Exploring Australia & New Zealand

Trip Highlights

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Exclusive departure: This departure is considered exclusive. The participants are U-M travelers, consisting of alumni, family, and friends.

Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Depart U.S. for Cairns, Australia

On Day 1 we depart the U.S. for Australia, spending Day 2 in transit.

Day 3 – Arrive Cairns

We connect with our flights in Sydney or Brisbane, and this afternoon we arrive in Cairns, gateway to Australia’s Far North and the Great Barrier Reef. We transfer to our hotel where tonight we enjoy a briefing and welcome dinner.

Accommodations – Pullman Reef Hotel Casino

Meals – Dinner

Day 4 – Cairns/Kuranda

After an orientation tour of Cairns we board an historic century-old railway for the thrilling 1½-hour journey through 15 tunnels and dense tropical rainforest, over 40 bridges, past spectacular waterfalls, and over steep ravines to the picturesque mountain village of Kuranda. After time to wander through Kuranda’s shops and markets showcasing Aboriginal handicrafts, we descend along the famed Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, at 4.7 miles one of the world’s longest gondola cableways. Gliding just feet above the rainforest canopy, we enjoy spectacular 360-degree views encompassing both the dense rainforest and the deep blue Pacific. Following this unique adventure, we have time for lunch on our own before we return to our hotel. We have the remainder of the afternoon at leisure for further independent exploration of Cairns, discovered by famed Englishman Captain James Cook and established during an 1870s gold rush. The waterfront esplanade, with its popular boardwalk and lagoon, offers an ideal spot to stroll and enjoy the local atmosphere. Dinner tonight is on our own.

Accommodations – Pullman Reef Hotel Casino

Meals – Breakfast

Day 5 – Great Barrier Reef

This morning we board a boat for a day-long excursion to the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that runs along the coast of Queensland for more than 1,400 miles – making it the longest living reef in the world. The Great Barrier Reef is a true wonder of nature, with many species of fish and coral, some at depths of just 10 to 15 feet below the surface. We sail to Michaelmas Cay, where we can swim, snorkel, and view the reef from an air-conditioned, semi-submersible vessel. The Cay is a protected seabird sanctuary playing host to migratory seabirds; it ranks as one of the most important nesting sites in the Southern Hemisphere. Please remember that the Great Barrier Reef is a delicate living organism, protected by law. Visitors are asked to avoid touching the coral; not to pick up or touch any reef creatures (for your protection as well as the reef’s); and to keep the water clean. Lunch today is aboard ship; dinner tonight is on our own.

Please note – Weather conditions may affect our marine life-viewing experience. On rare occasions, strong winds or severe weather may prevent our visit to the Great Barrier Reef.

Accommodations – Pullman Reef Hotel Casino

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6 – Cairns/Alice Springs

Today we have an early morning flight to Alice Springs, capital of Australia’s Outback, situated almost directly in the geographic heart of Australia’s vast landmass. Upon arrival, we visit Standley Chasm (our walk to the chasm takes about 20 minutes over dirt trails). A thin canyon between two sandstone slopes that rise 242 feet on either side, the chasm is named for Ida Standley, the first school teacher in Alice Springs. We stop at the canyon to enjoy a picnic lunch together and see the sheer rock walls aglow in reflected sunlight. After lunch, we venture to Simpsons Gap, a prominent waterhole and Aboriginal spiritual site; then visit the Alice Springs School of the Air, which provides schooling to widely scattered Outback children. We check in to our hotel late this afternoon, then the remainder of the day and evening is at leisure. Dinner tonight is on our own.

Accommodations – DoubleTree by Hilton

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7 – Alice Springs

This morning we embark on an Aboriginal “dreamtime” tour, where we learn about this ancient culture in a natural bush setting and meet Warlpiri tribespeople. After this First Australians experience, we encounter the acclaimed Royal Flying Doctor Service, an organization providing medical services to remote swaths of Australia’s Outback. Then we visit the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Hill Monument to Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in both world wars. Tonight, we enjoy a traditional Outback Bushman’s Dinner around a campfire, relaxing under the stars as an entertainer performs Aussie ballads and points out constellations of the southern sky.

