New Zealand Garden Festivals 2018

19 Days

From £6995pp

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  • Multiple tours and tastings in South Island vineyards
  • Vintage steamer cruise across Lake Wakatipu
  • A night of warm and welcoming Māori culture

Two breathtaking islands; innumerable highlights. We take in Taranaki and Marlborough festivals as part of this extended voyage to the ends of the earth. There simply aren’t superlatives enough.

What takes in two islands, two festivals, and over eleven thousand miles? Well, that would be our brand new tour to the incomparable New Zealand. We don't think there's ever been any doubt that we take our gardens very seriously here at Brightwater, and that is amply demonstrated here, on this 16-day odyssey to the other side of the globe.

Allow us to take you on a horticultural journey like no other, created to coincide with the world-class Taranaki and Marlborough garden festivals, and encompassing (while we're at it) botanical gardens, private outdoor spaces, and wild reserves alike.

But the once-in-a-lifetime experiences don't end there. Join us on excursions to to award-winning wineries, steamy geysers and brightly-coloured hot springs, thunderous waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries, and much, much more. Plus, experience the warmth of the Māori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, performances, and storytelling, sure to linger in the memory for many years to come.

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Day 1

Depart on our flight to Auckland.

Day 2

In flight.

Day 3

Landing in Auckland, we make our way from the airport to the site of our first visit: Beverley McConnell’s 12-acre country garden, Ayrlies, one of the most celebrated gardens in New Zealand. Here, maple woodland complements large ponds connected by a tumbling stream and edged in hostas, irises and other damp-loving plants, and there are collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and masses of old roses twining through trees and over pergolas. Wandering paths lead to some surprises and garden seats take advantage of delightful vistas with distant views of the sea.

This evening, we enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel's restaurant.

Day 4

After breakfast, we check out of our hotel, ready to dive into our first full day. Before we begin our southward journey though, we take the opportunity to see the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, home to 10,000 varied plants, 10 hectares of native bush, lakes, streams and native wetland, and a large perennial garden with themed bedding. From Auckland, we break our journey in Hamilton with a visit to the impressive Hamilton Gardens, whose unique theme — 'the story of gardens' — is explored through a series of five remarkable garden collections.

From Hamilton we continue to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua, 'the Sulphur City'. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautiful coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by mineral water. Rotorua also has a large Māori population, whose cultural activities are interesting and accessible, as we discover this evening on a visit to Tamaki Māori Village. Here, we experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling and hāngī feasting.

Day 5

This morning we head south, breaking our journey at the magnificent Huka Falls, where several viewing platforms provide excellent vantage points and photo opportunities. We continue by way of scenic Lake Taupo to the fertile Taranaki region, dominated by Mount Taranaki. On arrival in New Plymouth we head to Tikorangi for a visit to the Jury Garden, owned by world-renowned plant breeders the Jury family. This large landscaped garden has one of the most outstanding collections in the country and has been rated as a Garden of National Significance.

Dinner is included at our hotel's restaurant this evening.

Day 6

Today, we take in the city sights on a tour of New Plymouth, featuring the gardens and beaches of this unique town. Our tour includes visits to the Pukeiti Garden, New Zealand’s premier rhododendron garden set in magnificent rainforest; Hollard Garden*, the achievement of a lifetime's work by Bernie and Rose Hollard and a monument to patience and horticultural skill; Tupare Grounds, a beautifully restored garden sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River; and Pukekura Park, which covers 49 hectares of lakeside forest and formal gardens in the city.

On our return to the hotel, we have time to freshen up before enjoying dinner in the hotel restaurant.

*If time is short today, you will be able to visit Hollard Garden on the way to Wellington on Monday.

Day 7

After having the chance to pore over this year's Taranaki Garden Festival information booklet, we travel around the region visiting the gardens that have most piqued our interest. This evening is free for you explore the local dining options at your leisure.

Day 8

Leaving New Plymouth after breakfast, we transfer to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. En-route, we have a photo stop at the amazing structure that is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, before continuing to the outstanding Paloma Gardens at Wanganui. These varied gardens, classed as being of national significance, boast four distinct areas, including the Paloma Arboretum with its extensive tree plantings.

