Recently we took a flight from our home in Vancouver, Canada to Melbourne, Australia to do this 3 week “Grand Australia & New Zealand” land tour with Tauck so we could report back to you about it…
…it’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it! LOL
Below are our “in person” (not read to you from a glossy booklet) highlights so you can see for yourself whether you’d like to take this trip or not.
We recon you may be booking your trip VERY SOON after seeing all our pictures and videos… just saying! 🙂
“What is a trip to the DOWN UNDER of Australia & New Zealand like?”
Read on below to find out and also be sure to have a look at our Australia & New Zealand Pictures & Video Gallery and make sure to read the captions below those picture & videos for more golden nuggets of information.
Here are the Highlights:
We flew into Melbourne a day early before our official trip with Tauck started to rest, to get over the jet lag and to be sure that we were on time- you know from other blog posts we highly recommend arriving to your start City early since air travel can be so unpredictable! Pretty much weekly we have clients somewhere in the World miss a flight connection due to delays, cancellations, maintenance issues, strikes, etc. & end up late into their arrival City… luckily, most of them take our advice & arrive early!!
When we arrived into Melbourne a private driver, in his sparkling Cadillac, picked us up from the airport (compliments of Tauck, they always include this on your arrival and departure days) and then it was a quick 20 minute drive to the lovely “Langham Hotel” located in one of the best locations in the city.
Make sure to come in early as the Langham Hotel sits by the waterfront promenade that is alive with street entertainers, small markets and lined with shopping and dining… Melbourne is a very walkable & safe city!
See a few pictures we took from our many walk abouts in Melbourne:
TIP: Coming in early to Melbourne?
Try these “casual” but hidden gem foodie establishments that locals clammer over and are not far from the hotel:
ShanDong MaMa Mini for dumplings…
Stalactites Restaurant for Greek…
and to stay in theme and taste Australian specialties, try:
Princes Pies and then…
…for a sweet treat, look in any of the many bakeries for what locals call “Lamington” cake.
Our first evening with Tauck we met everyone (our small group of 20 which is the best way to travel) during open bar drinks & appies at our “Welcome Reception” followed by a delicious “Welcome Dinner”.
(As we’ve said in other posts, when we travelled with other Land Tour companies our first night was “go get dinner on your own/see you tomorrow for the start of touring” so it’s GREAT that Tauck always starts things off on the right foot with this included event!!)
Here we are with a little bubbly in hand… note: this is the dressiest we got the entire trip and 3 weeks later we wore it again at the Farewell function as the rest of the trip was very casual!
We really had a nice time during our 2 days in Melbourne with our Tauck group where we enjoyed our Welcome Cocktail party & Dinner, we did a small group walking tour of their famous Alleys & Arcades, we visited the “Queen Victoria Market”, we went to the “Royal Botanic Gardens”, etc.!
After Melbourne we then took our first, of six, PRIVATE Charter Flights for just the 20 of us… it was AWESOME!!
Later in this blog post we go into more detail about these flights which were one of the MAIN reasons we chose this tour… due to their time savings we saw A LOT of things in these countries we couldn’t have otherwise with other Land Tour companies or if we had done a Cruise! But more on that later. 🙂
Our first Private Charter Flight took us to stay at…
“Ayers Rock” for an Overnight Stay
It’s in the middle of Australia in the desert called “Uluru” better known as “Ayers Rock”… AKA: the heart of Australia.
This massive sandstone rock is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago!!
After a visit to the site’s informative Welcome Centre, that evening, we went to the “sunset strip” to sip cocktails and were one of the few to be served canapés & drinks from a white linen cloth table (see pic below) as we watched the changing of the colours on Ayers Rock at sunset. We were Spoiled for sure!! 🙂
The next morning we got “up close” as we did a walk around the base of the rock and got some incredible commentary from our fantastic guide who reminded us of the late Steve Irwin who had the same enthusiasm.
Fun Facts: Ayers Rock, we found out, would take us (fast walkers) around 2 hours to walk around the entire 6 mile/10 km base… it is taller than the Eiffel Tower at it’s peak AND it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site… it’s truly a MASSIVE & IMPRESSIVE site!!
