Milford Sound
Milford Sound

Garden Tours

New Zealand

For us in the United Kingdom, visiting New Zealand is rather like entering a parallel universe. On the surface, everything appears familiar, but look more closely and you notice subtle differences – an unusual plant, an outlandish insect or a brightly coloured bird – which tell you that you are in fact a long way from home. There are parts of New Zealand that could be anywhere in the British Isles, from a Hampshire country garden to a Highland glen, an illusion which is strengthened by the abundance of familiar place names and by the plants which were imported by the early settlers to make them feel more at home. Yet where in Britain can you find bubbling mud pools and gushing geysers, majestic fjords and glittering glaciers, huge tree ferns and penguin colonies? In addition to viewing some of these natural wonders, we will be taking a close look at the flora of the country, both in its natural habitat and in a cross-section of some of the many wonderful private and public gardens with which New Zealand is blessed. The native flora evolved in isolation here, after the land split from the supercontinent of Gondwanaland some 60 million years ago, and of the country’s 2000 or so flowering plants about 75% are found only in New Zealand. Among the species we can expect to see are Raoulias (Vegetable sheep) and Celmisias, Ranunculus lyalli (Mount Cook Lily), Aciphyllas (Wild Spaniards), Bulbinellas, Chionohebes and Hebes; New Zealand Beech and Tree Ferns, as well as the many non-native plants which gardeners here like to grow alongside the native bush.

Our tour will be guided by Mike Nelhams.

What's included?

  •  Flights
  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary

Today's Price

Deposit: £699.50 Single supplement: £1,600

Tour highlights:

  • Stopover in Singapore including Gardens by the Bay
  • Sailing across the Cook Strait from North to South Island
  • Wine tasting in the Wither Hills
  • Cruise on Milford Sound
  • Spring Garden Festivals in Taranaki and Marlborough in 2020
  • Scenic rail journey on the Coastal Pacific train in 2021

Tour details

Dates 10 January 2021 - 29 January 2021
Duration 20 days
Today's Price
Deposit: £699.50 Single supplement: £1,600 Balance due by 18 October 2020
Activity Level
Tour code BWNEZ21A

Book Now or call 01334 657155 if you have any questions

10 January 2021: Itinerary

We depart from London Heathrow late afternoon on our overnight flight to Singapore. (Regional flight connections, flight upgrades and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour available at a supplement).

Inc. Meals: In-flight only

On arrival in Singapore we will be met and taken on a tour of Singapore, which includes visits to Singapore Botanic Gardens, Chinatown and Little India.

Later we will be transferred to our 4-star city centre hotel. Evening at leisure. There are various dining options within the hotel and downtown Singapore has a wide range of inexpensive restaurants offering Asian and Western cuisine.

Meals include: Breakfast

After breakfast visit Singapore’s iconic horticultural attraction, Gardens by the Bay. Spanning 101 hectares, this award-winning venue houses over 250,000 rare plants in an innovative and imaginative way. There are obvious similarities to our own Eden Project, in particular the huge domed conservatories, but other features are strikingly unique, such as the impressive Supertrees. Early evening we will check-in for our overnight flight to Auckland.

Inc. Meals: In-flight only

On arrival in Auckland we are met by our coach and local driver/guide to be transferred to our first visit, Eden Garden. Built in an old quarry in the centre of Auckland, Eden Garden sits on the side of Mount Eden, one of the many volcanic remnants within Auckland. Fifty-three years of garden passion has turned an abandoned wilderness into a memorial garden of great beauty and interest.

This evening we enjoy a welcome drink and dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

We begin this morning with a visit to Beverley McConnell’s 12-acre country garden Ayrlies, also classified as being of national significance. Maple woodland complements large ponds connected by a tumbling stream and edged in hostas, irises and other damp-loving plants. There are collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and masses of old roses and other climbers 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.

Travelling south from Auckland, we break our journey in Hamilton with a visit to the impressive Hamilton Gardens. The unique theme of Hamilton Gardens is 'the story of gardens' which is explored through a series of five garden collections: the Paradise Garden Collection featuring gardens representing some of the most significant garden design traditions; the Productive Garden Collection representing different aspects of the relationship between people and plants; the Fantasy Garden Collection representing different forms of garden fantasy; the Cultivar Garden Collection featuring the story of plants selected and bred for the garden, and the Landscape Garden Collection with areas representing the different historic interpretations of an idealised landscape.

We continue our journey to Rotorua, also known as ‘Sulphur City’ for the distinctive odour that permeates the city (though you do get used to it!). 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 Maori population whose cultural activities are interesting and accessible as will be witnessed tomorrow evening.

Tonight we are treated to a Maori cultural experience.  We are transferred from our hotel and on arrival enjoy a Powhiri, a traditional Maori welcome, followed by a special meal called a Hangi (Hung-ee = feast).

