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In Sydney, if you are docking in Circular Quay then the Opera House and Harbour bridge are right there, and there is some great photo opportunities. If you are there on a weekend then The Rocks market is on just a short walk away, which is a street market with a mix of food, art and homewares. A ferry ride on the harbour is a must, I would suggest the one from Circular Quay to Manly, you pass the Opera House and Prime Ministers Sydney residence on the way, and Manly is a great place for lunch and a visit to one of Sydney's most famous beaches. Be sure to grab an icecream from Gelatissimo at the Ferry terminal
Another way to experience the harbour is a jet boat ride, lots of fun and there is even one that goes out the heads and down to Bondi Beach, which is probably Australia's most famous beach.
I haven't been to those other cites so I can't comment sorry With these ones, except for Healsville Sanctuary they can all be done on there own without a guide. Sydney is very easy to get around with either walking, the ferries or a small subway system. Melbourne CBD is well serviced by trams and a small subway, or just by walking.
I hope this helps!
Melbourne city is less about landmarks and more about the culture. Wandering around the streets and laneways and discovering shops and cafes is what this city is all about. China Town is a great area, as well as the Greek precinct in Lonsdale St. Collin's St is known as the "Paris End" of Melbourne and has the upmarket clothes boutiques.
You have to stop at a little cafe in one of the lanes and treat yourself to a good coffee, Melbourne is known for it cafe culture and for making a fabuous coffee. There are also some great chocolate shops like Koko Black, Max Brenners and Haigh's to treat yourself at
Another must is a trip to the Queen Victoria Market on the northern edge of the CBD. A giant open air marketplace which sells everything from clothing to pottery. There is a huge food hall area that sells fresh meat, fish, vegetables and delicatessen products. It's fantastic wandering through the fresh produce area listening to all the sellers competing with each other for your business. The deli area is a great place to sample all the best produce Australia has to offer, from cheeses to dips to fresh bread and anti pasto. http://www.qvm.com.au/qvm/qvm_home.aspx
If you want to get out of the city then a trip to Healsville Sactuary is great. It's about an hour and a half out of the city surrounded by beautiful bush scenery. You can see native Australian animals in there natural habitat, feed kangaroo's and wallabies and even hold a Koala. http://www.zoo.org.au/HealesvilleSanctuary
in NZ, at Tauranga, a visit to Rotorua is highly recommended as it is an unique geothermal area with geysers and mud pools. if you have visited other similar geothermal areas somewhere else in the world then give Rotorua a miss.
the ship excursion would be expensive but you can be sure that the ship will not sail off without you.
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Hi Dana. Planning for the trip is such a great idea. We did a biking tour of Sydney last month through bikebuffs and had a fantastic time - saw so much of the city, across the Harbor Bridge, to Luna Park, ate lunch in the Botanical Garden. It was fantastic. There are several walking tours of Melbourne - we did one with David for three hours which I highly recommend. The Taronga Zoo is phenomenal - you get there by ferry right from Circular Quey where your ship is docked, best zoo I've ever visited. Now I'm researching NZ for next year so it will be good to see what others recommend for you.
You are right, it's a loaded question which is impossible to answer without knowing your interests, preferences, budget, timeframe, mobility, the time of year, the list goes on. Cruise lines usually provide excursions to local places of interest so that's a good place to start your research. Make Google your friend
Haven 12.5, the Sydney bike tour sounds like lots of fun. I will check that out! Room010, believe it or not, I am a "Google" queen. I spend a lot of time on this message board, too. It's always nice to get specific ideas and input from the posters.
I am sure others had tours or sites that are their "must sees.". I look forward to reading more!