Accommodations – DoubleTree by Hilton

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 – Alice Springs/Ayers Rock (Uluru)

We depart this morning by motorcoach for Ayers Rock (known as Uluru in the local Aboriginal dialect), reaching our hotel early this afternoon. After time to relax and have lunch on our own, we set out for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is the traditional land of the Anangu Aboriginal peoples. In addition to its world-famous namesake, the park also boasts the unusual Olgas rock formations, where we take a walking tour. Late today we watch the sun set over this fabled sandstone monolith that rises to a height of 1,114 feet above the flat plain. We return to our hotel where we dine tonight.

Accommodations – Sails in the Desert

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9 – Ayers Rock (Uluru)/Sydney

This morning we visit the base of Uluru for an up-close look at this natural wonder. Rising abruptly from the flat, low-lying plain, the rock holds a sacred place in the culture of the local Pitjantjatjara Anangu Aboriginals. We also visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre here to learn more about how Ayers Rock was formed, the local plants and animals, and the Aboriginal inhabitants of this part of Australia. Mid-day we fly to Sydney, arriving late afternoon. We transfer to our hotel, where we enjoy dinner together tonight.

Accommodations – Sir Stamford at Circular Quay

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10 – Sydney

Today we tour Sydney, capital of New South Wales and Australia’s oldest English-inhabited city. First we tour The Rocks, one of Sydney’s oldest neighborhoods that now contains a number of shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Then we stop at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, the enormous hand-carved stone bench set on a promontory reaching out into Sydney Harbour. After taking in the views here, we drive through Darling Harbour, the city’s commercial center. Next we head to the exclusive suburbs of Double Bay, Rose Bay, and Watson’s Bay for more stunning views, this time of the Tasman Sea. We continue on to famed Bondi Beach, then return to the city center where we board a catamaran for a sail around Sydney Harbour, where we enjoy a buffet lunch along with commentary about this magnificent natural waterway. After disembarking we return to our hotel mid-afternoon and have the opportunity to attend a presentation on opals, if we wish (Australia produces some 97% of the world’s opals). Dinner tonight is on our own in this most cosmopolitan of cities, and Sydney has a wonderful selection of restaurants featuring cuisine of all types, from seafood to steak houses; Italian to Indian – and virtually every ethnicity in between.

Accommodations – Sir Stamford at Circular Quay

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11 – Sydney

This morning we visit Featherdale Wildlife Park, where our guide will take us through the grounds – home to koalas along with kangaroos, dingoes, wallabies, and a variety of native birds. The park provides a true hands-on wildlife experience and boasts a collection of over 1,700 native Australian animals, including the massive saltwater crocodile. After our visit we return to Sydney, where we have the afternoon at leisure to better familiarize ourselves with this fascinating city. Some options include visiting the Taronga Zoo, accessible by boat from the Circular Quay; touring the Sydney Aquarium, one of the world’s best; or strolling along Macquarie Street, one of Sydney’s most elegant thoroughfares. Tonight we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodations – Sir Stamford at Circular Quay
Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12 – Sydney/Christchurch

After checking out of our hotel, we embark on a late morning excursion – a tour of Sydney’s iconic Opera House, the country’s premier performing arts venue and home to Opera Australia, Sydney Theater Company, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, among other groups. Opened in 1973 and designed by famed Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the building’s uniquely shaped white roof is an instantly recognizable of the city of Sydney. Following our tour we have free time for lunch and to further explore Sydney as we wish. This evening we board a flight to English-accented Christchurch, New Zealand’s “Garden City” and the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island; upon arrival very late this evening we transfer to our hotel.

