of Lake Wakatipu are beautiful Lord of the Rings scenic spots. Then head up the lake to Queenstown for a bungy jump and city fix, Wanaka is a lovely town, then back up the line to Christchurch. Or do the same loop in the other direction! I’ve done this road trip a few times and it is really really beautiful. I live in Auckland but wouldn’t recommend spending much, if any, time here on a short trip like yours. Have fun!!!

  2. Perhaps consider hiring a camper van or rv for a New Zealand road trip so you are free to take the trip at your own pace? I could go on for ages but I’ve probably said enough!!

  3. H- American here living on the Sunshine Coast of Australia north of Brisbane. A few tips:
    Air New Zealand is a great airline. If you can afford to take them over here, I would recommend them highly.
    In the Brisbane area:
    1. Don’t skip a trip to “the hinterland”, what we would think of as the mountains. Hinterland towns are beautiful and quaint and you can find easy rainforest hikes to do as a family.
    2. Brisbane is a lovely city. Be sure to visit the Southbank area and take the free Citycat ferry along the river.
    3. The Australia Zoo north of Brisbane is the best zoo I have ever been to. It is more like an interactive wildlife park. Plan ahead to be there for the all day and book online an “animal encounter” for your kids.
    Australia and New Zealand are horribly expensive to eat out in and the portions are pretty small. Plan ahead to do some self catering and look for lunch specials at Thai or Indian places.
    Good luck!

  4. How exciting!

    I live in Melbourne and have travelled to our cousin country New Zealand many times.

    My favourite places in NZ are:
    Fox Glacier
    Nelson’s Blue Lake (clearest lake in the world!)
    Lake Pukaki (Bright turquoise water – amazing)
    Rotorua (Smells like sulpher, but hot springs and great Maori heritage)

    In Melbourne:
    The Great Ocean Road
    Brighton Beach, or head further out to Edithvale/Chelsea/Bonbeach on hot days for a swim.
    Mornington peninsula has great farmers markets on weekends and cute boutiques in their seaside towns.

    As I have never really been a visitor in Melbourne, I can’t tell you really good ‘tourist’ places sorry! But wander the city, there’s fantastic coffee and book shops, have a look at the graffiti art in the lanes and alleys (many are beautiful), as well as heaps of great restaurants and shops.

  5. Oh Kate! My family spent three weeks in New Zealand last October. My son is leaving next Tuesday to return for 9 weeks. – he’s 14 and living the life! Do you know what cities you are going to visit? I can probably answer quite a bit for you. All I can say is – it is amazing. Next time I go, I def want to get to Fiji. Let me know where you are going and I’ll tell you what I know! -kellie p.s. I want you to try my furniture paint! (-;

  6. Hi!
    I joined Bloglovin recently and started following your blog from there :) Coincidences are so fun, just after I hit publish on my blog post I came here and the first post for me to read was this one. I just wrote about a protected island I visited yesterday, I live in New Zealand. Such great place, you might want to add it to your list of possible visits :) Its a whole day visit though as the ferry only goes once a day… its great for bird lovers, the name is Tiritiri Matangi Island, you can google it they have a website.
    And you are going to Fiji too! that’s such a great place it’s sooooo very beautiful, take dark sunglasses as the sand is very very white!
    Happy planning!

  7. What a fabulous trip! And you are doing this at a great time for your family. My daughter and I traveled to Australia and Fiji in 2000. Fiji will be a great place to adjust to the time change. We enjoyed taking a day boat cruise to an uninhabited island in a wooden boat. It wasn’t fancy but felt authentic. The crew took us out in a glass bottom boat, and we snorkeled. They cooked a meal for us there. It was a memorable day.
    We were primarily in Sydney and I’m sure you will see all the things we did – boat trip around the harbor, the bridge, the opera house, the beaches.

  8. I am so excited for you and your family and hope to see lots of pictures on the blog!! I had the opportunity to travel and live overseas as a child and I am so eternally grateful for it! Good for y’all! Safe travels. :)

  9. I spent a week in Fiji before studying abroad on the Gold Coast in Australia and then spent 12 days in NZ before coming home, it was absolutely amazing! I know you will have an amazing time and probably won’t want to leave!

  10. Annabel, that sounds like a great adventure for our 6 days in NZ, thank you!
    Elizabeth and Crystal thanks for your tips too, I’ll pop over to read about that island!
    Thank you Jennie, those are some really great tips, I so appreciate them!
    LauraBeth that place looks AMAZING! I’m so excited to get over there!

  11. Hi there! I live in Brisbane, and am a frequent visitor to Sydney and Melbourne. Here’s myadditions to everyone’s thoughts so far! Sydney – take the ferry to Manly, it’s a lovely trip and you will see most of the beautiful harbour. If you like zoo’s, the Sydney Zoo has the best view in the world but for Australian wildlife I agree with Jennie and the Australia Zoo not far from Brisbane is fantastic. In Melbourne, the city itself is lovely, (feels very European to us Aussies) and you absolutely must do the coastal drive along the Great Ocean Road, it’s spectacular. Melbourne is a great place for eating out, with loads of fantastic restaurants, very multi-cultural. I also like heading north to explore the lovely country towns around Bendigo (Daylesford has a fantasic mineral spa) and it;s also worth a visit to Sovereign Hill a living recreation of an old gold mining town. Here in Brissie there is a more relaxed vibe than down south (though probably not as relaxed as Fiji!) and you should have lovely weather. I recommend a trip out to Moreton Island where you can feed the dolphins, go sand toboganning, and dive over old ship wrecks (Tangalooma Resort). You’ll have a fabulous time no matter what you do though!

  12. I live in Brisbane and echo Jennie’s comments above re Australia Zoo and the expensive food. However, if you enjoy seafood, there is plenty available and is worth the splurge.
    My sister often hosts visitors from the States and these are her recommendations for places they’ve enjoyed.
    Southbank Brisbane city. Rides on the City Cat (ferry) on the Brisbane river. Stop off at Oxford St Bulimba – good restaurants.
    Lone Pine koala sanctuary.
    Outback adventure for dinner and show (located North of the Gold Coast between Wet and Wild and Movie World).
    Mount Tamborine hinterland of the Gold Coast. Added bonus of Aussie vineyards.
    On the Gold Coast:
    Breakfast at the Currumbin Life Saving Club. It’s on the beach and you can watch the young Aussies doing lifesaving practice.
    The Currumbin bird life sanctuary.
    The Cooloongatta markets on a Sunday morning. Backdrop is the beach and there is often Australiana products there.
    I’ve tried to think of places that showcase Australian animals and scenery different to what you would be seeing in the US.

    Some websites to look up are: visitgoldcoast.com and lonelyplanet.com/australia/queensland/gold-coast.com

  13. Soooo very envious. I’ve wanted to go there forever! Can’t wait to live vicariously through your posts & get ideas for when our house is built & we can travel again.

