Australia and New Zealand in 8 Days

Whenever we pick our next destination, we always consider where and how we can save most. We want to travel the whole world anyway, so why not start with the easier ones?

For the fourth installment of our honeymoon series, we booked tickets to Sydney, Australia via Cebu Pacific eight months early (we were literally at the boarding gate for our trip to Dubai when we booked because there was an ongoing seat sale). We intended to have just a 5-day trip from October 28 to November 1, 2017. It was the perfect vacation because we just had to take a day off from work considering that October 28 and 29 was a weekend, and October 31 and November 1 were national holidays. However, plans changed when we were notified by Cebu Pacific in September that our November 1 return flight was cancelled and moved to November 2 (which was a Thursday). Of course, they offered us either a refund or a change in schedule. Then, we thought, maybe it would be better to move our return flight to the following Sunday, November 5, and maybe visit New Zealand, too.

While trying to build an itinerary for 8 Days in both Australia and New Zealand, and checking visa requirements for both countries, we realized that New Zealand has waived its visa fees for Filipino passport holders since early this year. On the other hand, Australia still requires the P5,700 tourist visa fee for Filipino passport holders. We thought the Australian visa fee was too steep for such a short visit and explored the possibility of just going to New Zealand for the entire duration of our trip.

Upon researching some more, we found out that since we were going to take another flight with a different airline from Sydney to New Zealand (at that point, we weren’t sure where in New Zealand yet), we needed to apply for a transit visa from the Australian Embassy, which is free of charge (we just have to pay for processing fees), because we needed to exit the immigration gates and pick up our luggage at the baggage carousel, and re-enter the immigration gates after checking-in for our flight to New Zealand. Since a transit visa is valid for up to 72 hours from entry to Australia, we thought of staying a few days in Sydney and tour the city as well, just like we had originally planned.  (NOTE: A transit visa is primarily for transit, meaning the applicant must be able to prove to the embassy that he or she is in Australia to transit to another country.)

The next challenge was how to fit everything we wanted to do into an 8-Day itinerary.

New Zealand is divided into two main islands, the North Island and South Island. While North Island is home to Hobbiton and Auckland City, South Island boasts of majestic sceneries like the Southern Alps and pristine turquoise-colored lakes. Several blogs advise to just focus on either the North Island or the South Island for a one or two-week trip. Considering we had to allot a couple of days in Sydney, and another day for our return flight to Manila, we were left with just five days to spend in New Zealand. For days, we contemplated on whether we should just focus on one island but we couldn’t resist the charm of both Hobbiton and the Southern Alps. Hence, we came up with the itinerary below:

Day 0 – Flight to Sydney

Days 1 to 3 – Sydney

Day 3.5 – 5 – North Island (Hobbiton and Rotorua as our intended destinations)

Day 5.5 to 7 – South Island (Mt. Cook, Lake Tekapo, Castle Hill, Akaroa as our intended destinations)

Day 8 – Flight to Sydney, then Manila

We mostly walked and used public transportation (i.e. the train system) during our three days in Sydney. However, in New Zealand, cars are still the best form of transportation, and so we had to rent one to be able to drive around (NOTE: People in New Zealand drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. A tourist who has a driver’s license in his or her own country may drive in New Zealand for a period not more than 12 months. We’ll write about driving in New Zealand on a separate article.)

It was our first time in the continent of Australia, and we had the most amazing time visiting both countries! We were able to tour the harbor cities of Sydney and Auckland, have breakfast with the koalas and see different species of animals native to Australia, ride the steepest furnicular railway in the world, swim at a world-famous beach, visit the Hobbiton movie set, hike to see a glacier lake in the end, and take one of the most scenic drives in the world.

Here’s our actual itinerary:

October 28

  • 12:00 AM – Flight from Manila to Sydney
  • 10:00 AM (Sydney Time) – Arrival in Sydney (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Sydney.)
  • 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM – DIY City tour (The Rocks, Sydney Observatory, Sydney Harbor Bridge, Opera House, Circular Quay, Royal Botanic Garden, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park, Market St.)

October 29

  • 7:00 AM – Darling Harbour
  • 7:30 AM – Breakfast with the Koalas and Sydney Wild Life Zoo
  • 11:00 AM – Traveled to Blue Mountains via train
  • 1:00 PM – Blue Mountains: Three Sisters, Echo Point, Scenic World
  • 6:00 PM – Traveled back to Sydney
  • 8:00 PM – Dinner at Darling Harbour

October 30

  • 7:00 AM – Bondi Beach
  • 10: 00 AM – Sydney Tower Eye, Queen Victoria Mall
  • 3:45 PM – Flight to Auckland, New Zealand
  • 8:45 PM (Auckland time) — Arrived in Auckland, New Zealand

October 31

  • 7:00 AM – Explored Auckland City (Aotea Square, Auckland Tower) (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Auckland City.)
  • 9:00 AM – Drove to Hobbiton, Matamata
  • 12:00 PM – Hobbiton Tour
  • 2:00 PM – Drove to Rotorua
  • 3:30 PM – Redwoods Forest
  • 5:30 PM – Te Puia (Geyser and Maori Cultural Heritage Site)
  • 6:30 PM – Drove to Lake Taupo
  • 7:30 PM – Huka Falls, Lake Taupo
  • 8:30 PM – Drove back to Auckland City
  • 11:30 PM – Arrived in Auckland City

November 1

  • 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM – Explored Auckland City (One Tree Hill, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Harbour)
  • 1:00 PM – Flight to Christchurch City
  • 2:00 PM – Arrival in Christchurch City (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Christchurch.)

November 2

  • 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM — Day trip to Akaroa (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Akaroa)
  • 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM — Explore Christchurch City (Transitional Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch Cathedral, Container Mall, Avon River, North Hagley Park, Christchurch Botanic Gardens
  • 9:00 PM – Dinner at INATI

November 3

  • 10:00 AM – Drove to Castle Hill
  • 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM – Explored Castle Hill
  • 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM – Drove to Lake Tekapo (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Lake Tekapo.)
  • 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM – Visited Lake Tekapo and Church of Good Shepherd

November 4

  • 7:00 AM – Drove to Lake Pukaki
  • 8:00 AM – Lake Pukaki
  • 9:00 AM – Drove to Mt. Cook National Park (Click here for the best accommodation deals in Mt. Cook National Park.)
  • 10:00 AM – Arrival in Mt. Cook National Park
  • 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM – Hooker Valley Hike
  • 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM – Drove to Christchurch

November 5

  • 6:00 AM (Christchurch Time) – Flight to Sydney
  • 9:00 AM (Sydney Time) – Arrival in Sydney
  • 1:00 PM (Sydney Time) – Flight to Manila
  • 6:00 PM (Manila Time) – Arrival in Manila

Budget/expenses, visa application, and detailed guides on the places we visited to follow.

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