From simple day trips to extended explorations, Chloe Cann lines up the best islands in Australia and New Zealand that will give your clients unique perspectives on the countries’ coastlines
For a taste of aboriginal culture and untouched landscapes, Rebecca Turner, senior product manager, Asia and Oceania, Travel 2, says the Tiwi Islands are one of her favourite island escapes in all of Australia and New Zealand. Situated just off the coast of Darwin, the islands are only accessible as part of a day tour, which is hosted by an aboriginal guide. “Known as ‘the islands of smiles’ this truly unique and remote part of Australia is where you’ll experience first-hand the cultural differences between the Polynesian-influenced Tiwi people and the indigenous people of Arnhem Land just across the water,” says Turner. “This isn’t an area developed for tourists, and as such you’ll find unspoiled rainforests, beautiful sandy beaches and secluded waterfalls, not to mention a plethora of flora and fauna found nowhere else. It’s a nature lovers paradise.”
Book it: Add a day trip to the Tiwi Islands with AAT Kings from £155 to a 10-night Travel 2 package, which sandwiches Darwin city stays with a six-day Top End Adventure from £2,729pp, including flights.
The world’s largest sand island, Unesco World Heritage-listed Fraser tops Sue Earnshaw, director at Premier Holidays’, list. One of the island’s top selling points is that it can be reached from either Noosa or Hervey Bay and can be sold as either a day trip or a lengthier stay. She adds that it makes for a great stopover for travellers traversing the east coast. “Fraser Island is a real one-off experience and is definitely worth visiting,” she says. “Driving along the 75-mile beach and on the tracks of soft sand is amazing – if you’ve got the time then stay overnight to see as much as possible. You can swim in fresh water in the inland lakes and laze on the beaches.”
Book it: Premier Holidays offers an independent, two-night tour of Fraser Island from £219pp, including return ferry transfers, two nights’ four-star hotel accommodation with breakfast, and a full-day island highlights excursion (including lunch).
A sweet weekend break for city slickers based in Melbourne and Sydney, the Apple Isle has finally found favour with an international crowd. Located some 150 miles south of Victoria, Julie Brooker, Trafalgar’s head of sales, recommends that agents focus on promoting the culture and landscapes of the island. Almost half of it is made up of Unesco World Heritage Sites, national parks and reserves, which makes it a fantastic destination for nature-loving clients. “It’s geographically and genetically isolated, so a lot of the flora and fauna is unique to Tasmania,” she says. “The island is rich in local produce, wines and traditions so there is a whole epicurean angle that agents can tap into, to include visits to vineyards and dining on the spectacular seafood for which Tasmania is famed, including crayfish, salmon and oysters.”
Book it: Trafalgar offers a 12-day Perfect Tasmania trip from £2,336pp. It focuses on cultural insights and local specialists and includes B&B accommodation, some meals and excursions in luxury coach transport.
Phillip and Kangaroo Islands
On Anzcro’s Coastal Drive and Wildlife trip clients get two wild isles thrown into one itinerary. “Phillip Island is famous for being home to Australia’s largest colony of little penguins,” explains Zoe Woodward, business development manager at Anzcro. The island is connected to mainland Australia by a freeway and is just an hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne, making it a “perfect” day trip destination, she adds. South Australia’s Kangaroo Island on the other hand – which can be reached by car ferry or a flight from Adelaide – is worth an overnight stay, says Woodward. “The island is home to native bush land, wildlife including kangaroo, wallabies, echidna, platypus, seals and koala, pristine beaches, great accommodation and local wineries. It is well worth spending a night or two on the island to explore all it has to offer.”
Book it: Anzcro’s two-week self-drive Coastal Drive and Wildlife itinerary leads in from £1,514pp. The price excludes flights, airport transfers and meals.
It’s a quick hop, skip and a jump from downtown Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, to the serene isle of Waiheke. Affluent, in-the-know Kiwis boast holiday homes on the hilly, green, bohemian island, which features art galleries, craft boutiques and vineyards aplenty. Annabel Cove, head of trade sales and marketing at Do Something Different, says day trips to some of New Zealand’s smaller isles can prove great add-ons for your clients. “Auckland provides a fantastic base for exploring the many lesser-known islands off the coast, which offer some of the most pristine beaches and untouched nature and wildlife in the area. Booking in advance ensures that customers get the most out of their time and money in New Zealand.”
Book it: DSD’s Waiheke Island Explorer Tour leads in from £24 for adults and £12 for children (aged 5-15 years old). The price includes an all-day bus pass, ferry tickets and a 90-minute guided coach tour.
From Auckland, it’s just 45 minutes by ferry to Tiritiri Matangi, an island wildlife sanctuary, which is one of the country’s most important conservation projects. It’s a chance to see a host of New Zealand’s most iconic birds including the flightless takahe. Easy walking tracks lead to the visitor centre and expert rangers are on hand to talk guests through the variety of wildlife. John Lightwood, managing director of Silver Fern Holidays, says: “It’s a fantastic, and very easy introduction to New Zealand’s bird life without having to undertake a major expedition deep into the bush, and you’re back in Auckland in plenty of time for dinner!”
Book it: A day on Tiritiri Matangi can be added on to any of Silver Fern Holidays’ tailor-made itineraries that include Auckland and leads in from £40-£50pp including the ferry and a guided ranger walk.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s big drawcards. And for good reason. Encompassing more than 140 subtropical islands, this northern region of the North Island features turquoise waters and is a site of much historical significance: it is the location of the country’s first permanent British settlement and the place where New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was drawn up and signed. On Titan’s Best of New Zealand tour guests will benefit from a cruise around the bay, exploring some of the many local beauty spots, plus a stay at Copthorne Resort, next to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Ben Davies, head of product and operations at Titan, says: “No one would ever be able to build anything near here nowadays, so by staying here clients are in a privileged and beautiful location. Getting to the Bay of Islands is part of the experience.”
Book it: Titan’s 23-day Best of New Zealand escorted tour, which includes three nights in the Bay of Islands, leads in from £4,299pp. titanagents.co.uk
New Zealand's remote islands
When a daytrip to a peaceful island just won’t do, an expedition cruise may be the answer. In the next year Silversea has several trips aboard its 120-guest Silver Discoverer ship in Australasia. For guests that really want to get under the skin of Maori culture, and to witness truly wild and rugged landscapes, suggest the cruise line’s Dunedin to Lyttleton cruise, which takes in isles your clients have likely never heard of. Conrad Combrink, Silversea’s director of expeditions, says: “Guests can discover the diversity of New Zealand’s landscape, wildlife and culture on this voyage. From the spectacular bird and plant life observed during the natural history walks on Ulva Island to the Zodiac tour of The Snares, a pristine group of islands where guests can go in search of endemic bird species such as the Snares crested penguin and the Snares island snipe.”
Book it: Silversea offers a 16-day Dunedin to Lyttleton cruise from £8,550pp. The cruise departs on January 3, 2016 and includes all food, drink, accommodation, gratuities and excursions, but excludes flights.