There is a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy in both Australia and New Zealand, but most people have limited time to view it. Do a lot of research on types of things you would like to see and do, and plan carefully. For example, read all of my articles on our six week trip! Be very careful to check the seasons, which are not quite the opposite of the northern hemisphere, but close. Other than the Australian Open, there are very few events, including the Sydney opera, you need to book far in advance.
With the exception of Sydney, none of the major cities in either country are worth much time. They are basically unattractive and uninteresting. However, many of the small cities and lots of the town in both countries are both lovely and interesting. Fly in, then get out of big cities and enjoy the sights.
The food is generally good, with lots of meat and fish on the menu. Prices seem high, but there is no tipping or added taxes. There are countless wineries, but, compared with France and California, they are very mediocre and expensive. The beers are better.
Australia is a huge continent, so think carefully about driving long distances. The local airlines are good ways to go long distances, including Tiger and Jetstar, or buy a rail pass if you have time. Petrol is very expensive in Australia, and nearly the same in New Zealand. If you are used to driving on the left side and on narrow roads, you’re good to go. If you do drive, pick routes where there are a lot of places to see or visit. For most Americans, do NOT drive too fast! Speed limits are generally 110 kph (about 70 mph), and the bulk of the roads are one lane. But traffic is light.
Other than Uluru, the Outback is not a great place to visit unless you want to stay a few days on a “station”, or ranch. For the most part, the really interesting places are in the eastern section, such as Kangaroo Island, the Blue Mountans, the Great Ocean Road, the Gold Coast (which includes Fraser Island), the Daintree Rainforest, and, of course, the Great Barrier Reef.
While Australians rave about the island of Tasmania, give it a miss unless you have a lot of time. It’s nice, but most of the history involves convicts, and there is really very little spectacular scenery you cannot enjoy elsewhere. Do not visit during the Tasmanian winter.
The government does not seem to want visitors, as customs and other regulations are incredibly onerous. If you actually make it into the country and get around, it’s well worth seeing. Depending on what you like, the sights are all over the place, so no one section is preferable
The northern island has most of the famous tourist sites. The “hobbit village” is near the unique glow worm caves near Hamilton, and a two-hour drive from the thermal wonders, waterfalls and Maori villages around Rotorua. From the snowy peaks of the Ruapehu to the plethora of beautiful beaches, the only ugly spot is the city of Auckland. If you want a lovely city, go south to Wellington, and don’t miss the Te Papa Museum.
Traveling through the southern island of New Zealand is generally spectacular, with beautiful lakes and majestic mountains. However, the roads are mostly one lane-even the highways-with frequent two-way bridges. There are many accidents due both to the curving mountain roads and reckless New Zealand drivers. If you are not a very confident driver, either take a tour or carry full additional insurance.
Greymouth was a great place to travel to many of the west coast sites (I highly recommend the Alpine Rose Motel) such as Paparoa National Park to the north and Hokitika to the south, both about 40 minutes away. Don’t miss Queenstown for its lovely town, nice harbor and great tracks (hiking trails) all around. For a little luxury and great food at reasonable prices, try The Spa at Nugget Point, which has fantastic views from most rooms. There is some excellent skiing on the island, but that is for another vacation!