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning we head south through the small towns of Piopio and Mokau, to the fertile Taranaki region, dominated by Mount Egmont or Taranaki (2518m). On arrival in New Plymouth we visit Tikorangi, The Jury Garden. home to world-renowned plant breeders, the late Felix Jury (holder of the Veitch gold medal from then RHS) and now Mark Jury. This large landscaped garden has one of the best plant collections in the country and has been rated as a Garden of National Significance.

En route to the hotel visit the amazing structure that is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge for a photo stop.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Today, following breakfast, we will take in a sightseeing tour of New Plymouth, featuring the gardens and beaches of this unique city. The gardens include:

Te Kainga Marire is the only private native garden sanctuary in New Zealand to be rated as a Garden of International Significance. Keen outdoor adventurers, the owners wanted a bird friendly garden design around the ecological groups they had observed in the wild.

Nikau Grove – hundreds of nikau palms set the South Pacific theme. Native plantings and lush exotics create splashes of colour and interest throughout this developed 1.5-acre garden.

Tupare is a beautifully restored garden that surrounds a classic arts and crafts era Chapman-Taylor home, near New Plymouth. Sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, it is one of the Taranaki region's premier landscaped gardens and features many large mature trees.

Pukeiti Garden which is New Zealand’s premier rhododendron garden set in magnificent rainforest. Enjoy more than 10,000 rhododendrons & azaleas in a unique setting of lush native bush full of ferns, mountain streams & alive with birds.

Meals include: Breakfast

We will transfer today to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. En route we will visit the outstanding Paloma Gardens at Wanganui, which has four distinct areas. The first contains foliage, bamboos, palms, alocasias, ferns and cycads. The second has many species of cyads, e.g. Dioons from Mexico, and species from Madagascar, the Solomon Islands and beyond. Also growing here are Pachypodiums (related to frangipani) with different species flowering most of the year, Euphorbias, and oddities like Welwitschia mirabilis and Dioscorea elephantipes, the climber with the way-out base. The third area is on the north-facing hillside and features succulents, cacti, palm forest and a giant African Lobelia tree. Finally, there is the Paloma Arboretum, with extensive tree plantings.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Today, following breakfast, we start with an informative sightseeing tour of the city, including the Parliament Buildings, Old St Paul’s Cathedral, a fine example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, the lovely Botanical Gardens, Victoria University and the views from Kelburn. We continue to Otari, or Wilton’s Bush, New Zealand’s only native botanic garden, devoted solely to the cultivation and preservation of indigenous plants. Predominant native trees include 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 our return to the city we visit The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, affectionately called simply ‘Te Papa’, where there are some wonderful exhibits and interactive displays. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free to explore New Zealand’s capital city. Take the opportunity to wander the waterfront area or sample some of the excellent shops; visit the vibrant Cuba Street or Courtney Place precincts for a coffee or dinner in a top fine-dining restaurant or quirky café. The Crab Shack and the more up-market Shed 5 on the waterfront are highly recommended for sea food lovers.

Meals include: Breakfast

Today we leave the North Island as we board a ferry in Wellington harbour out onto the Cook Strait through New Zealand’s only true sound, the picturesque Marlborough Sound into Picton. The bustling port of Picton is the terminal for inter-island ferries, and gateway to the ‘Mainland’, the South Island’s self-proclaimed nickname. Reboarding our coach we continue to Blenheim, the principal town of the Marlborough district. Forty years ago there was hardly a commercial grape grown in this area — today, Marlborough is the top wine-producing area in New Zealand, with its wines winning awards around the world. We visit the sumptuous tasting room and cellar at Wither Hills Vineyards, producers of award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Our first stop this morning is visit Upton Oaks. Over some years, Dave and Sue have restored an old Victorian Villa and a 1.5 acre flat piece of land just outside Blenheim, transforming the property into an immaculate showpiece. Sue’s vision was to create a romantic intimate garden, with formal lines and structures but overflowing within, with an abundance of colour from spring to autumn.

Enter Woodend Gardens through a formal gateway and along an extensive curve driveway lined with blue agapanthus that sets a stunning scene for the established Gardens. The 2.5ha formal garden features many different zones with all unique elements and hidden sanctuaries - a selected wedding area, woodland gardens, pond and water features, a large covered pergola with seating, and a number of seating areas along the garden walkways.

Bhudevi Garden was established in 2009. There is an outdoor sculpture garden, a native garden along the creek, a secluded rock and fern garden, and an elevated garden with views overlooking the vineyards across to the Richmond range. The native garden has many sheltered and open seating areas for enjoying the birdsong, the plants, and the outdoor sculptures.

Our final stop today is Welton House. The planting style uses a naturalistic palette, native and exotic within the clean lines of modern hard landscaping. The borders contain many rare and interesting perennials, making it a haven for plant aficionados.