Here are a few pics from our evening and morning visits to “Ayers Rock”:
From Cairns, Australia we took a Ranger Guided “Daintree Rain Forest” Cableway & Interpretive Walk:
After our 24 hour visit to Ayers Rock, we took another Private chartered flight to Cairns (pronounced “cans”) in Northern Australia (we stayed 3 nights up here) where we took the “SkyRail” Cableway over the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and did an interpretive walk with a Ranger who impressed us with his knowledge.
What makes this forest SO special is that it is 140 Million years old with more species of pre-historic plants than anywhere else in the world!!
What a great visit…
For our next day in Northern Australia we got to choose one of these enticing options…
Snorkelling OR Diving at the infamous “Great Barrier Reef”, a Spa Treatment at our Gorgeous Resort OR a Helicopter Ride over the“Great Barrier Reef”
As we’d never been to the “Great Barrier Reef” we chose to do a snorkelling tour there.
FYI, there were two options for snorkelling… let us explain.
If you are nervous in water and would like to do a little snorkelling plus you want to relax and read a book or people watch, then the “Quicksilver Catamaran” snorkel is for you.
BUT if you are comfortable snorkelling (you don’t have to be a pro or swim well, just be comfortable snorkelling and you want to do lots of it) then the Snorkelling/Diving on the “Silversonic Adventure Boat” is the better choice for you!
There are less people, no small kids and there is a step down platform to swim off of and floatations such as lifejackets and noodles are provided so you can just glide on top of the water easily.
If none of that appeals, you can take a Helicopter ride over the reef or choose a spa treatment at the resort.
We chose Snorkelling on the “Silversonic” boat. We had a GREAT time that day!! 🙂
OPTIONAL: Hot Air Balloon Ride over Atherton Table Lands:
Never been for a Balloon ride before but want to ty it? It is fascinating and a whole bunch of fun. Check out our pictures to get a feel– FYI, this was an optional excursion with Tauck, it cost $239 USD per person.
**For seasoned riders, Please See our “Tips” section below on whether we would recommend this tour for you or not.
.Crocodile Farm Visit:
This was so fun! From the moment we arrived, all of our “mini-tours” at Hartley’s were exclusive to Tauck which made the experience that much better!
We got to have a private viewing & hold a python snake and baby salt water crocodile while learning about them- and we were not rushed.
Then we got up close and interactive with kangaroos. We were able to pet them, feed them and took lots of pictures with them.
Our Tauck group were the only people in the enclosure so we had lots of time, space and interaction.
After that, we took a private boat tour where we got to see different birds and the Captain fed the crocodiles so they came out of the water so we could see and photograph them.
Then we had a private crocodile feeding show with a BIG 11 foot male who showed off his agility and strength. Plus the crocodile expert answered all our questions and had lots of fun facts about crocodiles for us. Fascinating!
After that, we were treated to a Super Yummy water-side lunch… ever have a Crocodile stare at you while eating! :-)… and then we had the option to purchase a photo holding a cute 2 year old Koala bear which we took advantage of.
See our pictures of our time at the farm:
Arriving to Sydney, Australia we took a Scenic “Sydney Harbour” Boat ride:
After our 3 night stay in the Cairns region it was time for our 3rd Private Charter flight while in Australia where we flew to Iconic Sydney!!
To get our first taste of Sydney we were treated to a Private “Captain Cook” catamaran cruise for our small group with commentary while we sailed around the famous Sydney Harbour.
We had tea, coffee, Scones, Jam & cream too while we snapped pictures for each other and enjoyed the magnificent views- especially as we went under the bridge and past the iconic Opera House…
Then, if that wasn’t enough, we took a…
Foodie & History Tour of Sydney:
We ate our way around Sydney during our first day there and it was so much fun!! 🙂 We drove by Coach to each restaurant and got to see places in the city we wouldn’t have otherwise and had a mini walking tour too.
Tip: Eat a light breakfast or even skip it this morning as on the boat tour first thing in the morning, scones with tea and coffee are offered which is plenty food as you want to be hungry for the “foodie” tour shortly after…
We had some asian food in “Spice Alley”: dumplings, fried chicken & a sticky rice dessert. We had a tasty seafood sampler at the “Sydney Fish Market”, stopped at famous “Harry’s” for “Tiger” meat pie -yum yum, we went to the “Old Fitzroy” Pub for 3 delicious beer tastings & had a stop at “Messina” for their delicious Gelato where you got to pick from 40 different kinds…
We both had the salted caramel with white chocolate which we “highly” recommend…
.“Sydney Opera House” Private Tour
Boy, we certainly felt special! We got a private tour of the Sydney Opera House and it was all to ourselves… no crowds so we could just soak it all in!!
