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In the footsteps of giants: Australia & New Zealand

16th Jan 2013 by Just You

Let the most famous faces from Down Under inspire some amazing Antipodean travels.

There's nothing to beat the diversity and colour Australia and New Zealand have to offer. Between them they boast desert and rainforest, outback and mountain top, simmering volcanoes and truly weird rocks. The lands Down Under are full of unique creatures, perfect beaches and laid-back cities, strong indigenous cultures and some of the world's most delectable wines. And - whether you meet a surf dude, sporting hero or movie star – you're sure to receive a warm and friendly welcome.

Bowled over

It's ironic the Australians are so good at cricket. The neat strip of green required for the game seems contrary to this rugged land, ruled by rich desert reds, azure ocean shorelines and eucalyptus blues. Indeed,the country has less in common with the genteel sport than with its most famous proponent. Leg-spin bowler Shane Warne, born near Melbourne, is something of a character – brilliant but wild. Much like Australia itself…

The country is just too big to be tamed. Take the Great Barrier Reef – 2,900 separate coral clusters stretching 1,600 miles along the east coast. Bright fishes flit, turtles dance, sharks lurk and whales cruise by. Amid all this marine splendour, tropical islands provide perfect launch pads for you to dive in and explore the depths.

Grit & glamour

The country's untamed nature and glorious colour was captured in full cinematic glory in Baz Luhrmann's movie Australia. Local lass Nicole Kidman sashays through the intoxicating Outback – sun bleached ranches, ochre mountains and really big blue skies.

The nation has plenty for Kidman's starlet side too. Australia's cities – from glamorous Sydney to perpetually sunny Perth, graceful Adelaide and always-lively Melbourne – are fit for Hollywood royalty. However, the truly refined should sample the country's great wine regions. The Barossa Valley, for instance, presents a divine day-trip from Adelaide. Drive through vine-covered hillsides to hidden vineyards where you can sample the latest award-winning vintages.

Middle earth made real

For New Zealand-born director Peter Jackson, there was nowhere better than his homeland to shoot The Lord of the Rings trilogy and he later returned there to film prequel The Hobbit, released at the end of last year. It's no surprise – New Zealand has the dramatic geography required for such epic films: menacing volcanoes, bucolic rolling hills, sweeping snow-capped mountains, icy glaciers and mysterious forests. They're all perfect for Frodo's journey and you couldn't build a better movie set.

New Zealand's scenery is easy to explore. Hiking trails wind their way through the hills and along the wave-crashed coast. Comfy vessels cruise into sheer-sided fiords while jetboats zoom down wild rivers. Panoramic cable cars ascend rugged slopes and tiny aeroplanes glide over summits for awesome overviews. And scenic trains climb alpine highs, so you can watch Middle-earth roll right by the window.

Top tours Down Under

Meet new mates on the Amazing Australia adventure. Together, you can snorkel over the world's biggest coral reef, catch the sunset over Ayers Rock, chill out on Sydney's Bondi Beach, and toast a fine trip in laid-back Melbourne.

On the Breathtaking New Zealand tour, dive in to Rotorua's hot springs, see Wellington, Christchurch, and Milford Sound and ride the TranzAlpine train to Arthur's Pass for fantastic views.

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