  14. Kate, I live in Melbourne and I can highly recommend a trip along the Great Ocean Road down to the beachside town of Lorne. It’s beautiful!
    While you’ll get a lot of suggestions about places to visit, I’m sure your cousin will be able to suggest some places to see. My tip would be to spend some time walking around the sity. Take in the laneways and the gardens, which are wonderful….also the Exhibition Buildings. A magnificent place! If you want great cafes and coffee, Melbourne’s the place to be. Yes, food can be a bit pricey, but there are plenty of cafes and cheap eateries. Lygon street in Carlton for the “Italian” flavour. Victoria Street for really cheap Asian food.
    Brisbane is also lovely. I lived there for a while and loved it. The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast also worth a visit.


  15. I am a Sydneysider and after travelling the world extensively and only having just returning to live here after living in Canada for 5 years I can honestly say that Australia is one of the best countries in the world- clean, safe & laid back, friendly people. The Aussie dollar is declining at the moment so you’ll be coming at a good time. Be prepared to spend more on food that in the US but the quality on the whole is very good. Less food chains and more cafes and restaurants. And decent coffee everywhere. Without offending a heap of readers, lets say this- Starbucks isn’t a success here because people are discerning.

    If you haven’t booked your Sydney accommodation I recommend looking into staying in Manly (yes, that’s a real suburb name). It’s a beach side suburb that is also on the edge of the harbour. You can get a ferry directly into the city, coming in at the Opera House. It’s a popular tourist and local spot because there are lots of restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and shops, the beach and the harbour. You can find suite hotels here (called serviced apartments in Australia) that would allow you to make breakfast/meals in the room and the kids can hang out at the beach after doing touristy things in the day. Safe travels.

  16. While in Sydney, the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk (or parts of it you feel are achievable) is amazing. For lovely strolling neighbourhoods try 5-ways in Paddington, Queen St in Woollhara or hop off the ferry in Balmain and walk the strip. You can catch a bus back into the city at the other end.

  17. that’s a great trip. I want to go as well. And the timing is perfect. You will enjoy sun and kids will be fin in missing 2 weeks of school.
    Happy for you.


  18. Melbourne to Brisbane is a reeeeally long way to drive. I would suggest planning scenic stops along the way, enjoying the little towns on your route! Driving Sydney-Brisbane is a solid 8 hour trip – pack emergency supplies in the car including water (in case you break down), sunscreen and window shades for the kids.

    But it is lovely – I hope you have a great time!

    From sunny Queensland :)

  19. Hi Kate!

    I live in Melbourne. I figured you might not have time to get to all the coastal places that others are suggesting so I thought I’d give you some advice for things to see in the CBD. They won’t take you long – they’re all close together.

    The first two are right near Flinders St station (the main one). Degraves St is a little alleyway that is a great place to have breakfast. It’s really narrow and quirky and reminds me a little of Diagon Alley (hehe). They second is Hosier Lane – a short walk from the first one, its a famous alleyway for all the graffiti. Will only take you a couple of minutes to see but its pretty impressive. While you’re there its directly opposite Federation Square. Its nothing

    If you’re looking for some nice places to have lunch, Lygon St is nice (lots of Italian) or Brunswick St (really hipster). Both are a (very) short tram ride from the CBD.

    Lastly, go down to St Kilda. Its got an old small theme park, Luna Park. The kids will get a kick out of it and you don’t have to stay too long. St Kilda beach is pretty popular for a swim so you could do that in the same day.

    Hope that helps!

  20. If you can’t fit in my awesome island state of Tasmania…. (Next trip maybe)…. Australia zoo is worth a visit and try not to stress that you have to see everything – Australian’s like to chill and meander. Have a wonderful time!!

  21. I spent half of 2013 and all of 2014 living in Gold Coast Australia and visited Fiji, New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne while I was there. I loved it and I’m sure you will too.

    One thing I would add to your list if you can fit it in is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef – it was without a doubt the coolest thing I did while I was there.

    I second the recommendations made for staying in Manly while in Sydney and looking into serviced apartments, especially for a family.

    Be prepared for things to be a LOT more expensive than in the US. Food and hotels and general shopping costs are a lot higher. Speaking of food costs – remember you don’t have to tip in Australia as it is built into the prices. It took me a while to figure that out making eating out even more expensive.

  22. My family and I were just there over Christmas! We stayed in Sydney for 3 days, went up to Carins (you can’t miss the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling!). Then to Christchurch, Queenstown, and back to Christchurch. The highlight of our trip was the plane ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound, followed by a boat trip around the sound, then back a different route. Amazingly beautiful! The most beautiful country I have ever seen! A close second highlight was staying at a B&B outside Queenstown that was a sheepfarm. They don’t advertise to the general public (I believe it’s Queenstown Country Inn) and we lucked into it, but you can probably find it through a travel agency. A beautiful home, yummy breakfasts cooked by Amanda, and we fed the sheep. The view from our suite was rolling hills dotted with sheep with roses and peonies growing around the front garden. Distances in NZ are deceiving, and winding roads are beautiful but traveling takes longer than you think it will. Don’t try to travel from Christchurch to Queenstown in one day, unless you want to spend a lot of time in the car. I will take Amanda’s suggestion if ever there again, and go through a travel agent, rather than Expedia; could have saved us some headaches. Also, don’t fly Jet Star, the local commuter airlines! Lost a suitcase with computer and insulin in it, and we had to get mean to get it taken care of. They have a deservedly bad rep, I found out too late. Get ready for the most gorgeous turquoise lakes, mountain vistas, and a slower pace than the U.S. The people were laid back and friendly. You are going to love it!

  23. I am SOOOO glad you asked these questions. We are at the VERY beginnings of planning our own trip to Australia, and New Zealand (and possibly FIJI) in either November or April for our 40th Anniversary. Thank- You to all your readers. We are debating: tour, no tour, cities, country, adventure….yikes. By the way, I am in the middle of the book “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson, a travel book (sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes a little tedious) about Australia. You get a god taste of the country and the people.

  24. I have to agree with your fellow American, Jennie. The Hinterland (behind the Sunshine Coast) is well worth visiting – places like Maleny (pr. Ma-lain-ee) and Montville are brilliant places to visit, and the kids will really enjoy the fresh boiled lollies (candy) in Montville. A must-see is also the quaint market town of Eumundi which has a fantastic open market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with wonderful vibes played by local musicians, and exciting food. Noosa is another place to visit, if you have the time.

    Closer to your family on the Gold Coast, I’d hop over the NSW border and visit the world famous Byron Bay! It’s the place of surf, sun and plenty food! Its vibrant, laidback way of life is worth experiencing, even fleetingly. Try if you can to extend your day visit to include an evening meal because that’s when Byron comes alive! Loved by surfers, backpackers, hippies and the famous, it’s a great place to visit all year round.