Tonight dinner is included at Arbour, a modern and relaxed restaurant with innovative seasonal cuisine with a focus on local producers and purveyors – a real taste of Marlborough.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

The morning is at leisure to explore Blenheim independently. This afternoon we board the Coastal Pacific train in Blenheim for one of the most astonishingly beautiful journeys in New Zealand. Our coach will meet us with our luggage on arrival in Kaikoura. Dinner included at a local restaurant.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning we travel south to North Canterbury to visit Flaxmere Garden which was established over 50 years ago on a sheep farm.  Situated near the Southern Alps, Flaxmere has developed into a stunning example of a garden that evolves with the seasons, splendid throughout the year. 

Then we travel down the coast to Christchurch, where on arrival we enjoy the sights of the ‘Garden City’, including a visit to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, where land was first set aside in 1849. The first oak tree was planted in 1863 to mark the marriage of Edward VII and development has continued over the years, including 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. More recent additions include an alpine house and a house for bromeliads and orchids.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning travel out to Governors Bay, to visit Ohinetahi. Originally owned by one of New Zealand’s first botanists, Mr. Thomas H Potts in 1865, the garden was restored to its former glory by Sir Warren Miles and gifted to the City of Christchurch in 2012. Today, Ohinetahi is as well known for its displays of art, architectural works and sculptures as it is for its magnificent grounds.

Our next garden visit is to Akaunui Historic House and Gardens. The Akaunui garden was originally designed by Alfred Buxton, established over 100 years ago. During the last 15 years major developments have taken place. The garden now covers 6 hectares and includes magnificent old trees (both native and exotic) and a wide variety of recently planted species. There is a pond, a creek and a bog garden, a woodland garden with a large collection of rhododendrons and associated plants; formal and less formal gardens, many roses and a productive vegetable garden. The garden complements the imposing century old double storey brick homestead.

On our return to Christchurch we visit Trott’s Gardens. The Woodland area was developed around a series of gently curving paths. Later the water gardens and finally the English inspired formal gardens. The layout is such that the garden areas are integrated yet contain elements of surprise as the visitor explores.

A day for spectacular sights as we say farewell to Christchurch and travel through Geraldine and Fairlie, over Burke’s Pass into the vast Mackenzie Basin and 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, Omarama and arriving in Cromwell where we visit Mrs Jones Fruit Shop. This amazing shop is a Central Otago icon which also has a lovely rose garden attached – an unmissable stop along the way for quite literally a taste of Central Otago! From Cromwell we follow the Kawerau Gorge Road, into Queenstown – ‘a town fit for a Queen’.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning we visit Chantecler Garden, a twelve acre garden that was supposed to be a 'hobby' in retirement, but has gone beyond that and just keeps expanding. Mike and Maureen have created a themed garden with specific aspects based on plants and garden styles from around the world, thereby giving visitors a unique and rewarding experience. 'Chantecler's' gardens are complimented by mature Redwood, Oak, Beech, Ash, Rowan, Maple, Willow, Birch and many other trees including exotic Conifer. The backdrop of the garden is the magnificent Remarkables mountain range. Next, we visit Gibbston Valley Winery and join a guided tour of the vineyard and winery, completing the experience with a tasting in the caves.  Travel 76 metres underground into the Gibbston Valley Wine Cave.  The rocky schist walls within the cave are lined with barrels of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still reaching their prime.  With constant humidity and a temperature of around 14 degrees Celsius, the cave provides a perfect haven for the maturation of these wines as well as providing a unique atmosphere for wine tasting.  The afternoon is at leisure. 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 has proved to be one of the absolute highlights of this tour.

Meals include: Breakfast

Today we have a most rewarding day when we enjoy one of the undoubted highlights of our tour as we depart for Milford Sound. The journey there is an experience in itself as we travel through the breathtaking alpine scenery of the Milford Road. On arrival at Milford Sound we will join our boat for a 2½ hour cruise, which will take us the 16km from the head of the fjord to the open sea and back again, with a picnic lunch on board included. The Maori attributed the creation of the fiords to a “titanic mason”, Tute Rakiwhanoa, who hewed out the steep sided valleys with keen edged adzes. No other explanation seems to fit, as it is impossible to comprehend the scale of the geological events that created this seemingly perfect sculpture, as sheer cliffs rise vertically from the ocean. We advise you to take spare memory cards today as the photo opportunities are simply endless! Return to Queenstown.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today is at leisure. Various optional activities will be available, alternatively you could just relax in the hotel with a good book and a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc! For our last evening together we take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead – this has proved to be one of the absolute highlights of this tour.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Sadly our tour of New Zealand comes to an end today as we join our homeward flight from Dunedin. We fly via Christchurch and have a brief stop in Singapore before continuing to London.

Meals include: Breakfast

We will arrive in London early this morning and disperse or transfer to flight connections.

10 January 2021: Additional Info

10 January 2021: Accommodation

10 January 2021: Enquiries

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