Down Under
Published Nov/Dec 2004

See australia and New Zealand by sea.

Although Australia and New Zealand lie literally on the other side of the world from the United States, visitors will feel at home in these two nations. A shared language, English, is also the dominant language "down under," and a host of other similarities in national character and style accent the striking landscapes, unique wildlife, and distinctive cultural traditions of these two nations.

A continent as well as a nation, Australia encompasses vast areas of wild country known as the outback, superb beaches and surfing grounds, a vast coral reef teeming with marine life, and an incredible array of wildlife that includes kangaroos, koala bears, wombats, and the unique platypus. But, there is another side of Australia embodied in Sydney, one of the world's great cities.

Southeast of Australia in the South Pacific, New Zealand comprises two main islands—known simply as South Island and North Island—and numerous small islets. Though tiny compared to its neighbor, New Zealand boasts a variety of natural features and recreational opportunities to rival any place in the world. The North Island features the bustling metropolis and world yacht racing capital of Auckland, exotic black sand beaches, and lush green hills. The South Island's mountainous terrain and glaciers have earned it the title of "Switzerland of the South Pacific."

Cruises that call at ports in Australia and New Zealand include longer Pacific voyages and world-circling itineraries. Some lines, however, schedule cruise programs focusing on these two destinations, either together or separately. Because they are located in the Southern Hemisphere, summer arrives in December there, but their mild climates make these two destinations attractive cruise venues any time of the year.

Ports of call

Cruise vacationers will immediately recognize the famous Sydney Opera House, located on the city's harbor. This cosmopolitan metropolis is Australia's largest city, with outstanding shopping, particularly for wool products and native arts and crafts, a lively nightlife, in keeping with the fun-loving character of Australia, and outstanding museums.

The 1,000-foot-tall AMP Tower gives visitors touring the city an all-encompassing view of Sydney and its surroundings. Part of a central city shopping complex, the tower includes two revolving restaurants, along with the observation area.

A short journey from the heart of Sydney takes cruise visitors to wonderful beaches, including the world-famous Bondi Beach, where they can enjoy a day in the sun and surf and even have some shrimp from the "barbie."

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens encompass 75 acres in the heart of the city and treat visitors to an outstanding collection of native and imported plants in landscaped gardens, living museums, and greenhouses. Historic sites dating back to the days when Australia was a British penal colony, fountains, monuments, and recreational facilities also make this a popular attraction.

The northeastern resort town of Cairns serves as the entrance point to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the largest living coral formation in the world. Excursions to the country's outback interior also depart from Cairns.

Diving and snorkeling excursions to the Great Barrier Reef area are a must for visitors to this part of Australia. The vast array of marine life and colorful coral formations in this underwater wonderland has to be experienced to be believed.

Local artists and craftsmen sell their works at the Pier Marketplace adjacent to Trinity Wharf in Cairns. Another popular marketplace is at the nearby village of Kuranda, located at the edge of the Atherton Tableland rain forest.

Among Australia's favorite vacation playgrounds, Cairns offers ample opportunities for cruise visitors to sample the fun and easy-going ambiance of this seaside city. More active cruisers can enjoy a day of canoeing, whitewater rafting, or horseback riding at the Atherton Tableland rainforest, and the truly adventurous can try bungee jumping.

Auckland is home of the America's Cup winning Kiwis, named for New Zealand's unique avian symbol. This island country's capital is also a lively city and gateway to the North Island's many attractions.
A horseback riding excursion offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore a countryside that includes quiet forests, gently rolling plains and farmland, and rugged coastal areas with distinctive black sand beaches, remnants of the island's volcanic origin.

New Zealand is a nation of sailors, and the lovely waters of Auckland's harbor invite visitors to enjoy a day on the water under canvas. The New Zealand National Maritime Museum exhibits illustrate the city's nautical history, including triumphs in the America's Cup competition, and the many yachts in the nearby marinas tempt even dyed-in-the-wool landlubbers.

The distinctive traditions and culture of the native Maori, New Zealand's earliest settlers, are evident throughout New Zealand. An excursion to Rotorua, in the center of North Island, allows cruise visitors to get a first-hand look at the history and life of the Maori.

For information on a cruise to Australia or New Zealand, see your AAA Travel agent.

Cruises that call at Australia or New Zealand may be part of a longer Pacific itinerary.

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