    The Gold Coast also boasts a wonderful zoo called Currumbin Wildlife Park, so if you cannot make it up to Australia Zoo on the Sunny Coast, then this is the next best thing. I actually prefer it and find it less commercialized or crowded. Be warned though, the Gold Coast is all high rise buildings, canals, glitz and glimmer, so unless that rings your bell, I’d avoid it like the plague! The Sunny Coast still retains its character to a large degree, although development is sadly getting in the way of that these days.

    Where the Gold Coast differs from the Sunny Coast is in its extended dining hours and supermarket shopping times. You’d be hard-pushed in most areas in the Sunny Coast, or elsewhere, to find a restaurant kitchen open after 9pm! Unlike in the big smoke major cities, here in Australia everything closes early!! Most restaurants open between the hours of 5pm and 8pm, so if you prefer late dining like I do, it’s very annoying. I personally don’t enjoy dining out while the sun is still shining! And another thing to bear in mind is that there is no daylight saving in Queensland. The clocks go forward in early October in the states of NSW and Victoria, which means they’ll be an hour ahead of Brisbane time.

    Last but not least. Australia is a vast country, so given your time constraints, air travel is the quickest way to get from A to B. Besides the national carrier Qantas on these routes, there are the budget airlines of Virgin Blue and Jetstar (owned by Qantas) to consider. However, on both these carriers you can take carry-on luggage for free but you have to pay for luggage in the hold. That may be a problem for you with all your baggage – roughly $20 per bag, with a weight restriction of 20kgs per bag. One other thing worth mentioning is that if you’re going to fly from either Melbourne or Sydney up north to Brisbane, you may want to consider flying directly into Coolangatta on the Gold Coast instead of Brisbane Domestic which is 110 km away (about 1.5 hours driving time). Coolangatta is the gateway to the GC and lies on the border of NSW. There is a rail link from Brisbane Airport to the GC, and more info can be found here: http www airtrain com au/products_airtrainconnect.

    And here’s something worth noting. There is NO tipping in Australia! Restaurant employees or hotel concierges/porters have it factored into their salaries automatically. Some restaurants may have a ‘share bowl or jar’ near the till if you want to chip in for good service, but it’s not a requirement to tip.

    I think I’ve covered all bases, but just want to add that in Sydney the kids would enjoy a trip over to Manley by ferry or to Watson Bay (also by ferry) for fish and chips (french fries) at the well-revered Doyles Restaurant. And here’s something you must, must do when in Sydney – visit the world-famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels which is a street cart in Wooloomooloo – practically on the doorstep of Russell Crowe’s warehouse residence! Easiest way to get there is on foot via the beautiful Botanic Gardens with some famous historical land sites, and exquisite views over Sydney Harbour. A definite must-see! Some like to do the Harbour Bridge climb, but it does cost a lot and has to be booked in advance. And of course, there is always Tarongo Zoo on the north side, which can be reached by a ferry from Circular Quay.

    That’s it. I’m bowing out in the hope that I haven’t bored all your readers with my lengthy comment! ;-) Love, heather x

  25. Hi! I travelled to Australia for my honeymoon and I have to say that I absolutely loved the country. We travelled at the end of October and the weather was very nice. Melbourne is usually a bit colder than Sydney, but you will be travelling in November, so it should be much warmer.
    If I can recommend one thing in Melbourne is to do a bike tour of the city. We did one on our second day there and it was the best tour we ever did, I recommend Michelle from Melbourne by bike (http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g255100-d2069528-Reviews-Melbourne_By_Bike-Melbourne_Victoria.html). It’s a private tour, so only your family and her, she caters to what you want to see and your intrests and she is simply an amazing woman and tour guide.
    She brought us to many places that we would have not been able to see on our own. I absolutely loved the tour and it’s a grat way for you to get to know the city when you first get there.
    We also did a Ocean Road tour from Melbourne and did the Bridge Climb in Sydney (priecy but totally worth it). Let me know if you are intrested in getting more info about these two activities.
    I wish you an amazing trip!!

  26. Hi there, our son, who is 8, and my husband, spent 2 weeks in Australia over New Year’s this year. We have family over there. They had the BEST time.

    Here are some pictures: http://www.dagmarbleasdale.com/2015/01/wordless-wednesday-linky-sydney-opera-house/ They saw The Magic Flute in the Sydney Opera House, saw fireworks from a yacht in the Sydney harbor, played golf, went to a water park, and did a 200 feet drop together, plus so much more.

    Wishing you a wonderful trip! Stock up on games and things the kids can do on the long flights. And throw out the schoolwork – it won’t get done :)


  27. SO glad you wrote this post as my family is hoping to visit next year! Love reading all the tips from your readers and I’ll look forward to your blog post after you get back!

  28. Ditto what most people said already! I went to NZ and Fiji on my honeymoon and loved it. Here are some of my favorites:
    Jean Michele Cousteau Resort in Fiji. Bula!
    Tanglewood Lodge B&B NZ Marlborough Sound – Eco Resort accessible by boat or hiking only. We kayaked there. Very cool.
    Queenstown – Stop at Fergburger. Yum.
    Eat as much fish and chips as you can (at any restaurant)! They make it the best of anywhere I have ever had. I think we had it 10 times on the trip. I am also been to the UK but NZ did it better!
    Also, bring everything you can possibly think of that you might need. In NZ it is very expensive. I think I paid $9 for dental floss. Lots and lots of sunscreen. Make sure if you go snorkeling etc in Fiji you wear the shirt/rash guard. I got mega burned. Also bring medications you might need. We got sick in Fiji and didn’t have anything with us which made it very difficult. The local medicine man was very helpful! (No lie). Have fun and know that we readers are all jealous!

  29. I’ve been to both Australia and Fiji, and my sister in law lives in New Zealand. Australia is absolutely amazing, although that’s not even a good enough word to describe Oz. Fiji was beautiful as well, but is one of those places I felt was a one and done place for me. It was relaxing, and lovely as a beach vacation, and we did go into a village to see how they live (no running water or electricity) but probably not somewhere I will return to unless handed a free vacation. I still encourage anyone nearby to make a stop though, because duh, it’s FIJI!

    I know you didn’t mention doing this in your post, but if you can swing it, I would really encourage making your way up to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef, it’s about the same flight time from Sydney to Cairns as traveling from MIA to NY. I went scuba diving there (even without being certified you can go on an entry dive, or just snorkel) and it was one of the more memorable things I’ve done on all my travels.

    Another thing that’s a little north of where you mentioned are the Whitsunday Islands. I really can’t recommend going to Oz without seeing the Whitsundays. The views absolutely blew me away. We went to Whitehaven beach and I really can’t say enough about the beauty. If you can fit this in, do it, but check to make sure the season you’re going is good for viewing. My friend (who I traveled to Oz with) went back a few years later during their summer months and said the views were nothing like ours when we traveled there in August.