We couldn’t get any pictures for you from our tour of the opera house as we were not allowed to take photos but it was wonderful to see the insides of the multiple auditoriums there and learn about the incredible history.
Completely fascinating to finally visit one of the most iconic and distinctive buildings of the 20th century.
Wait till you see it!!
The rest of the day was our own and we couldn’t help but walk and walk this gorgeous city both day and night…
After having a truly WONDERFUL time in Australia, our Journey next took us to Beautiful New Zealand. How very different she is from Australia… but you have to come to see how and why!
Wellington, New Zealand:
Wellington, aka: “Windy Wellington” we learned, is the capital of New Zealand at the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. A charming city, it’s waterfront promenade can be wonderfully enjoyed by foot during your free time.
Here we did all the best stuff to see and do in the city.
We were privileged to take a Private tour of the Parliament Buildings and learn all about how New Zealand’s Government leads it’s country… really interesting!!
We also took a fun cable car ride to the top of the City to snap pictures of the Botanic Garden and to enjoy the most amazing views over the city and harbour.
On top of that, we also had a wonderful visit and guided tour of the Te Papa Museum where we learned all about the history of New Zealand and how very different New Zealand’s culture is to Australia’s… but again, we’ll leave it for your to discover those nuances during your visit “Down Under”! 🙂
.Blenheim, New Zealand…
Chartered Catamaran Cruise of “Marlborough Sounds”
After our Private plane’s short flight to Blenheim, New Zealand from Wellington (just 17 minutes long!) we took a scenic drive through “Queen Charlotte Sound” where we saw mountains, greenery, sheep and vineyards galore.
Then we boarded our very own Catamaran to enjoy “Marlborough Sound”.
The boat was far bigger than we needed for 20 people but Tauck likes guests to be comfortable and not crowded or with other groups having to deal with noise from other guests and fighting to see the sites so…
…instead we had the opposite. It was spacious and at times between laughter and commentary from our captain, we could hear the birds or the dolphins and seals swimming beside us as we took pictures easily and “ooh’d and aah’d” at the wildlife and what we were experiencing.
When we first got onboard we had fresh out of the water steamed “Green Tipped Mussels” (more than enough for everybody- we were stuffed) with the local award winning “Sauvignon Blanc” wine from the region as an appetizer. We don’t fancy Sauvignon Blanc much but this was the best we’ve ever had!
Lunch was served onboard and it was like a home cooked meal and seriously delicious!!
They served a roast of pork with crackle, fresh baked salmon, several salads, roasted baby potatoes with melted butter, fresh bread, a lovely dessert, tea and coffee AND a cooler full of other drinks we were welcome to…
…on top of that, the sun was out, the air was super fresh and the scenery, as you will see in the following pictures was breath-taking!
The drive to the hotel was short but we had a surprise stop on the way which we will NOT be telling you about- let’s leave it as a surprise, LOL! Instead, enjoy the pictures we took for you:
.Sheep Herding Demonstration & Garden Tour
This was fascinating as we watched a Herder control a herd of sheep using only his whistle to command his 5 dogs to herd 400 sheep. It was incredible to watch! We were all in awe and snapped a million pictures as we couldn’t believe what was happening in front of our eyes!!
Then, he sheered one sheep so we could see it done and feel the wool…
After all that, we went to the Farmer’s house which was featured in several magazines for it’s decorative beauty and luscious gardens abound. To enjoy the gardens— baked shortbread, muffins and other treats were enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.
Because we were starving NOT lol — but because they feed you so well and spoil you on these tours, we also had a lovely winery lunch and that evening we attended a…
.Sparkling Event: “Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre & Dinner”
We went for a Private showing & dinner at the “Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre” in Blenheim, New Zealand which houses an impressive World War 1 & 2 collection of planes & memorabilia, much of it the Private collection of New Zealand’s famous resident, Peter Jackson, of “Lord of the Rings” fame.
