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Sydney offers plenty of historical and contemporary Australian flavor. The marvelous Sydney Opera House looks like a great origami sailboat, floating peacefully in a harbor. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets of The Rocks and then take in a street performance on the Circular Quay before heading into the Museum of Contemporary Art. The views from the Sydney Tower Eye observatory are epic – use this chance to get to know the layout of the city from high above.
The Māori call Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau — a maiden desired by 100 lovers,
and a valuable territory fought over for centuries for its fertile land and
natural harbors on the Pacific Ocean (to the east) and Tasman Sea (to the
west). Today, it’s New Zealand’s largest city: A vibrant and diverse place
where nature and urban life go hand-in- hand, with 48 volcanic cones, more
than 50 islands, and 29,000 km of coastline and beaches just minutes away
from the arts and shopping of the central city.
Lovely, laid-back Melbourne has something for everyone: family fare, local and international art, haute boutiques, multicultural dining, Australian and Aboriginal history, spectator sports, and pulsing, swanky nightlife. Cruise on the free City Circle Tram loop to check out unique attractions like the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Healesville Sanctuary, which buzzes with local animal species.
Staggering beauty and heart-pumping thrills await in the resort town of Queenstown, which is also known for its Hobbits—much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Queenstown for the kayaking, bungee jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, hiking and skiing. More mild-mannered adventurers can take a quiet cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fjordland National Park World Heritage area, or sample South Island pinot noir from one of the region's 75 wineries.
Fiji's largest island, home to capital Suva, offers some wonderful beaches. Palm-fringed Natadola Beach, reputed to be one of the best beaches in the world, is a picture perfect crescent of powdery sand leading to dramatic cliffs. Coconuts hang overhead and the striking azure lagoon entices swimmers.
Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane is the hub of Queensland culture, offering a peek at the past and a glimpse into the future. Visit the historic Windmill and Old Commissariat Store, built by convicts in 1828, or fast-forward to the present (and beyond) with a trip to the new Gallery of Modern Art. Mingle with locals atop Mount Coot-tha, cruise the Brisbane River to South Bank’s sandy beach on the City Cat and make sure to fill the cuteness quota at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to koalas and kangaroos.
Perched on Tasmania’s southeastern coast, the lively city of Hobart is a unique mash-up of the 19th and 21st centuries. The waterfront cafes, restaurants and studios of the largest city in Tasmania are housed in centuries-old converted warehouses that overlook a harbor bustling with yachts and fishing boats. An active arts scene, vibrant nightlife and leisurely daytime pace add to the city’s charm.
Perched on the banks of the wide Swan River, between the Indian Ocean and the sands of the Nullarbor Desert, Perth is one of the world's most isolated cities, yet still boasts an active beach scene and smokin’ nightlife. Family-friendly Cottesloe is brimming with swimmers, surfers and snorkelers. Head north to Scarborough for a spirited beachside club scene. Coo at cute marsupials on ferry-accessible Rottnest Island, and don’t miss the views from King's Park and Botanic Gardens.
Turquoise lagoons, soft white sands, and deep tangerine sunsets set the scene for romance on the island so nice they named it twice. Mingle with tropical fish as you flutter around Coral Gardens or Tupitipiti Point, or relax in a self-driving tour as you take in beautiful views of the once-volcanic Mount Otemanu. At the Lagoonarium you can watch shark feedings and swim with turtles. Cap it all off with a succulent meal at one of the island’s fine French restaurants, then sip a tropical cocktail under the stars.
The capital city of South Australia is simply enchanting, a treasure trove of shopping, fine arts, gastronomy and outdoor activity. Adelaide is the heart of the world's opal industry, selling gorgeous stones from South Australian mines. Be sure to hike the aptly named Mt. Lofty Ranges and catch a wave off the Fleurieu Peninsula. Indulge your adventurous palate and traipse into nearby wine regions like the famed Barossa Valley to pick up a deliciously drinkable souvenir.
Cairns is the perfect city for merry revelers, passionate divers and adrenaline junkies, offering booming nightlife and heart-pounding adventure amid a vibrant, tropical setting. This friendly Queensland city of 130,000 is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown and the rest of Cape York Peninsula. Embark on an eco-adventure or take a dip in a lagoon pool before hitting the town to unwind and shake what you’ve got Down Under.
Christchurch abounds with arts, adventure, and optimism. It's the gateway to the beautiful Canterbury region, featuring dramatic vistas and adventure sports set against a backdrop of lofty peaks. In the central city, more and more attractions and businesses reopen to the public each day.