    Sydney is tied (with Amsterdam) as my most favorite city I’ve ever been to. I remember being struck by how clean it was in comparison to many other major cities, worldwide. Remember they drive on the other side, many of my travel companions almost got run over at intersections because we are so used to looking the opposite way for traffic. We went to Bondi Beach while in Sydney. It was a good beach to visit for a day trip because there is lots of stuff to do and places to eat nearby. Warning: while it wasn’t a nude beach, there were plenty of people that didn’t mind if you saw them changing or sunbathing nude, but then again, most countries aren’t as uptight as ours.

    If you travel a little ways outside of Sydney, I would definitely suggest going on some scenic hikes. We spent two weeks in a town called Woy Woy (north of Sydney) as our home base and traveled around the area going on nature hikes, marine hikes, and many other impromptu excursions. Those hikes had some of the best views, and were the most educational experiences from my travels (not to mention great exercise). Obviously the zoos would probably be interesting for the kids, and some of them allow you to hold Koala’s, pet dingos, feed kangaroos, etc. I found the zoos in Oz much less depressing than our American zoos, although, it’s still a zoo…

    Gold Coast is awesome. Go surfing, if time permits. We took lessons in Byron Bay, which is about an hour south of the Gold Coast.

    We stayed on Fraser Island (a little north of Brisbane) too. It’s an island that’s entirely sand, and people use the beach as their highway system, which means they have to rely on the tides for travel. It was a nicely preserved island where dingos run free, and you can experience a simpler existence while there. We were told not to go in the water while there though, because it was shark mating season. When the waves would get large and break, you could occasionally see a shark swimming in them. We did a hike of Indian Head while on Fraser Island, very cool.

    Blue Mountains west of Sydney are gorgeous. We did some rappelling (beginner style) down the mountains there. That was unbelievable. I’m usually afraid of heights, but I sucked it up for the experience and the views.

    This was a spastic post, but there is just so much beauty in that country! We were there for a month, and I still feel like we only scratched the surface since we stayed on the East Coast and didn’t even make it to Melbourne or Brisbane.

    Also, don’t even think about drinking Fosters, it’s the Ozzy equivalent of a Natty Light to us :o)

    Happy travels!

  30. We loved the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley outside of Sydney. Both off the beaten path destinations and both are beautiful. The Blue Mountains were great for hiking and visiting the small towns and the Hunter Valley had beautiful vineyards and wonderful wine tasting.

  31. Also, Cairns for scuba and snorkeling and sailing around the Whitsundays was amazing too. If you do the sailing though, choose your boat wisely. We got stuck with 30 twenty year olds all sleeping in one large space for 3 days. It was an adventure I don’t want to repeat!

  32. Kate, you are going to love your trip. When I visited alone for 4 weeks I had a great time. Highlights were the two snorkelling trips I took on the great barrier reef. Both day trips. One went to a floating base to snorkel from that was amazing and the other was more relaxing cruising around the Whitsundys and spending time on the deserted isle of Whitehaven. Just magical. I also enjoyed the Blue Mountains and visited the Jenolan Caves there. Look it up to see if it interests you. Stayed in what they said was the oldest b&b in Australia in the area too, which was lovely. Had some wonderful wine! Australia produces some lovely ones. I also loved Sydney and the market in the rocks.
    Have fun!

    • You are all so kind and generous with your tips, I’m SO grateful THANK YOU!!

  33. We lived in NZ for several years and loved it. Annabel suggestions for the South Island are Spot on.
    Try to see. The yellow eyed penguins in a wild colony or the Antartic Exhibit near the Christchurch Zoo.
    We used House of Travel at Northlands in Christchurch and the agents name was Brianna. We did around the world and she was knowledgeable about all the places we went.
    You will want to stay in NZ.
    You have to factor in the money exchange in prices. It is not a third world country, so you will find even most brands. Medical care was great.

  34. This sounds amazing! I am so jealous, I know a few people who’ve been to Australia and said it was amazing & someone whose moving there soon! Fiji just looks incredible

    I can’t wait to see pictures of this trip, have a wonderful time! This is a great experience for you and your kids once in a life time :)


  35. Kate, I have nothing to offer except to say that it sounds like the best vacation ever — I’m already experiencing vicarious thrills.

  36. Also, if you are going to fly Air New Zealand, they have great radio channel on their flights with Maori myths, vary interesting and so much wisdom in them.
    I regret not getting tickets for a performance in Sydney Opera House,especially after the tour.Hopefully,someday .

  37. We spent 3 weeks in NZ last December with our 11 & 14 year old boys. Mind bogglingly beautiful. We did lots of active things to keep the boys happy which is easy to do in NZ – matter of fact there is so much to do you’ll barely scratch the surface. Here are a couple of ideas:

    On the South Island:
    Queenstown is breathtaking, not to be missed: for fun we went Ziplining and Luging (which like sledding down a curvy hill with spectacular views), and white water rafting (we used Family Adventures – good for all ages) which is worth the bus ride alone to Shotover River.

    Mt. Cook/Aoraki Natl Park is amazing: Hooker Valley track is easy for kids (about 4 hours total), and ends at glacier lake which has lots of huge hunks of floating ice. Very cool. And the drive into this park is amazing, Lake Pukaki and Lk Tekepo will make your jaw drop – you’ve never seen water this color.

    Lk Wanaka is gorgeous – we did Puzzling World with the kids which is a little cheesy but they loved it and has an awesome huge wooden maze that kept them entertained (Mt Aspiring Natl Park is near Wanaka, another beautiful park for hiking).

    Christchurch: ReStart shopping district where the earthquake was worst, is very cool, lots of shops made out of shipping containers. The Intl Antarctic Centre by the Christchurch airport was a big hit.

    On the North Island:
    Waitomo caves where you can see glow-worms – hard to explain, but really cool! If you go, be sure to do one of the other caves there – we did Ruakuri Cave, much less crowded and really amazing.

    Rotorua – famous for geothermal hot springs. We went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where you can walk around and see the most amazingly colored pools. The boys loved OGO/Zorbing (think an inflatable hamster ball that you climb in and then roll down a steep hill – crazy fun). We did a Maori hangi – sort of like a luau. It was a fun evening, we learned a bit about the Maori and my kids loved it.

    Dont forget to try L&P soda – “World Famous in New Zealand”! And as others mentioned – everything is insanely expensive in NZ. But worth it! Have a great trip!

  38. A response to Annabel, as well as some advice for Kate : Annabel, I realise that you’re probably just curious, but as an inhabitant of Christchurch who went through all the quakes and is currently still going through the aftermath, I’d really appreciate people who DON’T come to ‘check out what a quake will do to a city’. We’re actually still suffering down here. There are plenty of people still without services or livable houses 3 years on, and the thought of disaster tourists is pretty depressing. Kate, I would avoid Christchurch – the hotel beds are very limited, the nightlife is almost non existent, the roads and services are STILL being fixed and it’s very hard to get around at the best of times. If you do decide to come, stay on the North/Northwest side of the city, take a proper earthquake tour with a driver etc, and don’t be too touristy with cameras and loud comments at sites where people died. The locals are still pretty raw about the whole thing, actually! There have been “incidents”….