Arriving in Wellington, we enjoy an informative sightseeing tour of the city, including the Parliament Buildings, Old St Paul’s Cathedral, the lovely Botanical Gardens, Victoria University, the views from Kelburn, and a visit to The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, affectionately called simply ‘Te Papa’, where there are some wonderful exhibits and interactive displays.

Tonight, dinner is included at our hotel's restaurant.

Day 9

We kick off our morning with a visit to Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve. New Zealand’s only native botanic garden, it is devoted solely to the cultivation and preservation of indigenous plants including mahoe, tawa, kohekohe, rewarewa, hinau and northern rata. Other features at Otari include a fernery, a small Alpine garden, rock garden with adjoining fish pool and a wild garden, all easily accessed by a network of paths and boardwalks.

Later today, we visit the Zealandia Ecosanctuary (formerly the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary). Home to over 225 hectares of regenerating native forest and 40 species of birds, Zealandia is a unique, world-first eco-attraction, providing an excellent opportunity to experience New Zealand’s natural environment just minutes from the capital.

On return to Wellington, we are at leisure for the remainder of the day. Why not take the opportunity to wander the waterfront area or sample some of the excellent shops? Ot visit the vibrant Cuba Street or Courtney Place precincts for a coffee or dinner in a top fine-dining restaurant or quirky café?

Day 10

This morning, we board the Interislander Ferry and cross Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island — the last part of the cruise through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds is especially scenic. On landing in Picton, we board our coach and travel through to Blenheim.

Forty years ago there was hardly a commercial grape grown in this area — today, the Marlborough district is the top wine-producing area in New Zealand, with its wines winning awards around the world. We are treated to a visit to the sumptuous tasting room and cellar at Wither Hills Vineyards, producers of award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Dinner tonight is served in our hotel restaurant.

Day 11

Today, we enjoy a full-day Nelmac Garden Marlborough tour. You will be taken to Marlborough’s most unique and sensational gardens, travelling along the spectacular eastern seaboard, through the valleys and plains of the Marlborough countryside and into Blenheim’s urban hideaways. It’s not only beauty, form and colour, but energy, passion, hard work and diversity that see gardens selected for your tour by your enthusiastic volunteer guide, and you will be introduced to the garden owners who happily share their wonderful gardens with you. Morning and afternoon tea, plus a light lunch, will keep us going — all this garden-going is thirsty work!

Tonight, dinner is included at a local restaurant.

Day 12

This morning we enjoy another special festival garden tour, this time a half-day featuring clever and thoughtfully designed smaller gardens. Often brimming with a profusion of luscious foliage and a myriad of spring flowers, this selection of Blenheim’s town gardens provides inspiration aplenty for gardeners wanting to exercise their creative talents on a smaller scale. After our tour, we take a breather to enjoy lunch and some free time before an afternoon visit to a winery to sample the local fare. The remainder of our day and evening is free to spend at our leisure — what will you discover?

Day 13

We spend this morning travelling down the scenic coast towards Christchurch, journeying through the grape growing region of Marlborough and along the thin ledge of land pinned between the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Kaikoura Ranges. On arrival in Christchurch, we enjoy the sights of the ‘Garden City’ en-route to our accommodation, where dinner is included this evening.

Day 14

After breakfast, we visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Their first oak tree was planted in 1863 to mark the marriage of Edward VII — since then, developments have included a native New Zealand garden, the Cockayne garden of native alpine plants, the renowned central Rose Garden, extensive herbaceous borders, a floral conservatory and a fernery.

Departing Christchurch, our next visit is to Akaunui Historic House and Gardens. The garden was originally designed by Alfred Buxton over 100 years ago, and includes magnificent old trees both native and exotic and a wide variety of recently planted species. The garden complements the imposing century-old double homestead, where we enjoy lunch before our return to Christchurch.