Accommodations – Rydges Latimer Christchurch

Meals – Breakfast

Day 13 – Christchurch/Mount Cook National Park

Today’s full day begins with Christchurch – “more English than England” – boasting its own River Avon (with punters) and many parks and gardens. While here we make two stops in the city center; first to see the progress being made to rebuild this area after the devastating 2011 earthquake, then to visit the Botanic Gardens, a 50-acre enclave in the center of the city with fountains, walking paths, and a profusion of plants and flowers. Then we board our motorcoach for the journey south to Mount Cook, stopping en route for lunch. Before reaching Mount Cook National Park, this afternoon we visit a working farm for a glimpse into New Zealand’s pastoral lifestyle. While here, we watch the sheepdogs working together to muster the Suffolk sheep, see a sheep shearing demonstration, and learn about the process of handling and classing wool. The farmers here have also domesticated red and white deer, and we have the chance to see these majestic creatures as we tour the deer sheds and yards. This evening we reach stunning Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s great alpine preserve of turquoise lakes and snow-topped mountains (and a UNESCO World Heritage park). Habitat for many species of flowering plants and birds, the park boasts 19 peaks reaching over 9,842 feet and glaciers comprise some 40 percent of its area. We dine together tonight at our hotel.

Accommodations – The Hermitage Hotel

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14 – Mount Cook

This morning’s tour of Mount Cook Village includes a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which showcases the region and its people, and where we see a 3D planetarium movie about the region. Both educational and entertaining, the center also comprises the Hillary Gallery commemorating Sir Edmund’s achievements, including the first ascent of Mount Cook’s difficult South face – where he trained for his monumental summiting of Mount Everest. At 12,316 feet, Mount Cook (Aoraki in native Maori) stands as New Zealand’s highest peak. After time for lunch on our own, we return to our hotel in the heart of the national park where the afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration in this breathtaking swath of nature; optional activities include hiking and scenic flights (approximately $500NZD at time of printing). Dinner is at our hotel tonight.

Accommodations – The Hermitage Hotel

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15 – Mount Cook/Queenstown

This morning we continue on to Queenstown, stopping along the way first at the famed Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world’s first bungy operation open to the public, then in historic Arrowtown. Late afternoon we reach Queenstown, New Zealand’s “adventure capital,” blessed with a supremely scenic location nestled

between The Remarkables, a jagged range of snowcapped mountains, and glacial Lake Wakatipu. Lunch is on our own today in Arrowtown. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

Accommodations – Hotel St. Moritz

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 16 – Milford Sound

Early today we leave Queenstown by motorcoach as we embark on a full-day excursion through stunning alpine scenery to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world.” It is, quite simply, glorious. Formed by giant glaciers that receded long ago, glassine Milford Sound boasts vertical cliffs that rise thousands of feet from the sea. The Sound itself is also massive: it measures 10 miles long and 1½ miles wide at its broadest point. We admire this spectacle of nature on a 2½-hour nature cruise past cascading waterfalls, rainforest, sheer rock walls, and such landmarks as 5,560-foot Mitre Peak, which dominates the pristine waterway. We enjoy lunch on board then later have the opportunity to return to Queenstown on an optional scenic flight (weather permitting and approximately $450NZD at time of printing). Those not wishing to take the scenic flight will return to Queenstown by motorcoach later this evening. Dinner tonight is on our own in Queenstown.

Please note that while this will be a long day – Milford Sound is a four- to five-hour coach ride each way from Queenstown – the beauty of the scenery both along the way and at Milford Sound itself make it well worth the journey.

Accommodations – Hotel St. Moritz

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Day 17 – Queenstown

Today is at leisure to enjoy New Zealand’s adventure capital as we wish. From bungy jumping, jet boating, river rafting, and kayaking to wineries, art galleries, and scenic trails, activities abound (at additional expense). Our tour director will be happy to help plan any activities; lunch and dinner are on our own.

