Australia and New Zealand may be far away from pretty much everyone, but they’re both hot on the list for most adventurers. And so they should be. They’re awesome.
Since they’re so close to each other though, they tend to get lumped together, which makes us cry a little inside. We’re gonna let you in on a little secret here: they could not be more different!
The main differences are these: Australia is huge, while New Zealand is tiny. Australia is freakishly hot at times, while New Zealand is a normal amount of hot. Australia is fairly flat in parts, while New Zealand is hilly as hell. But they’re both incredible countries to visit, with more places to explore than your little legs will take you to.
So, we’re spilling the beans on some wild card destinations in each country for four types of traveler, so your trip will stand out from the rest.
For the beach babe (or buoy)
Noah’s Beach, Cape Tribulation (Oz)
Australia has obviously been hit with the beautiful beach stick. It’s got more than 10,000 beaches to choose from and they’re pretty much all worth a visit. It’s not fair, but that’s life.
Most people looking for a beach head straight to the squeaky white sands of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays – and they’re right to. It’s literally postcard perfect! But venture a little further up the East Coast to Cape Tribulation and you’ll be rewarded with the long stretch of wide white sand that is Noah’s Beach.
You’ll struggle to find more than a few souls on the beach at any one time, and it’s backed by the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest. Make the most of it and camp just beyond the trees.
The one downside? Tropical North Queensland is saltwater crocodile country so you can’t swim in the ocean, but there are plenty of swim holes in Cape Tribulation that are safe to cool off in.
New Chums Beach, Coromandel (NZ)
You can always count on good ol’ Aotearoa (that’s Māori for New Zealand, btw) to bring the goods when it comes to nature. OK, so it hasn’t got anywhere near as many beaches to choose from as its bigger, hotter neighbor, but they do tend to be less crowded.
One such beach is New Chums Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, where the waters are warmer and the views are just as hot. It’s only accessible by foot or boat, though. But that just means you can be sure you won’t be sharing the sand with hundreds of other people.
Make the drive to Whangapoua (another great beach) and follow the path on the left-hand side of the beach over tree trunks and rocks. Around 30 minutes later you’ll be in your own little oasis.
Stick a Jack Johnson song on and relax in peace. Or hike up to the lookout for even better views.
For the hiker
Hinchinbrook Island (Oz)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Hinchinbrook Island is the largest island on the Great Barrier Reef. To protect all that is great and wonderful, only 40 people are allowed to stay on the island at any one time. It’s a hiker’s heaven.
Take a boat from Lucinda on the mainland to Ramsay Bay or George’s Point and switch off from there. The main reason people visit the island is to hike the 20mi Thorsborne Trail along the island’s east coast. It takes around five days but you can make it longer if you want to. And with camping costing a mere AUD$5 per day, staying longer is not exactly going to break the bank. Make sure you’re prepared though, it’s not for the faint hearted.
For something less challenging, try the Prince Henry Cliff Walk in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. The 4.5mi (one way) hike hugs the cliff edge of the mountain range, which are named after the blue tinge they wear when seen from a distance.
Pouakai Crossing, Taranaki (NZ)
New Zealand is known for its tramps (that’s hikes to you). It’s got thousands to choose from that take you through every kind of scenery you’d expect to see in the land that brought Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to life – deep valleys, snow-capped mountains and rich forest.
If you’re looking for a full day hike that ticks off all of these, try the 11.5mi Pouakai Crossing in the Taranaki region on the country’s West Coast. It’s much quieter than the famous Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand’s oldest national park, so no need to worry about being photobombed or your overly competitive side coming out when another hiker overtakes you. Doesn’t happen to you? Just us then. That’s embarrassing…
For the island lover
Kangaroo Island (Oz)
Is it even a proper trip to Australia if you don’t see a kangaroo? Jump on a ferry for 45 minutes from Adelaide and bam! You’ll be hanging out with Skippy and his mates in no time.
It’s wild and full of other animals, including koalas, sea lions and wallabies. And it’s rocking the, err, rock formation thing. Plus, it’s got 315mi+ of coastline with some of the best beaches any island lover could want. Fancy frolicking in rock pools? It’s got ‘em. Wanna catch waves with dolphins? You got it. Can you get your tan on amongst sea lions and white sand? You betcha, buddy.
Rangitoto Island (NZ)
This tiny little island off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island is a perfect alternative day trip out of the sprawling city. It’s the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland volcanic field, but don’t worry, scientists say it’s unlikely to erupt again. Leave your campervan on the mainland and head over for a day of hiking up to the summit for views across the Hauraki Gulf, Waitakere Ranges and Hunua Ranges. Or go full adventure mode and kayak over there from Auckland. Even better, try a night kayaking trip.
For the nature lover
Tassie, as it’s affectionately known, is seriously underrated as a destination. It’s got adventure coming out of its ears (if islands had ears). Think warm blue waters, white sand beaches, artsy cities and bumbling wombats and elusive Tasmanian Devils.
Plus, it’s got green rolling hills for days. You could easily think you were touring the great English countryside, until you hit the beach or melt in the Australian sun, obvs.
It’s also home to World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The park’s star is Cradle Mountain, which sits at over 5,000ft above sea level. Impressive rocky outcrops surround pine forests, calm lakes and flowering heaths. You’ll feel like you’re in another land. And who doesn’t want that on an adventurous trip Down Under?
Catlins Forest Park (NZ)
New Zealand’s South Island wins the award for the country’s most impressive national parks. Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park and Abel Tasman National Park are all slap-you-in-the-face beautiful, so they should be on any traveler’s list of places to check out. But so should Catlins Forest Park.
Sitting pretty just up the road from the Southern-most point of the South Island (Slope Point), the park is as green as your mates will be once you show them photos from your trip.
There are countless hikes to get lost on that will take you through moss-laden forest to Purakaunui Falls, Matai Falls and McLean Falls. Or follow coastal tracks to blowholes, surf spots and the mahoosive Cathedral Caves. Oh, and there’s a shipwreck and a century-old lighthouse to explore. OK, we’re done now.
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