Sun-soaked beaches and peaceful fiords, majestic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fascinating cultures and local gastronomic specialties; Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) is a region of extremes, some widely known and others that need some insider knowledge to uncover.
Take Newcastle in Australia, for example. Surrounded by strings of gorgeous beaches, many feature the infamous Aussie rock pools, ideal for safe family swimming, while others offer that quintessentially Australian pasttime of surfing, before refuelling at the cafes and restaurants nearby.
Head inland and Hunter Valley Wine Country, one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions, is waiting to be explored. Swirl, sniff and sip your way through selected wineries, home to best-in-class vintages, mouth-watering cellar door experiences and expert Aussie wine makers. There’s also Gladstone, gateway town to the Great Barrier Reef, surely a bucket-list destination for marine life lovers. Offshore islands are home to manta rays and tropical fish, while on the mainland, national parks hide secret beaches, and sandstone cliffs give way to stunning gorges. And the feeling of history is palpable at the nearby town of Seventeen Seventy, named for the date Captain Cook dropped anchor on its shores.
Further south you’ve got another, wilder option. In Tasmania, almost 20% is comprised of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, one of the largest conservation areas in Australia. On the south coast is Port Arthur, transporting you back to the 19th-century penal settlement, and along the coast is charming food city Hobart. Grazing around the capital’s Salamanca Market food and art specialities is the best way to reward energetic hiking or downhill cycling on trails from Mount Wellington.
On the north west of Tasmania is little Burnie, gateway to spectacular hiking along Cradle Mountain trails. Stay more local to Tassie’s most westerly town, and you’ll find waterfalls and glades, penguins and platypus, distilleries and artist studios and more of that unique Tasmanian hospitality.
Another must-visit is New Zealand. Its wild countryside still attracts fans of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster Lord of the Rings, with the misty and mysterious high mountains, spectacular waterfalls and deep fiords of Milford and Doubtful Sounds home to numerous film locations and wildlife. Dolphins can be found in the Bay of Islands, and equally spellbinding is the Maori culture in this area, told within its dynamic museums, soulful art galleries and literature.
Napier, meanwhile, on New Zealand’s north island, is all about the beautifully preserved 1930s Art Deco architecture and waterfront promenade. The nearby Cape Kidnappers is great for a walk; while the area’s Hawke’s Bay wineries - the oldest wine region in New Zealand known for full-bodied reds - are a great way to cap off a visit.
Experience world-class gastronomy onboard Explorer Dream with Chef Mark Best.
Cruising, a relaxing way to take it all in
With so much to see, do and experience, it can be difficult to cram everything into one vacation – especially with multiple land and air transfers, and accommodation changes to consider. A great alternative to consider would be cruising with Dream Cruises. Its newest ship, Explorer Dream, offers four itineraries: two 7-night New Zealand Adventure sailings, a 7-night Australian Discovery sailing and a 7-night Tasmanian Explorer sailing, all of which depart from Sydney or Auckland. Besides providing passengers plenty of convenience and time to explore the destinations, onboard and shore offerings have been cherry-picked to showcase a wide range of regional-related experiences.
“There’s really something for everybody,” said Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises. “In Wellington, both young and old will be thrilled with the chance to visit the famous Lord of the Rings locations and learn how the magic was created, or in Napier to understand and witness the rich Maori heritage and history, while feasting on traditional culinary delights and so much more.”
While wineries and cellar doors await in all three destinations, on board, Explorer Dream is something of a cellar door itself, serving up seriously good beverages and cuisines. Dream’s partnership with celebrity chef Mark Best means phenomenal steak or seafood is always top of the list, while private parties are best booked at the Vintage Room. As the ultimate contrast to the farm-to-table cuisines on-shore, and harking back to her original locations, Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisines bring the orient to life.
Transformed during her US$30 million refit, the 1,870-passenger Explorer Dream has at her heart The Palace, Dream’s signature luxury enclave of 50 butler-serviced suites and exclusive restaurants and pools, making it somewhat difficult to leave the ship – which is quite a feat, considering that Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania’s stunning coastlines are drifting past your balcony.