  39. Hi Kate, how exciting for you and your family! I live in Brisbane and have been to New Zealand. Love New Zealand – it really is beautiful. I loved Christchurch (we were there before all the earthquakes so not sure how it is now), and the western coast. So much to see and do. Whatever you do there will be great. As for Australia, it is a massive place so in 12 days I would keep it simple and enjoy a few things. Melbourne and Sydney are great. I think the walks along the coast in Sydney are amazing and not to be missed. Taronga Zoo is beautiful for the location but I agree that Australia Zoo (North of Brisbane) is really special. At the Gold Coast I love Cooloongatta or Burleigh beaches. They are much less crowded than Surfers Paradise and there are some gorgeous walks around both. Definitely go to lunch at one of the beachside surf clubs. It is a very Australian thing to do and the views can’t be beaten. Byron Bay is also gorgeous – especially the walk out to the lighthouse. The Gold Coast has a great new park for kids too – I think it is called Splash – they have an inflatable obstacle course on the water. Your kids are at a good age for this! And of course there are quite a few theme parks in the Gold Coast area (SeaWorld, Movie World and Dreamworld). November is a good time to be here because it is warm but not yet school holidays!

  40. Hi Kate,
    I live on the East Coast of NSW in a gorgeous area called The Illawarra. We’re about 1.5 hours south of Sydney. Personally I think you would do well to hire a campervan/motorhome type vehicle and make it a road trip from Melbourne to Brisbane, going via the coast. Melbourne to Sydney is about 1100 kms, but there are so many beautiful places to see on the way.

    One of the things to remember about Australia is what our country offers is it’s natural beauty – loads of it. The landscape is very diverse, so you can see grasslands right through to rainforests, and, of course loads of spectacular beaches. You’ll find theme parks in Queensland, but generally we don’t focus on them. (Although the largest water theme park in the Southern hemisphere, is just south of where I am; it’s Jamberoo Recreation Park. Well worth a visit!). So if you’re looking for big cities and lots of manufactured things to do you’ll really only find that in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Everything in between has to be seen as the beautiful places they are, with quaint towns, etc. You clearly love beautiful things so will not be disappointed.

    Don’t forget we drive on the opposite side of the road and everything is in kilometres! As someone mentioned ^^^^ Always make sure you have some water in the car (from the tap is fine!), apply your sunscreen – factor 50 if you can get it, and wear hats! If you decide to stop at a beach for a swim, use the patrolled beaches where the flags and lifesavers are. Patrolled beaches are safer, and chosen for swimming for that reason. Many tourists take their chances on non-patrolled beaches and…… you know. Read the beach signs, and just do what they say.

    You’ll find Australians very welcoming and friendly and keen to assist you. We all have our story and are happy to be a part of yours. I don’t feel our meals are overpriced at all, nor are they small portions. Remember we don’t tip here, unless you wish to. No-one expects it, but if you’re impressed with someone’s service, then it’s nice to do so. The American dollar will buy a lot of Aussie dollars at the moment, so you should get your money’s worth.

    Have a wonderful trip.

  41. Oh I will JJ, these suggestions are AMAZING, I’m already checking into all these spots online, and getting excited. I’ll be blogging about it, probably only 1 or 2 times a week while en route to a new place since I don’t want to waste one minute!

  42. South African living in NSW at the moment. My tip is to realise that travel is slow. Highways are only 110km/hr and most go through little towns where you slow to 50km/hr. It always takes us longer to get places than we expect.

    If you have a chance – head north of Sydney and go to Bellingen – a glorious little hippy dippy town in dairy farming area and then up the mountains to Dorrigo. This goes through some of the most ancient rain forest in the world and is just spectacular. Stop at the Dorrigo rainforest center. The food is great (and not too expensive) and do the Skywalk out over the forest. Or take a picnic and head into the forest for some peace and quiet, but glorious bird noises.

    These are some of my favorite places in the world — so fortune to live just on their doorstep. So envious of you plans for Fiji — it is on my list!!!

  43. How exciting! My best 6-day NZ itinerary would be Christchurch (2 days) –> Hamner Springs (2 days) –> Kaikoura (2 days) –> Christchurch. Short, stunning drives and city, alpine, and sea experiences. Don’t miss the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch (which will be at their best in November!), the hot pools in Hanmer Springs, and the Dolphin Encounter (swimming with hundreds of wild dolphins) in Kaikoura; all great family activities to boot.

    Another would be Christchurch + Lake Tekapo + Wanaka + Queenstown – amazing scenery but more time in the car and less time doing things. Whatever you choose, as we tell visitors, “don’t worry, you’ll love it!”

    Melbourne is a fabulous city (go to St. Kilda and the Prahran Markets). Highly recommend the Great Ocean Drive and a stop at Lorne plus wine tasting in the Yarra Valley :) Enjoy planning your adventure!

  44. Hi Kate I once wrote to you from Perth,Western Australia but am now actually living in Fiji! I was born here in the British colonial days but moved to Australia in 1975 & subsequently married & raised a family there. My husband is considering early retirement so we bought a house here in Fiji. I will be happy to provide you with any information you require & if you like can even send you some local travel mags which my son’s company produce. One of the best spots for a holiday is Denarau Island about a 15 min drive from Nadi International Airport. They have a number of 5 star resort hotels as well as apartments, a shopping complex, golf course, restaurants & you can take cruises out to the beautiful nearby island groups of the Mamanucas & the Yasawas. The movies Blue Lagoon & Castaway were both filmed in the Yasawas. Not far out of Nadi is The Garden of the Sleeping Giant which has many beautiful orchids & was started by the late actor Raymond Burr. In the same area there are also therapeutic mud pools. If you like snorkelling & diving Beachcomber Island in the Mamanucas is a good day cruise to take. Around the coast from Nadi to the east is the beautiful Coral Coast, a little further on is Pacific Harbour where you can book to go on the world famous Beqa Dive. Beqa is a large island right off the coast from Pacific Harbour & the home of the only Fijian tribe of fire walkers. If you decide to venture that far around the main island of Viti Levu the best place to stay is Uprising Resort right on the beach. They have a a whole range of accommodation from backpackers to upmarket villas. Fijian people are very friendly & they love children. Anyway I hope I’ve been of some help to you. Have loved reading your blog so am more than happy to assist you in whatever way I can. Would be nice to meet you but don’t want to gatecrash your holiday! Best wishes for a great trip.

  45. Hi there! from Gold Coast, Australia. How exiting for you! My husband and I are saving up to travel to the states towards the end of the year and it will be my first time overseas. I hope your family have a wonderful time travelling. My sister just got back from a holiday in NZ and absolutely loved it! Kelly

  46. Wow,
    We spent two weeks on a boat travelling through Fiji and it will be one of the most important vacations we’ve ever taken as a family. We started at Denerau and then sailed through the Yasawas. Amazing to meet the people in these remote villages. Rugby reigns supreme. We always had kava and school supplies to gift to the chief and also took older rugby balls (deflated). Also spent time at Musket cove (cloud 9 is a great place to spend a day or afternoon). Lovely people, lovely climate, wonderful experience. We spent a few days in Auckland because that was our transfer back to Vancouver. It was great but expensive. We drove to the caves at Waitomo and loved the experience but my favourite was the afternoon across the harbour- take a ferry to Waiheke and see the villages and have lunch at one of the winery’s as you gaze across to Auckland- lush green and sheep sounds all around. It was amazing.
    Have fun planning and a great trip!

