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Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific

Toast Uluru, cruise Milford Sound and scuba off Fiji
on these Down Under adventures

By Jennifer Davoren

Vacations Magazine: Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific
Rob Suisted/Tourism New Zealand
See icons in a new light. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, and the
craggy formation of Kata Tjuta share a national park in the rugged Red Centre. Monograms' two-week "Wonders of Australia" pauses here for sunrise and sunset viewings -- the latter complemented by cocktails and canapes -- of these mighty stone monuments as the dawning and fading of a day lends them a celestial glow. Daily departures are available through March 2018, with prices from $3,129.

Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge. This test of bravery hauls hikers more than 400 feet in the air for panoramic views of the capital of New South Wales. Give it a shot as part of a Princess Cruises "debark" tour, with groups clambering up catwalks to the top of this landmark on the final day of an Australian cruise. It's a fitting farewell after a sail around the South Pacific, and the sky-scraping selfie opportunities include background shots of a legendary opera house. Round-trip, 13-night journeys from Sydney head east to skim New Zealand's North and South Islands and are priced from $1,459.

Eat the locals. Join an optional excursion on the six-day "Rock and Red" tour of Australia's Northern Territory and you can sample crocodile, camel, emu and kangaroo meat at Overlanders Steakhouse, an Alice Springs icon. Reserved for Contiki guests ages 18-35, the trip also makes time for a stop at an Outback reptile center -- fair warning, the residents aren't on the menu -- and explores Aboriginal culture with native guides. Departures stretch through September, with prices from $1,030.

Cruise Milford Sound. This site on New Zealand's South Island is a glacier-carved fjord framed by verdant peaks and dramatic waterfalls. The 10-day "Contrasts of New Zealand" tour from Trafalgar cuts through Fiordland National Park to board a boat and putter around the sound for sightings of wildlife like dolphins, fur seals and the Fiordland crested penguin, whose flamboyant yellow eyebrows make for prized photo ops. Prices start at $2,798.

Stomp along with the Maori. The haka is a war dance traditionally performed by New Zealand's indigenous people, though it's well-known internationally as the intimidating pregame ritual of the islands' rugby team, the All Blacks. Learn the moves on "Exploring New Zealand," a 21-day Collette adventure that includes a train ride through the Southern Alps, a flight-seeing tour of glacier country and a hangi dinner -- similar to a luau, the main course is cooked in a pit oven -- accompanied by haka dancers. A handful of departures are available from January through March, though the trip resumes in September and is priced from $4,999.

Dive into French Polynesia. Scuba novices are guided by experts while accomplished divers are treated to rare scenery when sailing the South Pacific with Paul Gauguin Cruises. Shore excursions mean mingling with sharks and rays around Bora Bora, sighting the "soft coral capital of the world" off Fiji or exploring World War II shipwrecks around the Solomon Islands, all with the help of the 332-guest Paul Gauguin, outfitted with a retractable water sports platform for easy sea access. Weeklong journeys from Papeete, on the northern coast of Tahiti, are offered through 2018 and priced from $2,395.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Winter 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.

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