Grand Australia/New Zealand Review

We recently returned from this tour, which commenced in early September. It was fantastic. Great tour director and great itinerary. It was very early Spring and we were fortunate with the weather.
We arrived one day early - took a morning walking tour, had lunch, hotel room was then available. Enjoyed early dinner in Chinatown at a simple, good restaurant called China Red, which was recommended by the walking tour guide. The next morning, we took a very early Great Ocean Road tour. We had an early morning pickup (5:45) and returned to the hotel around 4:00 p.m., well before the 6:30 welcome cocktail party. It was an excellent small group tour (there were 5 of us) and is operated by a gentleman named Stuart - called Ocean Road Tours. It fit well with our schedule. Others on the Tauck tour went on various Ocean Road excursions - some arrived 2 days early. Others visited the wineries of Yarra Valley. I did not hear of anyone who went to the Penguin Parade, but it would have been rather cold for that excursion.
Melbourne is a wonderful city. We enjoyed walking through the Botanic Gardens and had lunch there (after the Tauck sightseeing had ended for the day).
Uluru was very interesting. We did opt to go to the light display that night. I enjoyed it. It was nice to be able to walk around and the star gazing was great. We then had a very light dinner back at the hotel, in the bar area.
Cairns - the Reef was a real highlight for us. In addition to snorkeling, we took a helicopter ride over the Reef. The weather really cooperated that day. We loved our three nights at Silky Oaks. A wonderful resort in the rainforest.
Sydney - another highlight. The Shangri-La Hotel is outstanding. Everyone had rooms with unbelievable views overlooking the harbor - the bridge and the Opera House. The Hotel is beautiful and the food was outstanding - best breakfast buffets on the entire trip. I thought the foodie tour was just ok, with the exception of the fish market, which was fun and delicious. We also independently did a free walking tour, which nicely added to the Tauck sightseeing, which was mostly by bus. We had a nice dinner at Pony, in the Rocks area near the hotel
Wellington, NZ - really enjoyed Te Papa, the Museum. On our own, we then took the bus to Weta Cave. We bought tickets to the Workshop at the Tourist Information Center in town. It was very interesting and I recommend it for Lord of the Rings fans.
Blenheim - really enjoyed the Marlborough Sounds cruise - the mussels were excellent. Tour and dinner at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center were outstanding.
Te Anau - beautiful area. We and a few others from the Tauck group opted to go to the glow worm caves. I really enjoyed it. It was overcast, but the boat ride there was still nice. The caves are very interesting. We had dinner at the Fat Duck, which was my favorite independent meal. The Milford Sound cruise and the bus ride there and back were really special.
Queenstown - also a beautiful area. Loved the jet boat and the helicopter rides, and just walking around. Our two independent dinners were at Pub on the Wharf (very simple) and Madam Woo. We enjoyed both.
Auckland - loved Waiheke Island and the vineyard lunch. I wish that we had stayed one more day in Auckland.

I had wanted to go on this tour for a long time, and it more than lived up to my expectations.

Comments

  • If we had more time in Auckland, I would have arranged to go to Hobbiton, but it is basically a full day tour.

    I should have also included a few thoughts on attire. For September, we were satisfied with a fleece and a good rain jacket for the cooler days. Quite a few in the group had puffer jackets, but we were happy with what we brought and it was versatile. I was glad I had good, waterproof walking shoes. Also, I did use a warm hat, gloves and buff (or scarf) on the jet boat and one of the other boat rides.
    Obviously, temperatures vary with the seasons.
    Most of my pictures are in my head. 😀

  • Lotusgirl,
    Thank you for the review! We leave the day after Thanksgiving for the same trip. We were seriously considering the Ocean Drive but I was concerned about the timing and sitting on a bus after such a long flight.

  • Loves2travel2, we did the Echidna Walkabout tour and it was great. We found it on TripAdvisor. You get to see koalas and kangaroos in the wild which you don’t get to see on the trip. It was a full day tour and fabulous!

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