  47. As a New Zealander I totally echo all the advice to visit the South Island and skip the north. If you can try to fly into Queenstown from Melbourne or Sydney. It will be magical – through the mountains and into the most beautiful part of the world! Driving is very doable however, remember we drive on the left hand side of the road in right hand drive vehicles. Many accidents have been caused by awestruck tourists becoming distracting and `correcting’ to the incorrect side of the road :( You could try the website Air B&B for accommodation if you plan on staying a night or two in the area. You can get a house or apartment fully-equipped for the same or less than a hotel and self-catering is easier and less expensive than eating out. We live about two hours from there and may be a little biased! I would love for you to come visit and see the kitchen we have nearly finished – at the last minute I changed my bench tops as a result of a blog post of yours and I could not be more delighted!!! We live on 10-acres with a few sheep, three cows, chickens and a dog, which is not unusual in our part of the world. Email me nearer the time if you would like to visit, sure your kids would love it! I highly recommend visiting Dunedin too, it is a beautiful university city with many old still-used buildings, a Cadbury chocolate factory to visit, the Speights brewery to visit and the best farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. We have also visited Fiji and found it very relaxing. We stayed at Crusoes Resort, which is a distance from the airport but they picked us up. It was a small resort without any real nightlife but on the beach with a pool and the friendliest staff you could hope for. The staff live in the village right next door and we were able to visit there and see the children at school. It would be quite eye-opening for your children I imagine ;-) As someone else said earlier don’t be deceived by the apparent short distances between places in New Zealand and also Fiji. The roads are good but single lane each way, there are hills and twists and turns and something to stop and look at every five minutes!

  48. Hi Kate
    Hope you have a great time, I live in New Zealand, I am a sales rep in both Islands – so I do a lot of driving, you are not here long enough to do both Islands. If you wanted to do both you should be here for at least two weeks. With a 6 day visit I would only go to the South Island – Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford and Tekapo. If you are thinking of driving it will take you most of a day to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown. Most of the roads are good, but not like US roads, they can be windy, lots of tight corners and local drivers skills can be lacking. Consider flying at least one way if you are planning a Christchurch / Queenstown loop. Fabulous scenery, friendly locals, great food and wear clothes that can be layered. My picks for the North Island are Bay of Islands, Rotorua and Waitomo Caves. Have a fabulous time. And just to throw a curve ball – I always find the Christchurch people lovely, even those that live on the eastern side of the city, I would go visit anytime.

  49. I visited New Zealand a few years ago and absolutely loved it! Simply driving up and down the coast is absolutely breath-taking! My favorite spot was The Coromandel. It is gorgeous! Cathedral Cove was my favorite beach and was the location for the opening scene of the second Chronicles of Narnia movie.

  50. I am a New Zealander living in Melbourne. So thrilled you are visiting our part of the world. Melbourne is renowned for having four seasons in one day – as I speak it’s raining and 29 degrees (85f) and tomorrow will be sunny and warm 36 degrees (96f). Keep in mind also that Australia is massive – way bigger than the U.S. Good advice about the tipping. We definitely do not expect it but if you get great service then by all means tip. There is not set tip rate – but a few coins in the tip jar is always appreciated. As a kiwi, I am super biased and could tell you a million places to visit in NZ but most of the top ones have been covered here. As well as AirBnB I recommend stayz.com.au for Australia. I haven’t needed accomodation in NZ as i lived there!!! Feel free to keep the questions coming it sounds like you have a great group here who can give you the answers you need!

  51. My recommendation for lodging in New Zealand is to head for bed and breakfasts. We had a book called The New Zealand Bed and Breakfast Book (I think a new edition comes out each year). On the South Island we booked our first night in Christchurch and then each night picked out the place we wanted to stay the next night. Our host called ahead for the next night’s stay and we were never disappointed. We stayed on a sheep farm and an elk farm. Whenever possible, we took advantage of a home cooked dinner (once with a cordon bleu French chef). We were driving around the coast and never had any difficulty with the roads, but I did panic about driving over the central mountains, so we took a train back to Christchurch. The change from west to east was like entering a different world.

  52. Hi Beth, I’m sorry for my flippant comment about “checking out what a quake does to a city”. I’m actually from Christchurch originally, all my family live there and I spent about five months there last year. So I definitely understand why my comment was in poor taste and I should have phrases it more thoughtfully. I do think though that tourists can help boost the Christchurch economy, and educate people about the aftermath of natural disasters. I am often moved by news reports of natural disasters in other countries, but don’t give them much thought after they exit the news. I think it’s important for people to realise that disaster are followed by many, many years of heartache and recovery. This might influence people to give more charitably and for longer when countries poorer than New Zealand are affected by disasters. But I can definitely understand your view too, I guess it’s a decision for individual tourists to make so I’m glad for the opportunity to bring it into the open. Xx

  53. I think wherever you decide to go in NZ (North Island or South Island) will be a great experience. I live in Taupo (right in the centre of the North Island) so if you need any advice or information about this part of NZ, I’d be happy to help. Happy planning!

  54. Hello Kate,
    I live in sunny Brisbane and concur with the recommendations of what to do in Australia. I am in love with the South Island of NZ and Anabel in the first post is spot on. The South Island is like nothing else in the World and I have seen much of this plant. Don’t spend much time on the North Island, just head South. I would begin in Picton on Queen Charlotte Sound, travel through the Marlborough region ( gorgeous wine growing country with great B&B accom) and work my way down to Queenstown. Whatever you do and wherever you go you will create wonderful memories as both Aust and NZ are so unique.

  55. What an incredible trip for your family! We’re from Arizona but are just finishing up a 2 year work contract in Christchurch. We have visited almost ever square inch of the south island and I have too many recommendations to list! I regularly update my blog with all our travels (www.jasonandjamieyoung.blogspot.com) if you want to scroll through to see pictures and get ideas. The biggest highlights for us are Milford Sound, Queenstown, Pancake Rocks, Glaciers, Abel Tasman/Golden Bay, Kaikoura, Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook. However, the Catlins region was a hidden gem. It’s not on the usual tourist’s route but absolutely blew us away. In the North Island the main highlights are Wellington, Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Coromandel, Waitomo caves, Hobbitown, Bay of Islands and in the far north there are huge sand dunes that you can go sand boarding on. I would recommend renting a campervan to give you more freedom and flexibility. Fiji is amazing, but you definitely need to leave the main island and stay on one of the smaller islands. I would highly recommend Navini. I’m heading to Sydney in a few weeks for a girls trip so I loved reading through the recommendations on here! Good luck with the planning, you’re going to love it here!! Feel free to send me an email if you’d like, I would be more than happy to help with the details :)

  56. My husband & I spent about 2 weeks driving around NZ, but we only had time for the northern half of North Island (we did this solely on surf reports since my husband is a surfer). If we had to go again, we’d only pick a couple spots and stay longer there! SO MUCH driving that we couldn’t really enjoy every place we went to.

