Heading Down Under

posted in: Down Under 2024, Plans | 0

I wasn’t sure “Down Under” was the right umbrella term for my next trip. I was thinking “Down Under” might refer specifically to Australia. But according to Wikipedia,

The term Down Under is a colloquialism differently construed to refer to Australia and New Zealand, or the Pacific island countries collectively. The term originally referred solely to Australia and gradually expanded in scope.


In two weeks I’m departing on a month-long trip to Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. There’s no question that these are all Pacific Island countries. So I’m going to call this trip “Down Under 2024.”

My Plan

I booked this trip last February. It’s the Pure New Zealand tour with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). I had previously traveled with OAT twice before: to Chile and Argentina in 2017, and to Peru and Ecuador in 2022. And I had two OAT trips planned for fall of 2023, back-to-back tours to Egypt and to Jordan and Israel, though the Israel tour got canceled after the Hamas attack on October 7. So this will be my fourth OAT trip.

For the New Zealand trip, I also booked a six-day pre-trip extension to Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef as well as a post-trip extension to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. 

Realizing that arriving on a long flight across the International Date Line and diving right into a tour was a bad idea, I decided to go a few days early. As I was researching flights, I discovered that Fiji Airways offers stopovers in Fiji. So I booked four nights in Fiji before the tour.

Last December I was notified by OAT that they were canceling the pre-trip extension in Australia. Since I already had my flights, I decided that I would fill six nights in Australia on my own. So my final itinerary includes all the arrangements I made for four nights in Fiji and six nights in Australia prior to the beginning of the OAT tour in New Zealand.

Here, then, is… 

My Itinerary

March 22

Fly Guadalajara (GDL) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Aeromexico flight 782; depart 10:00, arrive 12:41
Fly Los Angeles to Nadi (NAN)
Fiji Airways flight 811; depart 23:45

March 23

Cross the International Date Line

March 24

Arrive Nadi 05:45
Transfer to Port Denarau Marina
Malolo Cat ferry to Malolo Lailai Island
Check in at Lomani Island Resort

Map provided by Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android
Zoom and scroll the map for details, and click the markers for more information about each location.

March 25–27

Relaxing and enjoying the resort and the island

March 28

Return to Nadi Airport
Fly Nadi to Sydney (SYD)
Fiji Airways flight 911; depart 09:00, arrive 12:30
Check in at Little National Hotel
19:30: West Side Story at Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

Places mapped by Wanderlog, the best trip planner app on iOS and Android
Zoom and scroll the map for details, and click the markers for more information about each location.

March 29

10:30: Free Walking Tour — Sydney and the Rocks
Rest of the day free

March 30

07:00: Sydney Opera House Backstage Tour
15:30: Bonza Bike Tours Manly Beach & Sunset Cruise

March 31

Fly Sydney to Cairns (CNS)
Virgin Australia flight 1413; depart 08:10, arrive 10:25
Check in at Oaks Cairns Hotel
Rest of the day free

April 1

Ocean Free sail to Green Island and snorkeling Great Barrier Reef

April 2

Kuranda Scenic Railway Tour

April 3

Fly Cairns to Brisbane (BNE)
Jetstar flight 931; depart 09:00, arrive 11:10
Fly Brisbane to Auckland (AKL)
Jetstar flight 189; depart 16:10, arrive 22:20
Check in at voco Auckland City Centre

April 4

Morning: Free

Afternoon: Meet OAT tour group; orientation walk; welcome briefing

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a vacation planner app on iOS and Android
Zoom and scroll the map for details, and click the markers for more information about each location.

April 5

Morning: Walking tour of Auckland

Controversial Topic: Meeting with a representative of the Ngati Whatua people. They will perform a traditional welcome ceremony in their native Maori. Then they will talk about the legitimacy of the Treaty of Waitangi—New Zealand’s founding document—and how it led to a discriminatory impact on the country’s Maori population, who now experience disproportionate poverty.

Afternoon: Free

Evening: Group welcome dinner

April 6

Morning: Ferry to Waiheke Island. Winery visit.

Waiheke Island

Afternoon: Olive oil estate visit.

Evening: Return to Auckland.

April 7

Morning: Drive to Hamilton Gardens.

Afternoon: Continue to Rotorua. Visit the National Kiwi Hatchery. Check in at Distinction Rotorua.

April 8

Visit a Ngati Manawa community in Murupara. Continue to Kohutapu Lodge, on the shores of Lake Aniwhenua for lunch with a Maori family. Spend the afternoon with the community. Then return to Rotorua.

April 9

Morning: Waimangu Volcanic Valley tour (optional add-on). 

Afternoon: Return to Rotorua.

Evening: Home hosted dinner with a Maori family.

April 10

Morning: Fly Rotorua (ROT) to Christchurch (CHC)
Air New Zealand flight 5785; depart 11:30; arrive 13:25

Afternoon: Check in at Rydges Latimer Christchurch
Walking tour

April 11

Morning: Drive to a sheep farm in Rubicon Valley
Lunch on the farm

Afternoon: Return to Christchurch
Rest of the day free

April 12

Morning: Drive to Oamaru. Lunch and free time to explore.

Afternoon: Drive to Dunedin. Stop to see the Moeraki Boulders. Check in at Distinction Dunedin Hotel. Rest of the day and evening free.

Moeraki Boulders, outside Dunedin

April 13

Morning: Visit Larnach Castle. Walking tour of Dunedin.

Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rest of the day free.

April 14

Drive to Milford Sound. Overnight cruise on Milford Sound aboard the Milford Mariner.

Mitre Peak on Milford Sound

April 15

Drive to Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Then continue to Queenstown. Check in at Heritage Queenstown. Rest of the day and evening free.

April 16

Morning: Free

Afternoon: Jet boat ride on the Dart River (optional add-on).

Evening: Free

April 17

Morning: Visit Arrowtown.

Afternoon: Return to Queenstown. Rest of the afternoon free.

Evening: Cruise across Lake Wakatipu to a restaurant for a farewell dinner.

Lake Wakatipu

April 18

Begin post-trip extension to Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand.

Morning: Fly Queenstown (ZQN) to Auckland
Air New Zealand flight 624; depart 09:25, arrive 11:15
Drive to Parry Kauri Park for a walk beneath the kauri trees.
Continue to Whangārei for lunch.

Afternoon: Continue to Kawakawa to visit Hundertwasser Toilets. Continue to Paihia. Check in at Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands.

Photo by Ted Drake

Evening: free

April 19

Morning: Free

Afternoon: Catamaran cruise on Bay of Islands, ending at Russell, first capital of New Zealand. Dinner in Russell.

Evening: Cruise back to Paihia. Rest of the evening free.

Bay of Islands

April 20

Morning: Visit Waitangi Treaty House.

It was here that representatives of the British Crown and many leading Maori chiefs of the North and South islands signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The Treaty is seen as the founding document that transformed the homeland the Maori called Aotearoa into the nation of New Zealand.

Rest of the day free.

April 21

Drive to Auckland. Check in at Novotel Auckland Airport

April 22

Fly Auckland to Nadi
Fiji Airways flight 410; depart 13:05, arrive 16:05

Fly Nadi to Los Angeles
Fiji Airways flight 810; depart 21:40, arrive 12:55

Check in at Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport

April 23

Fly Los Angeles to Mexico City (MEX)
Aeromexico flight 647; depart 11:45, arrive 16:25

Fly Mexico City to Guadalajara
Aeromexico flight 250; depart 17:50, arrive 19:29

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