Heading Down Under

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The journey begins in Auckland and visits Rotorua, Queenstown, Milford Sound and Christchurch before moving on to Melbourne, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs and Cairns.

It’s a perfect way to see all the worthwhile and important sites of New Zealand and Australia.

Prices vary depending on the demands of the traveler and do not include airfares, although Goway Travel will arrange for such travel.

collette vacations Collette Vacations, meanwhile, offers seven packages to the Antipodes, the name given to the vast area encompassing Australia and New Zealand.

According to Eric Welter, Collette’s senior v.p. of marketing, the tourism picture for Australia and New Zealand remains bright despite the recent upheavals. “In the past few months, travelers have seen unprecedented natural disasters and political unrest around the world, most recently in Japan and Egypt,” he says. “In February, Collette’s around-the-clock emergency task force, which handles crises abroad, was put into action in response to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. And prior to that, a cyclone slammed into the already flood-ravaged northern Australian state of Queensland.”

He adds that, previous to the floods and earthquake, the company has seen a “tremendous growth in both revenue and passengers on all our Australia and New Zealand tours. The Complete South Pacific [itinerary] is up 99 percent in revenue this year versus 2010. Following the natural disasters, we had very few cancellations and we’re not seeing a slow down in terms of people booking the South Pacific.”

“Fortunately,” adds Welter, “none of our passengers were directly affected by either of these events. The cyclone and flooding in Queensland occurred a hundred miles or so south of Cairns, where our passengers visit. During the devastating earthquake in Christchurch and the days immediately following, we diverted the groups we had on the road to nearby Wellington.”

Collette’s popular Complete South Pacific package features the best of both countries. It consists of a 27-day experience touching on exotic locales like Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs, Darwin, Kakadu National Park, Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook, Christchurch, Wellington and Rotorua.

Depending on the season, the cost ranges between $4,399 to $5,649 pp dbl, land-only.

Collette also offers Australia and New Zealand by Land and Sea, a 24-night cruise ($4,799 pp dbl, land-only) that plies the waters between Australia and New Zealand promising a glimpse of the numerous cultures that thrive in the area.

Highlights include the Great Barrier Reef; a detour to Ayers Rock; tours of Sydney’s most important landmarks; stops in great New Zealand destinations like Wellington and Auckland; a sail through the Bay of Islands; scenic cruises through New Zealand’s iconic Fiorland National Park and even a visit to the Napier, the art deco city.

Sailing for both cruises is on board the Sea Princess and is a relaxing and memorable way to become acquainted with the “Lands Down Under.” Both tours begin in Cairns, Australia, the traditional gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and end in Sydney.

qantas vacations Visitors who prefer more laid-back vacations will delight at the offerings from Qantas Vacations, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australia’s leading airline.

Its menu is a tantalizing list of beckoning trips. One of the most popular and affordable packages is called Sydney on Sale (from $1,299 pp dbl), which runs until the end of August. It consists of four nights in a three-star hotel (upgrades in air travel and hotels are available) and tours of Australia’s most celebrated city. The tour originates in Los Angeles, with additional cost for travel originating in other cities.

Qantas Vacations also offers an extensive selection of New Zealand tours, including a 14-day All About New Zealand package (from $2,635 pp dbl) that includes, among other activities, 13-day Hertz car rental, accommodations, a tour of the Waitomo Caves, sightseeing in Rotorua and a chance to attend a Maori concert and a traditional hangi (feast).

swain tours Swain Tours, too, has a long history with Australia and New Zealand travel. It specializes in providing custom travel to the world’s most exotic destinations and offers a wide array of choices for those venturing there.

Its Natural New Zealand package, for instance, is a 14-day marvel (from $9,165 pp dbl, including airfare) that touches on remote locales like Fox Glacier, Arthur’s Pass, Lake Moeraki and other unforgettable attractions. Accommodations are in first-rate hotels and lodges and most meals are included.