    The one place we keep saying we’re going back to are the Magic Cottages on Takou River…. We were going to stay at the nearby Kauri Cliffs, but glad we went with the more intimate setting. I don’t think we would have had the same experiences while staying there. We rented the cottage that hangs over the river, but they have plenty of other options for families. We loved the family that own it, and we had our own glow worm viewing…. from a hot tub. The best part was being able to canoe down the windy river and get to the most incredible beach I’ve ever seen (and I live in Hawaii)! We’ll never forget it.

    I also saw comments about Waiheke Island. Just go!! So amazing, and it’s so close to Auckland. If you go, you can’t skip Oyster Inn. :)

  57. What an amazing trip! I travelled the same route years ago There are lots of great suggestions here One I would make is 12 Apostles on the south shore – breathtaking!!

  58. Great tips so far!!

    I am from Jervis Bay, 3 hours south of sydney, and i would suggest coming here for two or three days (if time permits and/or if you are going to the driving holiday thing) as we have the whitest sand in the southern hemisphere :D But i must say i wouldn’t drive, driving from melbourne takes us 9 hours, from here to brisbane its about 13 hours and another 13 hours to go to Cairns. I agree with the others and if you can go to Cairns, the great barrier reef is the best right up the top of australia but be warned it is so exxy, (i.e $300 per person AUD). If you go to cairns catch the gondolas up to Kuranda. And stay in Port douglas! And visit the daintier!!

    In brisbane im not sure what to visit ha ha But you should drive to Noosa, go to the eumundi markets in Noose and just enjoy the weather! It’ll probably be around the mid 20’s at that time of year (celcius).

    Oh i love sydney! Go to the aquarium! the girls will love it! Take a trip to manly and/or bondi, have dinner in Darling harbour, go to the Rocks…… I can’t think of what else lol

    Oh and the comment on Jetstar being dodgy. Please disregard that, I’ve flown numerous amounts of times with them and they are a very good budget airline (and owned by Quantas).

  59. Hello!

    I was all prepared to give the low down of awesome things to do here in Brisbane but have to agree with everyone else.. Maleny and Montville are definates!! The fudge (oh my, the fudge..!!) in Montville is ah-may-zing! Southbank along the Brisbane river, and Australia Zoo is not to be missed! Perhaps it may be worth looking into a farm stay while you are here on a working cattle ranch or farm (or similar)? Can’t personally recommend any as I haven’t done this myself, but have always thought that if I travelled to the USA, I’d love to stay at a dude ranch.. Just a thought.
    Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Just relax, and take it easy :o)

  60. We lived in Melbourne until recently. Healesville Sanctuary is a fantastic stop for both you and your kids. You can walk amongst the local animals such as kangaroos and koalas, wombats, etc. Best place to see Australian fauna and flora as well as great educational opportunities.
    The other two zoos are great too (Werribee and Melbourne). If you buy the zoo membership, it will allow you into all three as well as zoos in other states.
    Victoria Market is the best place to buy souvenirs (price and variety). The market is beautiful, with lots of noise and good food.
    The Melbourne aquarium is nice, especially on really hot days, though it isn’t that big. The National Gallery Victoria (NGV) has free entry to see all the artworks. The Melbourne museum is an awesome place for the kids to see. It is very interactive.
    The city has a free historic tram (City Circle Tram) that runs a loop with announcements on all the areas you are passing through. It can get crowded though.
    There are ferries that run on the Yarra river to Williamstown. Nice for a little trip.
    The Dandenong Ranges (mountains) are beautiful. Make a trip out to Grants Picnic Grounds where you can feed the cockatoos and parrots by hand. The shop there sells the food. You can also take a walk through the forests there and have a picnic or a lunch at the shop. (There are bbq facilities.)
    Puffing Billy is a steam train that runs every day. It takes you out to Emerald, where there is a lake with boats and some forest walks and bbq facilities.
    Have fun!

  61. I’m a New Zealander, who also lived in Australia, but now living in South America. Everyone has given fantastic advice on what to see and do in both New Zealand and Australia, so I’m going to give you some foods your family ‘must try’.
    In New Zealand, you must try their Ice Cream called Hokey Pokey, a soft drink (soda) called Lemon and Paeroa and fish called Hapuka and another fish called Terrikei. The crayfish are amazing, as well as Venison (deer meat) and of course, New Zealand is very famous for its lamb. In the South Island another must try is the famous Bluff Oysters. You must try New Zealand Cheeses, they are amazing! New Zealand also has the BEST fish and chips in the world and there are fish and chip shops everywhere. Also, both Countries are famous for their ‘meat pies’, you have to have at least one in each country.
    In Australia, you have to try Moreton Bay Bugs which are like a small lobster. You’ll get them in Queensland. Also Queensland Mud Crabs and prawns (shrimp).
    Both Australia and New Zealand are famous also for Lamingtons (a small sponge cake, dipped in chocolate then covered in coconut). The perfect snack, light meal, is a meat pie and a lamington.
    Both countries have crumpets…..yummy toasted for breakfast, spread with butter and honey. Manuka Honey in New Zealand is the best honey in the world.
    You and your family are going to love this trip. Fiji is awesome, and so too is New Zealand and Australia. I have traveled all around the world, and can honestly say there is no place as picturesque as these countries. Maybe I’m biased though?

  62. Thanks Annabelle. I know the whole disaster thing is quite exciting from a distance. I do understand that this is human nature. I also understand that sometimes people come just to witness, and not as ghouls! I probably overreacted. However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend coming here to a potential tourist. The whole city is on edge, stressed and bad tempered. And hotel beds really are extremely limited, and there’s not a huge amount to do. Everyday on the way to work I drive past whole blocks in the CBD that are just rubble and haven’t been touched since the quakes. Literally not touched. It’s just a crappy place to live right now, and a crappy place to visit.