On our return journey, we pause for a visit to Trott’s Gardens. The woodland area was developed around a series of gently curving paths, to be joined later by water gardens and, finally, English-inspired formal gardens, and the layout is such that the garden areas are integrated, yet contain elements of surprise as the visitor explores. On return to Christchurch we are at leisure to experience one of the wonderful restaurants or cafés that the city has to offer.

Day 15

This is a day for spectacular sights. We bid farewell to Christchurch and travel through Geraldine and Fairlie, over Burke’s Pass, and into the vast Mackenzie Basin to the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo. We visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and the statue of the Collie dog, before continuing on through Twizel and Omarama. Arriving in Cromwell, we visit the amazing Mrs Jones' Fruit Shop — this Central Otago icon, which also has a lovely rose garden attached, is an unmissable stop for (quite literally) a taste of Central Otago.

From Cromwell, we follow the Kawerau Gorge Road into the aptly-named Queenstown, ‘a town fit for a Queen’. Here, we enjoy a guided tour of Stoneridge Chapel and Water Garden before moving on to Gibbston Valley Winery. Here, we join a guided tour of the vineyard and winery, completing the experience with a tasting in the caves, 76 metres underground. The rocky schist walls within the cave are lined with barrels of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still reaching their prime.

On arrival in Queenstown, we are at leisure before reconvening for dinner at our hotel.

Day 16

Today, we enjoy the day at leisure. Various optional activities are available, such as a thrilling jet-boat ride along the Dart River, or a scenic four-wheel drive excursion through Skippers Canyon. Alternatively, you could just relax in the hotel with a good book and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc!

This evening, we take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead — this is sure to be one of the absolute highlights of our tour.

Day 17

Today will undoubtedly prove to be a highlight of our tour as we depart for Milford Sound. The journey there is an experience in itself, taking us through breathtaking alpine scenery, and on arrival at the Sound, we join our boat for a cruise which will take us from the head of the fiord to the open sea and back again, with included picnic lunch on board. The Māori attributed the creation of the fiords to a “titanic mason”, Tute Rakiwhanoa, who hewed out the steep-sided valleys with keen edged adzes. We advise you to take plenty of film or spare memory cards today, as the photo opportunities are practically endless!

This afternoon, we return to Queenstown, where dinner is included at our hotel's restaurant.

Day 18

Sadly, our tour of New Zealand must come to an end today as we transfer to the airport for our short Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch/Auckland, then onto Singapore en-route to London.

Day 19

We arrive back in London today. 

What's Included

  • 15 nights' accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis: one in Rotorua; three in Plymouth; two in Wellington; three in Blenheim, two in Christchurch; three in Queenstown.
  • 11 dinners; 14 lunches
  • Visits to Ayrlies, Auckland Botanical Gardens, Hamilton Gardens, Rotorua, Huka Falls, Tikorangi, various sites in New Plymouth, Taranaki Garden Festival, Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, Paloma Gardens, Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve, Zealandia and the Karori Sanctuary, Wither Hills Vineyards, Marlborough Garden Festival, Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Akanui Historic House and Gardens, Trott's Gardens, Lake Tekapo, Church of the Good Shepherd and the statue of the Collie dog, Mrs Jones' Fruit Shop, Stoneridge Chapel and Water Garden, and Gibbston Valley Winery 
  • City sights tours of New Plymouth and Wellington
  • Ferry crossing to Picton across Cook Strait, steamer cruise across Lake Wakatipu, and Milford Sound cruise
  • All internal flights

Supplements per person

  • Single room supplement: £895

Travel and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available on request


2018 Insurance Prices

As part of our booking conditions, our travellers must have adequate insurance protection for any holidays overseas but we strongly recommend that you are covered for any of our tours. Our travellers are welcome to take out their own insurance policy, providing that we have the details of this before departure. Alternatively, we can provide our own recommended single-trip travel insurance for all holidays, please see the most upto date prices below: 

UK Tours:
Under 65, from £18.00 | 65-74, from £35.00 | 75 and over, from £52.00

EU Tours:
Under 65, from £32.00 | 65-74, from £64.00 | 75 and over, from £96.00

Worldwide Tours:
Prices on application

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29/10/2018 from £6995pp

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