Bubbling mineral springs and pools promise maximum relaxation in Rotorua, on New Zealand's North Island. Therapeutic hot mud pools, dramatic geysers and a buried village are within easy reach of the city. What happens in the bubbling mud geysers of "Rotovegas"—the area at the top of Fenton Street—stays in Rotovegas. Once you've made the most of the mud, soar nearly 2,000 feet on the Skyline Gondola for views of Lake Rotorua, then zip back down to explore the lake by paddle steamer, fishing charter or WWII amphibious vehicle.
Wellington boasts a compact downtown area that’s easy to explore on foot and a wealth of architectural styles, from 19th-century wooden cottages to Art Deco masterpieces. Discover the city’s Maori roots at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea and the Museum of New Zealand. Sip coffee and people-watch in lively Courtney Place, or survey the city from scenic Mount Victoria. When the sun goes down on Windy Wellington, take a nocturnal tour of Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some colorful inhabitants.
Rare yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and the world's only mainland albatross colony share residence in Dunedin, New Zealand's oldest city. When you're not watching wildlife, this South Island Otago Coast town also boasts impressive historic architecture from its days as a gold-rush mecca. Visit the 1906 Flemish Renaissance railway station or the country's largest center of higher learning, which resembles Glasgow University, thanks to the area's early Scottish settlers.
This adrenaline-pumping city offers an abundance of skydiving, jetboating and bungee jumping. Discover the marvels of Orakei Korako thermal park, featuring caves, hot springs and boiling mud pools. Gaze across Lake Taupo to see the spectacular volcanic mountains of Tongariro National Park, and make sure to visit Huka Falls, one of the great watery wonders of New Zealand.
The South Island town of Wanaka appeals to both adventure lovers and relaxation-minded travelers. Situated on the crystal-clear waters of New Zealand's fourth-largest lake, just a short drive from Mount Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is an ideal spot to go fishing, hiking, skiing, wine-tasting or golfing. The city also hosts Warbirds Over Wanaka, the largest three-day air show in the Southern Hemisphere.
It was the site of three international versions of "Survivor," but time spent on Efate is anything but a struggle. Part of the island nation of Vanuatu, Efate is a tropical former territory of Britain and France, whose influences are still present in the island’s culture and cuisine. The capital city of Port Vila is a mosaic of restaurants, shops and museums, as well as the point of origin for many SCUBA, jet ski and parasailing excursions. Don’t miss the spectacular freshwater falls of Mele Cascades.
The world's largest coral reef eco-system actually consists of 3,000 separate reefs. The island of Moorea serves as the perfect base camp for snorkelers and scuba divers seeking to come face-to-face with the diversity of life that darts among the coral. Non-swimmers can enjoy the same parade of astounding creatures from the dry perch of a glass-bottomed boat. Formed when half of a monolithic volcano crumbled to the blue-green sea, Moorea is an achingly exquisite heart-shaped island that is simply paradise found.
Sure, it’s a bit rainy here. But a lush tropical paradise needs water—otherwise you wouldn’t see such brilliant flowers everywhere. The black-sand beaches provide contrast to the riot of color everywhere else. Nature-lovers can see many of Fiji’s indigenous species, especially in Bouma National Heritage Park (where you should also stop at Bouma Falls).
The pink sands of Champagne Beach spill into warm waters filled with wrecks and reefs begging to be explored by Espiritu Santo vacationers. Rinse off with a dip in one of the island’s many freshwater blue holes. Trek over a bamboo bridge to visit the bats and swallows of Millennium Cave, who nap among spectacular rock formations. Divers can wave hello to "The Lady," one of the many intact artifacts of the wreck of the SS President Coolidge.
On Vanua Levu, you can pick your pleasure: a rainforest hike, a coconut plantation tour, a relaxing soak in a Savusavu hot spring. Locally run adventure tours will have you river tubing through jungle valleys, mountain biking along sandy trails and snorkeling the coral sea mount of Split Rock. Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) runs an ecologically responsible dive center that offers courses and packages for divers of all levels of experience.
This small island encased in a triangular barrier reef boasts incredible lagoons. Relax with a intimate picnic on the alabaster beach of one of Aitutaki’s minor islands, uninhabited and lined with swaying palm trees. Despite its heartbreaking beauty, Aitutaki isn’t (yet) flooded with tourists, due to its relatively difficult-to-reach location. For off-the-beaten-sandbar vacationing, Aitutaki is a prime destination, especially for those seeking unbridled romantic ambiance.
Sipping coconut milk while bargaining for handmade jewelry and swaying your hips to live music—just another Saturday morning in Rarotonga. After a few hours of checking out the wharf-side Punanga Nui Market, hit the beaches of this reef-protected volcanic island. There are plenty of picturesque lagoons that allow peaceful swimming or snorkeling, and moonlit strolls along the East Side sands are pure magic. Raro Safari Tours are a popular way to explore the island’s vivid rainforest.