  63. Hi Kate, I’m from the Gold Coast and formerly from Brisbane. Definitely echo other comments about Southbank in Brisbane and a trek to Australia Zoo. Maybe take the kids to the Science Centre and museums at Southbank and then there are lots of lovely cafes to grab some lunch. Definitely take a ride in the City Cat as it will give you a good feel for the city and you can stop at lovely areas like Hamilton/Ascot (have lunch at 63 Racecourse Road, the menu is formidable) or Oxford St in Bulimba.
    On the coast, if you haven’t made it to Aus Zoo then do take the time to go to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – maybe have breakfast first at the Currumbin Surf Club. Stay away from Surfers Paradise which is a hideous tourist trap, and stick to the beach suburbs south of Mermaid. Burleigh is our favourite spot for breakfast or lunch and they have a lovely beach and parks. Definitely take a day or two to head down to Northern NSW, as far as Byron Bay, and stop in at the Brunswick Heads Hotel for lunch in the amazing beer garden. There are lots of lovely little towns in that area with cute cafes and shops. Also spend another day up at Mount Tamborine in the Gold Coast Hinterland which is a tiny village with lots of amazing cafes, galleries, breweries and wineries – it is really gorgeous and a lovely drive. It’s a rainforest area with scenic walks including a sky walk too. Hope you have an incredible trip, can’t wait to read all about it!

  64. Oh and if you get lucky with the weather while on the Gold Coast, you should visit Q1 which is our tallest skyscraper, located in Broadbeach – you can take the express lift to the top floor where there is a bar/cafe and a 360 degree panoramic view up and down the coast and out to the hinterland – it is stunning. You do have to pay for entry but it’s well worth it.

  65. Melbourne Cup is the first Tuesday in November-probably a bit early but an Australian icon.
    There are 2 main ways to get to Brisbane from Sydney. If you have all the beaches,sand and surf you need in California you might try going the inland way to experience rural Australia until you get to Armidale. Then come down through World Heritage rainforest to the coast via Dorrigo and the beautiful Waterfall Way. Don’t miss the Blue Mountains, they are uniquely Australian and quite awe inspiring. Enjoy, you can’t really go wrong.

  66. You have chosen a perfect destination and month to do so. I have lived in Australia for a few years and it is always amazing, especially this time of the year. I am sure you are going to have the time of your life and to make it more memorable, go with campervans.

  67. I’m an American living in Perth (Western Australia) and I’m certain you will love your trip and have a fabulous time! You are wine people, right? Since you’re not coming west to visit the Margaret River wine region, perhaps some of your kind readers could recommend some good wineries in the Yarra Valley or elsewhere within reach of your itinerary. Aussies make great wines, and there are some lovely ones out of New Zealand as well.

    Another fun thing that your kids might enjoy (and could perhaps form some sort of tangential school assignment) is Aussie rhyming slang. It’s the evolution of the old Cockney rhyming slang that came over from England back in the early days. Google it and you’ll find heaps – here’s one for a start: http://www.australiatravelsearch.com.au/trc/slang.html Read up and see if you can incorporate some new words into your daily conversation: “Let’s hit the frog and toad (=road)!”

  68. I studied abroad when I was in college in Australia and it was amazing! You need to visit Cairns and sail the Whitsunday islands. I spent 3 days on a sailboat on the Whitsundays and it was spectacular. I have never seen more amazing white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Don’t forget your sunblock!

  69. Lake Tekapo, Milford Sounds, Wanaka, Queenstown, Mt Cook… lots of good wineries around the Canterbury area, though that’s prob no fun for kiddies!

    Crack up at the ‘NZ is expensive’ comments – every time we went on holiday, we’d go onto Trip Advisor and people would be all, “Oh yes Paris is so expensive… Uh huh Rome; so expensive… Oh Gold Coast is so expensive!” but we’d be pleasantly surprised at how much cheaper everything was around the world… that’s when we realised that New Zealand is just uber expensive lol.

    When you’re here I’d try some of our wines (they compete with the best in the world), try Tim Tams (they’re Aussie I think but you can get them in NZ too), try Pineapple Lumps (chocolate with pineapple flavoured marshmallow-y centre), try Whittakers 5 roll creamy dairy milk and Peanut Slabs… our honey is pretty sought after as well I think.

    Good luck!! xox And drive carefully! xoxox

  70. Wow..how timely! I’m headed to Australia and NZ in September! We’re doing three nights in Sydney at The Psrk Hyatt, which looks GORGEOUS (using points). I will be with my two adult kiddos and a son in law. Your itinerary for AUS is a bit different than mine, as we are doing The Red Centre, renting a 4WD and driving the unsealed Mereenie Loop – Alice Springs, King’s Canyon and Uluru (we are avid hikers). Surely your course will include, a drive along The Great Ocean Road (which has been compared to Big Sur and Coastal CA). While in Sydney, we are also doing a day in The Blue Mountains (get an Opal Pass and take the train to Katoomba). In NZ, the first poster mentioned traversing the South Island from Christchurch to the East Coast. I suggest you look into doing this via rail…supposed to be breathtaking! If you do this (Sadly, we won’t have time) have someone in NZ purchase your train tickets, or use a “masking” url to hide your US location…it’s much cheaper if the computer thinks your in NZ! My son is a huge Hobbit/LOTR fan, so we. We doing Hobbiton on the North Island, as well as the GlowWorm Caves in Waitomo through Spellbound Tours. There are caves on the South Island, but these are some of the most notorious. We used AirBNB to book a night in Hamilton on this North Island quick stop. We’ll spend most of our NZ Holiday in Queenstown. A friend of mine married a Kiwi over there a few months ago, and she highly recommended KinRoss Cottages…modern and beautiful. We booked one of the Family Cottages, which is great for our group of four (check out reviews on Trip Advisor). We’re doing wineries in the Central Octago Region (no time for Marlborough…those are my favorite Sauvignon Blancs), including Brennan Wines, which belongs to my friend’s in laws (again…Trip Advisor has great recommendations for wineries). We’re doing an overnight trip on Milford Sound, as well as hiking part of the Routeburn Tramp. Lake Wanaka as well. My friend had her rehearsal dinner at The Stables, so we’ll try to get a meal in there! You’ve picked a GREAT time to go, not just for weather, but from an economic standpoint. The U.S. dollar is strong against the AUS and NZ dollar…check out a graph on Google. Best time since 2010 or 2011! Oh….and we are also taking in a concert in the main hall at The Sydney Opera House. I got tickets for Joan Baez. My kids said, “WHOOOOO”? Pulling back the curtain for them to experience some of the music of my era. Hope this helps…have a WINDERFUL time! So glad you’re getting to wrap Fiji into this adventure…on my bucket list along with The Maldives! Will be looking for your updates…sage travels!

  71. Sigh…this English Major is shuddering at the typos…working on an IPad while on the treadmill ?
    Adding…I’m told on the South Island, you must eat a Fergberger (I’m not a meat eater, but my fam will enjoy it). Also, a few more notes copied from my friend’s email:

    As you mentioned yes Milford Sound is a must, you can’t go wrong doing a day or two in the Fiordland. And my in law’s are just outside of Queenstown in the Gibbston Valley (wine country) which is just magical – you have to spend at least a few days around there. Queenstown proper is more ‘hoppin (like a smaller Aspen in feel) – you gotta do the gondola up the mountain and get a Fergberger in town. Arrowtown is nearby and just adorable – an old mining town. Stables is a great restaurant there (we had our rehearsal dinner there), and Postmasters and a drink at the Blue Door (a must.)

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