Then in a hanger surrounded by planes, even one over head suspended in the air, we sat in candlelight, listening to a live 2 piece band playing the same era music as when these planes flew which took us back in time; all while we dined on some of the most delicious 14 hour slow roasted lamb we have ever had, local baked potatoes that tasted honey sweet (no kidding) and sooo much more. What an AMAZING evening we had.
Here are a few pictures:
After our time in Blenheim the highlights kept coming when we spent 2 nights in the small community of scenic “Te Anau”… we went to this area as it’s the jumping off point to visit New Zealand’s “National Fiordland Park” where…
..…we went to “Milford Sound” for a Private Boat Tour:
We took a scenic drive through the mountains and to see the Fiords of Milford sound.
Along the way we stopped to enjoy some interesting sites.
We strolled through a couple of short walking paths to enjoy the swamplands, the serene forest and to spot birds as New Zealand is known as “the place of birds”.
We stopped to see the landscaped mountains and were even greeted by Kea birds that are much like parrots…
Along the way we went through a tunnel carved into the mountain rocks as we weaved our way through the colossal of mountains.
We learned all about Milford Sound and how it is a magnificent Fiord that was carved by glaciers at one time and filled by the sea.
We took a private boat ride… unlike the other departures we saw with people packed onboard… needless to say it was larger than 20 people needed so it was roomy and comfortable and with a smorgasbord of food for us to enjoy.
We listened to commentary while we enjoyed some delicious food… clearly, we wanted for nothing (LOL) while snapping loads of pictures and enjoying the scenery.
We also got what the locals call a “Glacial Facial” as the boat went really close to one of the many waterfalls we were pampered with and got a misting from her power. 🙂 So fun!
.Off to Beautiful “Queenstown” for some thrilling fun…
A Gondola Ride, Skipper Road Drive, Jet Boat and Chopper Experience
Queenstown is super charming and reminds us so much of Whistler, British Columbia- a quaint ski town with a vibe.
Tauck gave us tickets to ride the gondola whenever we wanted to during our free time over the next two days.
We have to say, the views from the top are some the most beautiful we have EVER seen around the world!!! Please don’t miss it and don’t forget your cameras!!
The next morning in Queenstown, New Zealand we boarded a mini van for a VERY scenic drive!
We drove 15 km through the infamous mountains of this region’s beautiful natural scenery and our driver would stop so we could snap pictures and would point out where pieces of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. No wonder they used this area as a backdrop!
When we arrived to our destination at “Skippers Canyon” we had coffee, tea & cookies and then headed down to board Jet Boats for a ride on the glacier river… a highlight of our 3 week journey for sure! 🙂
You can’t believe what these boats can do in three inches of water clearance, everyone was smiling from ear to ear! Check out some videos we took too… a GREAT time was had by all!!
Oh, and the scenery looking up at the mountains and the nature all around us was incredible!
If that wasn’t enough, Tauck included a helicopter ride back overtop of those Incredibles Mountains, Canyons and Glacier Waterfalls into Queenstown for 15-20 “incrdible minutes” to remember!
It was emotionally moving and we felt very blessed to be sitting in those seats with the pilot showing us around.
.A BIG Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand where we took in a…
.…Private Cultural Experience, “Poi Dance & Haka”
After a VERY SCENIC lunch high up in Auckland’s famous “Sky Tower”, we got to witness a Postural War Dance or Poi Dance called “Haka” (if you’ve ever seen a New Zealand Rugby game you’ll know what we mean!) today in a private venue strictly for us. The hair was standing up on our arms as we watched the show and demonstration… very moving!
Afterwards, lucky us, we had an opportunity to talk with and get pictures with the performers as we had them all to ourselves…
.“Waiheke Island” tour with Olive Oil Tasting, Wine Tasting & Winery Lunch
For our second day in the big and welcoming city of Auckland, our day started with a scenic 40 minute Ferry ride to the beautiful & tropical “Waiheke Island”. Waiheke is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and white sandy beaches and perfect for a “chill” exploration.
After an enjoyable sightseeing bus ride for a short 20 minutes, we arrived at Rangihoua Olive Oil Estate where we learned a little about growing & processing olives and then had a private olive oil tasting.
Afterwards, we took a scenic drive through the hillside where we visited Mudbrick Winery that is perched high up on Waiheke Island and smiling servers were ready to treat us to a wine tasting & lunch pairing…
We swirled & sipped various wines during our wine tasting followed by a scrumptious lunch with more wine, olives, sweets and wonderful Ocean views and Vineyard views all at the same time.
