Want to take a vacation that exceeds expectations?
Head to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Here, you can try heli-skiing and heli-fishing in one trip, cruise in a glass-bottomed boat and swim with sharks or eat poached beef fillet with horseradish gnocchi for dinner and simple, traditional country eggs and bacon for breakfast.
"The satisfaction rate in this particular region is the greatest of any geographical area," says Fran Kramer, an agent at Rochester, N.Y.-based DePrez Travel, who specializes in luxury travel to Oceana. "It proves very gratifying, mostly because there's an array of things to do, from wildlife and adventure experiences to spa and beach getaways."
The Treetops Luxury Lodge and Estate in Rotorua, New Zealand, for example, offers everything from fly-fishing tutorials to a food tour that teaches guests about local cuisine and culture. Set within 2,500 acres of secluded forest and game reserve with seven trout streams and four lakes, this resort offers much for the adventurer, including over 70 kilometers of hiking trails as well as mountain bike riding, horse riding and kayaking. Without leaving the estate, you can also join a bird-watching group, embark on a nature trail safari or take a photography class.
If you're less of a mountain climber and more of a beach bum, Debbie Trevino, a luxury travel expert at Naperville, Ill.-based Hobson Travel, says that the all-inclusive St. Regis Bora Bora is one of the most luxurious spots in French Polynesia. Perks include a private butler service, kids-only club and plenty of activities such as jet skiing, jeep safaris, shark feeding and sailing.
The 93 rooms include beachside and over-water villas. The Royal Estate features three separate pavilions, a private pool, three bedrooms, two living rooms, a chef's kitchen and a dining room with an outdoor terrace. Bordered by tropical gardens, there is also a private spa area with treatment room, sauna, hammam and Jacuzzi.
Love the spa scene? At the resort's 13,000-square-foot Miri Miri Spa—which is housed on a private island—guests enjoy treatments inspired by Tahitian and Pacific Rim traditions, incorporating monoi oil, brown algae, pure mother of pearl and luminescent pearl powder into massages and facials.
Inclusive experiences like these are among the hottest tickets on the travel scene. Trevino says travelers "want personalized experiences that include everything, from spa treatments to cultural tours."
They can learn about local traditions at Longitude 131 Degrees in Ayers Rock, Australia, which provides insight into the country's Aboriginal culture by touring the grounds of Ayers Rock (also known as Uluru). And the Huka Lodge in Taupo, New Zealand, offers a three-course dinner that includes dishes like Zealand Whitebait Timbale baked in a lemon-scented Egg Royale, which can be enjoyed at the special dining table in the wine cellar (it houses over 2,000 domestic and imported wines).
And there's more to come. Bradley Cocks, a senior vice-president of Asia-Pacific travel at the Kiwi Collection, says that from Pool to Queensland, new luxury resorts are in development.
"Right now, there's a screaming demand to get away from cookie cutter resorts," he says, "and a desire to travel somewhere that you're going to be stimulated."