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Wonders Down Under--New Zealand/AustraliaAuthor: Ann Kaser (More Trip Reviews by Ann Kaser)
Date of Trip: March 2008
When we decided to make our trip, I spent many hours reading and surging the net. Our trip was partly independent and partly a cruise/tour. Finding a flight was not a problem. We decided to fly Air Pacific to Nadi Fiji and on to Auckland. I had never heard of this airline, but was pleasantly surprised and satisfied--good food, good service, smooth flying. The plane was 747-400 double decker. During the 5 hour layover in Nadi, we were able to view the surrounding area and shop in the airport. Plan a night in Nadi if time is available. The flight from Nadi to Auckland was 3 hrs.
On arrival in Auckland we had to go through customs which was an experience. Luggage was ex-rayed for fresh fruits. Do not even attempt bringing in any. Fines are steep. Transportation to hotels can be by air bus with a few stops near hotels $14 NZ. There is an airport shuttle $26 NZ for the first person and $6 NZ for others in party. This is direct to hotels and best buy. Cabs are about $50 NZ to city center. We stayed at the Hyatt. It was in a good location, but not at the waterfront. The hotel was not plush, but clean, great beds, nice restaurants, and concierge service. It was located 1 block from the Red Bus Line, which is a free bus around Auckland center. I found the the Hyatt after much searching as most of the hotels in the area are very expensive. I booked it about 3 months in advance so senior rates were still available. Hyatt had senior rates at 50% off. I booked in US @ 130 USD. Taxes were included. Money exchange is free at NZ Bank and ASB. It is a necessity to get $NZ because very few places will take USD and you loose a lot in exchange.
The Explorer Bus $20 NZ pp a day--hop on and off. Coupons are available for a 2 day pass. One of the best things that we did in Auckland was a day trip on Grayline Bus Tours to Glowworm Caves/Rotorua. Book tours in US as you can save. We saved $25 pp. The trip was 13 hrs. The Glowworm Caves, Rotorua, Agrodome for sheep shearing, wool milling, and sheep dog demo, Taupo Cultural Center, Thermal mud pits, geyers, kiwi house, and a great ride through NZ countryside--dairy, corn, and horse country. Tea, lunch, and snacks were included. Cost $227 USD. Saw a lot of NZ.
Another trip that is worthwhile is the Harbor Cruise. Srs. $20 NZ which includes a ticket to Devonport on the ferry. Cruise is 1 1/2 hrs. The Sky City tower, casino, hotel and restaurants are a must. The view from the tower is spectacular. We had lunch at the top. Lunch is $30NZ+ Just to view from the top is $25 NZ. Reservation are needed. Don't think you are going to drink wine for cheap. It is almost 2 times as much as in US for same wine.
Left on Sapphire Princess for our cruise to NZ and Aus. Visited Tauranga, Christchurch, and Dunedin. Each of the cities had buses to city center for $10 USD roundtrip. Seas in the area are very rough especially at night. The Tasmania Sea is always rough. A highlight of the cruise in NZ was the Fjords, Dusky and Thompson, and of course Milford Sound. There were snowcapped mts. "Alps", waterfalls, dolphins,and beautiful water.
Arrived in Hobart, Tasmania. City small. We took a day tour from the ship. It went to Russell Falls, Boranga Animal Park, rain forest, sheep shearing, working sheep dogs, and wine tasting party. A highlight of the day was lunch at a local hall prepared by the local ladies. Roast beef or pork, and all the trimmings. Local beer and wine, Pavalova, and blackberry/cherry pies. All the traditional foods of Tasmania.
On to Melbourne, modern city. Tram to city from pier for $6 NZ roundtrip. All trams, all day. Free city circuit bus to most attractions. Just hop on and off.
We flew to Cairns and Great Barrier Reef from Sydney. This a must if you go to Aus. Our hotel was the Intercontinental. Food is expensive so try the Casino. A catamaran trip to the reef for the day is a good way to view the reef. Everything was provided to snorkel, scuba, glassbottom boat, semi submersible, helicopter rides, and a lunch on the boat. The catamaran was docked alongside a pontoon about 25 miles from shore. After a 3 hr flight to Ayers rock in the Outback, we visited the Rock to see the sunset and the Rock change colors. This area is known as Uluru. The Sails in the Desert was set in the Red Dirt of the Outback. Flies were really bad. WE had to purchase nets to cover our faces. An interesting thing happened today. There was a 30 minute time change rather an hour. From Ayers Rock, it is a 6 hr bus ride to Alice Springs. There is nothing in between but Red Rock. Many aborigines live in this area. We stopped at a camel farm and visited the Flying Doctors in Alice Springs. Camels roam the outback.
Flew from Alice Springs back to Sydney--time change 1 1/2 hours. The Four Seasons Hotel is located in walking distance of Opera House, Harbor, the Rock, and Darling Harbor. Bondi Beach is about 15 min. out of town. The Harbor cruise is a must at you get wonderful views of the Opera House and the Bridge. Like to climb, the bridge is a challenge. Take a stroll through Victoria Mall where the elite strolled in early Sydney. We decided to stay an extra day in Sydney so had to change hotels. The Grace Hotel was recommended by some locals. It was equally as good as the Four Seasons. Transportation to the airport can be by taxi for about $40 AusD or $12.50 AusD by shuttle bus. Only 1 piece of luggage is allowed. Must pay for extras. It can take up to 2 hrs depending on the number of stops and traffic. Flights are long, but the rewards of visiting NZ and Australia are well worth it. Don't let that cause you not to make a trip Down Under if you want to go.
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