Accommodations – Hotel St. Moritz

Meals – Breakfast

Day 18 – Queenstown/Rotorua

We depart today for the flight to Rotorua (via Christchurch or Wellington) spiritual home of New Zealand’s native Maori people and also home to dramatic geysers, bubbling mud pools, and thermal hot springs. After reaching Rotorua, late this afternoon we visit the Te Puia Thermal Reserve and Maori Cultural Centre for

a traditional hangi dinner and performance. A time-honored Maori cooking technique, hangi involves covering food in an earthen pit filled with hot rocks, allowing it to steam and cook in its own juices.

Accommodations – Regent of Rotorua

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 19 – Rotorua

This morning we visit the acclaimed Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Rainbow Springs offers an up-close look at New Zealand’s biodiversity, as the park features native trees, a freshwater spring, and a host of endemic plant and bird species, along with a nursery pool for the noted New Zealand rainbow trout. Here we visit the state-sponsored National Kiwi Trust, New Zealand’s largest kiwi hatchery, where guests can watch the country’s famous birds as they are nurtured before being released into the wild. After time to explore here, we have the rest of the day at leisure to explore Rotorua as we wish. A host of activities present themselves, from bathing in the thermal hot springs to zip-lining over a native forest. Our tour director will be happy to offer restaurant suggestions for both lunch and dinner on our own.

Accommodations – Regent of Rotorua

Meals – Breakfast

Day 20 – Rotorua/Auckland

Our full-day journey to Auckland begins with a stop this morning at Ruakuri Caves, where we enjoy a guided subterranean experience of elaborate limestone formations, hidden waterfalls, underground rivers, sacred Maori sites, and unique glowworms that illuminate the caves. Our tour begins with a spiral descent from ground level via an incredible drum entrance and walkway then continues through the underground grotto for one mile. Following our tour, we resume the journey to Auckland, arriving late afternoon in the “City of Sails,” New Zealand’s largest city. We’re on our own for dinner tonight in this multicultural city known especially for its world-class Pacific Rim cuisine and wines.

Accommodations – Grand Millennium Auckland

Meals – Breakfast

Day 21 – Auckland

Our half-day panoramic tour of this city set atop 48 volcanic hills starts with Auckland Harbour, where we view the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Built in 1959, the bridge stretches three quarters of a mile and stands 15 stories above the water. “Clip-on” lanes doubled the bridge’s capacity in 1969 and currently an average of 165,000 commuters cross it (or bungy jump from it) daily. We also visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum (often referred to simply as the Auckland Museum), founded in 1852 and moved to the location constructed on this site in 1929 as New Zealand’s first museum. Along with several prized Maori and Pacific Islander collections, the elegant Neoclassical building hosts a number of exhibits showcasing New Zealanders’ efforts in overseas conflicts, and also serves as a memorial to New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. Tonight we celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner at our hotel.

Accommodations – Grand Millennium Auckland

Meals – Breakfast, Dinner

Day 22 – Depart for U.S.

Very early this morning we transfer to the Auckland airport for the flight to Los Angeles (via Sydney), where we connect with our return flights home.

Meals – Breakfast

 

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Your Journey

Exploring Australia & New Zealand

By participating in an Alumni Association of the University of Michigan travel trip, you have stated that the Alumni Association has the exclusive right to use video and other visual/audio portrayals of You or Your likeness taken during Your trip in any medium of any nature whatsoever for any purpose, including advertising or promoting the services of the trip without any compensation being paid to You. Any such portrayal or likeness shall be the exclusive property of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

  • March 1–22, 2021
(22 days)
Starting price: $9,584
Air inclusive from Detroit; Single pricing $11,779
Deposit per person: $500
Asia & the Pacific
Odysseys Unlimited
Type: Land, Exclusive U-M Departure

You must be an Alumni Association member to travel with us. Questions? Call Michigan Alumni Travel at 855.764.0064.

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