10 Bucket List Destinations on a Cruise to New Zealand and the South Pacific

Dive into turquoise waters at the Bay of Islands, go wine tasting across South Island and more all in one getaway.
by 2018

The Sydney Opera House in Australia is one of the most famous buildings from the 20th century.

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The opportunity to discover and enjoy the natural beauty while on a cruise to Australia, New Zealand and beyond is a dream trip for many. You can be drawn to the South Pacific’s beautiful beaches to kick back and recharge or to swim with and admire the local sea turtles from afar. And if you’re itching for more action, you can lace up your hiking boots or strap on your kayaking gear to explore one-of-a-kind landscapes like Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.

Fun fact: “The Lord of the Rings” movies were filmed in more than 150 locations across New Zealand, several of which you can visit on a Royal Caribbean cruise. More on that below!

Whether you’re beginning your Down Under adventure in Sydney on Ovation or Radiance of the Seas, or Quantum of the Seas in Brisbane, you will set course for multiple awe-inspirations that every type of traveler and member of the family will enjoy.

We’ve rounded up 10 must-see destinations on a cruise to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific that are sure to satisfy your wanderlust:

Take in fairy-tale beauty in Dunedin, New Zealand, which is home to the country’s only castle.

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1. Dunedin, New Zealand

Known as the Edinburgh, Scotland, of the Southern Hemisphere, Dunedin offers unique landscapes and stunning wildlife. This city is home to the world’s rarest penguin colonies and the Royal Albatross Center—where there’s the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the northern royal albatross. As the second-largest city in South Island, Dunedin is also known for beautiful architecture, a thriving arts scene and its charming atmosphere.


Picton, New Zealand, is a major center for trade, culture, food, and, of course, wine.

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2. Picton, New Zealand

Picture-perfect Picton in New Zealand is the gateway to Marlborough wine country. Food and wine lovers will have plenty to enjoy at this world-class destination, including more than 35 tasting cellars. You can sip your way through some of the best sauvignon blanc against the backdrop of the breathtaking waterfront that just can’t be missed—make sure to take out your phone or camera to capture the moment.


Live out your “The Lord of the Rings” fantasies in Tauranga, New Zealand.

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3. Tauranga, New Zealand

For any true fan of “The Lord of the Rings,” Tauranga in New Zealand offers the ultimate Tolkien experience because it’s the preserved movie set where The Shire was brought to life in the critically acclaimed saga of movies. It’s among the most unique sights in the world, and travelers come from all over to explore the lush pastures (there are nearly 12 acres) and 44 Hobbit Holes. If you’ve always wanted to travel to Middle Earth, this is sure to be one of your favorite places. While you’re there, also visit Whakarewarewa Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand’s only living Maori village.


Mele Cascades is known for its ethereal beauty, and it’s just a short distance from Port Vila.

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4. Port Vila, Vanuatu 

Port Vila is Vanuatu’s energetic capital and one of the happiest places you could visit; it’s full of friendly locals, incredible works of art of all kinds and touches of French influence. There’s also plenty of adventure to be had. In the rainforest, you’ll find the hidden Mele Cascades waterfalls waiting to be explored. Nearby on the island of Pele, you can also snorkel in clear waters for the perfect refreshment after a day spent wandering Mama’s Market to find the perfect handmade memento to take home.


Noumea Cathedral offers unique views of the island of New Caledonia.

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5. Noumea, New Caledonia

Where else can you combine French cooking with tropical ingredients but Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia? This delightful city is a favorite destination, offering a unique blend of French and Melanesian culture. The island is home to many ethnicities and cultures, and its upbeat, sunny streets are full of life and color, with museums, art galleries and theaters. You’ll also want to climb to the top of Noumea’s famous Roman Catholic cathedral, dedicated to Saint Joseph, for unparalleled views of the whole island.


Sail through Bay of Islands’ well-known Hole in the Rock.

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6. Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Located near New Zealand’s North Island, the sky and sea in the Bay of Islands must be seen to be believed. These 144 subtropical islands are a famous destination because of their wild beauty and the bottlenose dolphins that call it home. Sail through the iconic Hole in the Rock, officially named Piercy Island, and you may even catch sight of them. Adding to the adventure, Bay of Islands is also rich in history; this town is home to the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.


The architecture in Napier makes it a one-of-a-kind destination in New Zealand.

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7. Napier, New Zealand 

After an earthquake in 1931, the strong-willed people of Napier, New Zealand, rebuilt their city. Today, that 1930s architecture is famous and beautifully preserved. There are art deco buildings from left to right; it’s almost as if you’ve stepped back in time. There’s something here for every type of traveler. Amid Norfolk Island pines and white-winged gannets, you’ll find world-class New Zealand dining at Pacifica, one of the country’s best-known restaurants, and you can even indulge in purchasing jars of homemade manuka honey in the business district.


Lifou’s coral reefs are well-preserved and teaming with wildlife.

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8. Lifou, Loyalty Islands

If you’re chasing idyllic beaches, then look no further than Lifou of the Loyalty Islands. Jump and snorkel in the emerald waters that are home to more than 2,000 fish species, and marvel at the pristine coral reef of the largest Loyalty Island. Lifou and its sister islands’ coral reefs are known for their preserved, untouched beauty because they are so well protected by the locals. There is also a proud and strong native culture you can learn about, thanks to the Melanese people who call Lifou home.


The horizon on the Isle of Pines is distinct with a collection of lush pine trees.

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9. Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Also called “The Jewel of the Pacific,” Isle of Pines is named for its characteristic pine trees. Surrounded by New Caledonia’s barrier reef, this place is a natural haven where you can hike N’ga Peak to enjoy panoramic views of the entire island before cooling off in the natural pool that is the crystal-clear water of Oro Bay. A truly magical experience, Isle of Pines also offers market stalls for shopping and a small hub of local culture and cuisine.


An escape from modern society, Mystery Island offers an experience like no other.

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10. Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Mystery Island is uninhabited, almost untouched and only accessible by cruise ship or if you live nearby on Aneityum. This unique destination is a refuge where you can explore the white sand shoreline and snorkel in warm waters for what we like to call a “coral safari.” Once you’ve had your fill of kicking back at the beach, enjoy stand-up paddle boarding or swimming around the lush bay in cool island style.


This part of the world is full of amazing natural wonders and breathtaking places. Explore these destinations and more on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the South Pacific.