After today’s scenic & yummy tour, we had our “Farewell” cocktail reception & dinner that night and that was it… our Fabulous 3 week Journey was over but it was a Journey we’ll NEVER forget!!
Now that we showed you some of the highlights of our Epic journey, let’s check out some of the “finer” details!
All the accommodations were hand picked and carefully selected to have not only fantastic views but Great locations… and yes, we got the RIGHT side of the buildings towards the water or best viewing points like it should be… many other tour companies will give you the garden room and not the river room for example and you don’t realize it until you get to your room. The moment you notice- you are SO disappointed. Luckily, that doesn’t happen with Tauck!
Be sure to have coffee in the morning enjoying the views as we did most mornings.
Our Melbourne Langham Hotel room had beautiful River views, see the outside of the hotel here and our room faced the river :-)…
Check our pictures from our very own private Cabin in the rainforest at Silky Oaks Lodge in Cairns. What a wonderful place to relax for 3 nights that included a hammock on our deck. The bathroom even had a two person jetted jacuzzi which we certainly took advantage of…
The Shangri-La in Sydney had a great location in the city with the most amazing views of the city, the bridge & Opera house!
Check out our pics of our room:
The Copthorne Hotel in Wellington, New Zealand sits right at the harbour where we would open up the patio doors, enjoy the freshest air and sit out at night and have a cocktail enjoying the lights shimmer off the water as well as our morning coffee enjoying the sunrise.
A stay at the Chateau Marlborough in Blenheim, New Zealand with spacious accommodations and friendly staff was lovely too. It didn’t have the views in this quiet little town BUT a little surprise was the “bed warmer” that you could switch on and make the bed cozy warm. Wow!! Can’t say we have ever had that feature in a hotel before. Nice touch!!!
Tip: The Laundry mat is FREE here if you’d like to do a load and closes at 8pm.
Sofitel, Queenstown, New Zealand
What a hotel! Nice big room with a table and chairs, rainfall shower and a big jacuzzi bath for two… we certainly took advantage of that bath while there for two nights!! The hotel is right in the middle of it all, near the shops, restaurants and the buzz of the town. Perfect location!
Sofitel, Auckland, New Zealand
This Sofitel hotel was just as nice as the last one with a double bath, comfy bed and lots of space.
First off, on this tour you get a kaleidoscope of modes of movement… it’s one of the last things we’re telling you about in this blog as wanted to keep some of the best for last! LOL
For both pleasure & for transport we had charter boats, catamarans, a jet boat, private planes, a helicopter, buses, Gondolas and a SkyRail.
What a Journey we took!
We should mention that on a Tauck Tour, you generally don’t touch your bags once you arrive to your Tour start city. You simply take your carry-on (whatever you want to keep on hand) with you and magically, your luggage appears in your hotel room in each city. It doesn’t get much easier than this. 🙂
Plus, with a small group, people don’t realize how much value is in it and what a difference it makes to the speed of the entire trip. There is nothing worse than “waiting around” and with big groups, guests start rolling their eyes because that’s all they feel like they are doing, not much of a vacation…
…but on a Tauck tour with around 20-24 people on their “small group” tours or 34-40 on their “Classic” tours you are all on and off busses faster and excursions start right away, there are short to no lines at the bathroom, to get served at restaurants and the list goes on. This is the way travel should be!
To make the trip even more intimate, multiple times, our group of 20 was broken into 3 smaller groups for city tours. With 6-7 people in an excursion group– the guided experience felt personal!
Have a look at our little group on our walking tour in Melbourne…
Private Chartered Flights
We have to say that the Private Chartered Flights were one of THE major highlights of this trip for sure!! Now we know what all the fuss is about regarding private planes.
We didn’t have to check in OR go through security OR sit in the airport for hours prior to flying. WOW, what a difference that made to our trip!! It was night and day compared to the norm!!
Our first flight for example, we left the hotel at 7am and we were on the runway taking off at 7:45am with a coffee in hand!! That is fast and seamless…. No wasting time so we could enjoy more sights AND feel special at the same time!! 🙂
And what do you think the staff were like on the private jets? You guessed it- attentive and couldn’t do enough for you! We were sipping coffee BEFORE we took off, when does that ever happen in real life!!
