Down Under Connections

Australasia or Oceania is the geographical term for Australia, New Zealand and the islands in the South Pacific.  These areas share some common history but each are very unique.  Australia is the dominant land mass in the region but it is a fairly dry continent with a barren center.  Wet and green New Zealand is a great contrast to landscapes of Australia.  The islands of the South Pacific vary greatly as well with each island contributing a unique landscape and distinct culture.

The following are just a few destination possibilities in Oceania:

Australia

Photo by Peter Hannan

Australia is a top "dreamed about" destination for many travelers.  This far away land has filled our imaginations since we were children looking at a map of this land "down under".  Australia has some of the best scenery, best beaches, and best snorkeling/diving.  All of this in a climate with lots of sunshine to light up the land's many colors.

Australia is a large country with a land mass approximately the size of the continental United States.  Visitors need to keep Australia's great size in mind when planning the destinations they'd like to visit.

Photo by Timothy Hannan

Sydney is a favorite city among travelers and it is a great starting point for an Australia trip.  The city is located on the world's largest natural harbor and one of the world's most beautiful.  Explore the city by hopping on one of the many ferries that connect Sydney's neighborhoods.  Then head to the famous Bondi Beach and walk along the coastal walk which connects Bondi to other beaches on Sydney's east coast.  Of course, there's no better way to end a day in Sydney than attend a performance at the Sydney Opera House.

After visiting Sydney, travelers will typically either fly north to the Great Barrier Reef or west to the Outback.  The Great Barrier Reef is 1,250 miles long so there are many unique locations and ways to experience it.  Find the best experiences for your preferences and budget.  Traveling to the "barren heart" of Australia, the Outback, is the opposite of visiting the Reef.  The red sands of the Great Victoria Desert are home to fantastic rock formations such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm.

New Zealand

Photo by Timothy Hannan

On the map, the small, remote and sparcely populated island nation of New Zealand doesn't seem like a whole lot.  Once your visit this nation of 4 million, you will fall in love with its amazing natural beauty and its friendly people.  New Zealand has always lived in the shadow of Australia.  This island nation is quite different from its larger neighbor.  The scenery is beautiful with tall mountains, dramatic fjords, icy glaciers and lush green rainforests.  Its culture is also unique with much influence from the native Maori people and even a unique Kiwi accent.

Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) is "the land of the long white cloud".  It is broken up into two distinct islands, the North Island and the South Island.  Ideally a visitor will visit both islands to experience their unique differences.  The North Island is home to Auckland, New Zealand's largest city and sailing capital of the world with a large natural harbor.  The island is also home to a geothermal wonderland (near Rotoroa) and Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.
Photo by Peter Hannan

The sparsely populated South Island is where nature takes over in grand form.  The mountains of the Southern Alps climb as high as 12,000 ft. and have numerous glaciers and glacial lakes.  In the southwest corner of the island is Milford Sound, a dramatic and lush fjord located in Fjordland National Park.  Over the mountains from the fjords is Queenstown, a resort town that serves as the hub for tourism in the Southern Alps.  On the north end of the South Island is Abel Tasman National Park which features golden beaches, sculptured rocky cliffs, turquoise inlets and a famous walking track.

Tahiti & French Polynesia

Photo by Tahiti Tourisme

French Polynesia is a collection of several island groups in the South Pacific.  Tahiti is actually the main island of the territory and home to the capital, Papeete, and the international airport.  The islands are often thought of as only an exotic and posh honeymoon destination.  The reality is the islands can be enjoyed by everyone, even travelers on a budget.

Captain James Cook called the island of Bora Bora "pearl of the Pacific."  It is the most expensive and luxurious of the islands but rewards visitors with jagged volcanic peaks surrounded by crystal-clear lagoons.  The island of Moorea also has top luxury and scenery, located just a 30 minute ferry ride from Papeete.  For more a more affordable and off-the-beaten path experience, travel to Huahine Island or Raiatea Island.

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