Once we landed, the bus pulled up next to the airplane, sometimes with a red carpet awaiting and we would whisk off to do a tour. No walking through long airport terminals, no waiting for bags at the baggage claims or wheeling them out to the bus either.
Another side note about that and what’s different about a Tauck Tour is that Tauck would sometimes arrange to have the bags taken to the airport while we were having breakfast for instance so we wouldn’t have to wait at any point for the on-loading and off-loading… it’s “all” about the guest’s experience with Tauck and not what’s more convenient for the company & their bottom line. THIS IS BIG!!
We saved so much time on those private planes that it makes you appreciate and look forward to the private plane experiences, as we did have to take one international flight (not private) from Australia to New Zealand and we had to get up earlier in the morning for a 5:45am luggage pick up…
…then we departed 6:45am for the airport to check in, to then sit for almost 2 hours to board, then sit some more on the plane so we could finally take off… this was HOURS of time wasted compared to the private jet.
No other tours were planned for this day like the private plane days because it chewed up the “entire day”. Not fun…
…but we certainly were looking forward to the private planes again and all the wonderful staff and service!! 🙂
Dining on Tour:
The nice thing about this part of the world is that locals don’t dress formal to go out for dinner, so no need to dress in your best, unless you want to.
Overall, the restaurants we visited on this tour were fantastic and well chosen to the point where we could have licked the plates on several occasions!!
It wasn’t like our India Tauck Tour though where we got to eat whatever we wanted on the menu as they simply couldn’t do that here as Lobster is over $75 a pound and would have put Tauck out of business. LOL…
But no worries, there were many seafoods and fine cuisines available to make our taste buds MORE than happy including some “dine around” evenings where we got to choose our favorite from several restaurants… that was a nice addition to have the choice. But of course we all came together afterwards and compared and nobody had a bad word to say, in fact, all the guests were over the moon happy with their choices.
Here are a few examples of our dining experiences throughout the tour…
At Silky Oaks Lodge we enjoyed an incredible locally sourced meal with only the freshest ingredients brought in that day that would rival a Michelin star restaurant. Not to mention that the restaurant’s tables are perched alfresco style in the Daintree Rain Forest with a small river just below for more ambiance.
We had Kangaroo, Quail, a Pappardelle Crab, a Short Rib dish that was melt in your mouth delicious topped off with a caramel covered brownie with ice cream. Yummy!
Again at Silky Oaks Resort we had a yummy Aussie Bush Themed Dinner accompanied by story telling and music by a local artist one evening. He was SUPER talented and we could have listened to him all night.
“Fish at the Rocks” Restaurant Sydney
In Sydney we had a choice of four restaurants and we choose the Seafood one called “Fish at the Rocks”.
The restaurant was a nice place, you could dress smart casual & the food was t-a-s-t-y!!
We had crab cakes, scallops, warm seafood salad & seafood spaghetti AND a chocolate dessert & lemon curd with fresh fruit and cream… they ALSO included a glass of wine/beer even though on our itinerary it said they never… that was nice!
In Wellington, New Zealand we ate at the ONE80 Restaurant at our “Copthorne Oriental Bay” Hotel on the 7th floor with stunning views out over the harbour. We suggest the tasty Caesar salad & Beef Wellington especially and the Baked Alaska… the food was AGAIN fantastic!!
Brancott Winery Lunch & Tasting
On a hill surrounded by a vineyard we had a delicious 5 course lunch and pairing of pinot & chardonnay from the wines they produced on the property. What a setting for lunch!!
Sky Tower Revolving Restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand
Straight from the airport we went to dine in the revolving restaurant called “Sky Tower” in the middle of Auckland to enjoy the views from up above as we dined.
We had a tasty Caesar salad & Gnocchi (both highly recommended) and some yummy sweets….
Lava Restaurant at Sofitel, Auckland, New Zealand
We both had Rack of Lamb for dinner and it was finger licking good, try this if you are in the mood for lamb on this night. The ice cream with warm chocolate sauce poured over it table side wasn’t bad either. 🙂
Some other food pictures we took to make you good and hungry…
Other Unique Things on this Tour:
Tauck is known for their amazing “Tauck Directors”… other companies call them guides but Tauck’s people are so much more than that!!
Georgie, our Tauck Director from the start to finish of our Australia & New Zealand tour, was wonderful & no exception to Tauck’s impressive lineup of Directors!
She was so attentive that not only did she surprise us with local treats on several occasions but one day she gave out maps to the entire group (20 of us) for Sydney and she “by hand” circled all the best areas for us to visit.
Normally, guides just hand you a map and say good luck so a Nice touch by Georgie!
But throughout the trip she was doing extraordinary things for guests frequently which we have come to enjoy during Tauck Tours.
Here is the evidence and a pic of Georgie with Shawn when she brought him maps to help us plan our final day in Auckland AFTER our trip with Tauck ended…
Not really unique, but we loved not having to check-in for hotels or airports. All seamless and easy. No lines, no waiting and as mentioned already, our luggage would magically appear in our hotel room when we arrived. This is the best way to travel by far!
Tauck really thinks about the experience the guest is going to have on each tour (when you’ve been in Business for 95 years like Tauck you learn a thing or two!!) and they test and test to make sure their are no weak spots in their itineraries, here is a perfect example…
Tauck could have easily sent us by ferry from Wellington to Blenheim on a 3-6 hour boat ride (depending on sea conditions) and cheekishly they could have called it a “scenic tour” (we’ve seen that before with other tour companies) but instead they sent us on a private chartered plane that took 17 minutes to our next stop so we could see more of and the best of Blenheim!
So many times we have been on tours with other companies where they would have pointed to a highlight of a city and they tell you to visit there on your free time (& on your own dime) but not with Tauck…
…not only did they take us to the local cinema in Ata Whenua, New Zealand to watch a private showing of a short film about the Fjords we were about to see the next morning, they treated us to an exclusive venue with cocktails & appetizers (pic below) just before the movie. Another nice touch!
#1. Some of the hotels on the tour include laundry facilities and detergent and some others have them for a small fee. What a great little surprise because hand washing and hang drying is not all that fun on vacation. 🙂
#2. Bring an old pair of shoes for the desert “orange” sand, for the jet boat ride, etc.
#3. OPTIONAL (AKA you have to pay for it) Hot Air Ballon Ride is offered from the Silky Oaks Lodge and if you are an “experienced” balloon rider you may find it slightly underwhelming as it is mainly over farm lands but if it’s your very first Balloon ride, then you will find it fascinating. In our opinion, there are better parts of the world to do it from.
#4. For the Hot Air Balloon ride, bring a hat as it gets really hot from the flames shooting into the balloon and we wished we had one. 🙂
#5. If you have to charge phones and iPads, etc. on the trip daily, you DEFINITELY need to order adapters for Australia/New Zealand as, unlike many countries, their hotels rarely had North American outlets too. We picked them up at Amazon for $10 for a pack of 3 before our trip.
#6. In Sydney, the second night you are free to do as you please (please make sure to check that this has not changed since we posted this) but you can book a Theater show at the Opera House if anything interests you. We wished we did!
#7. We don’t know why, but Kangaroo meat is not offered on the tour at all, so by all means if you want to try it, please feel free to do so on your free time for meals or ask the chef in advance like we did. In Sydney, The Kangaroo pizza at the Australia Hotel is supposed to be amazing. It’s a 5 minute walk from the Shangri-La where you will stay.
#8. Pack for layers. Hat and gloves will be appreciated at times. New Zealand is much cooler and a thicker jacket is required (at least it was for us in the beginning of May)… just google the areas you are going to, to confirm getting closer to your trip so you pack accordingly.
During our farewell dinner, we all reminisced about how this trip would always be in our memories as one of the best trips we have taken and we were sad to say goodbye…
But the nice thing about travelling is that you get to appreciate what the World has to offer and in particular on this trip, Australia & New Zealand…
…two vastly different Countries that share similarities but have their own unique and special cultures that you can really only learn about and sense once you have done a trip like this yourself.
The “Aussies” and “Kiwis” are hospitable, down to earth and courteous people and we are so fortune to have been in their company for 3 weeks!! 🙂
Want to know more about this tour?
Check out our Australia & New Zealand Pictures & Video Gallery for more tips and insights.
If you would like to book this “Grand Australia & New Zealand Tauck Tour”, as always, Shawn is available to answer all your questions and to help get you booked & to make sure you’re prepared & ready by the time you start your Journey.
We Appreciate you!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!