Garden Tours

Take in the stunning beauty of New Zealand with a garden tour of New Zealand’s parks, gardens and reserves.  Spend time with gardeners passionate about their craft and learn about their garden design, motivations and plant choice as they introduce you to their private property.  New Zealand has a treasure trove of beautiful gardens of national and regional significance – both public and private.  Throughout the years Leisure Time has operated an array of garden tours and has personal connections with gardeners throughout the regions.

17 Day North Island Garden Tour ~ Sample Itinerary

Welcome to New Zealand! Meet and greet on arrival at Auckland International Airport before being transferred to your hotel.

Day 2 – AUCKLAND (B) 
This morning travel west of the city to visit the stunning Totara Waters garden – a 2-acre subtropical garden set on the upper Waitemata Harbour. Development began in 1999 by Peter and Jocelyn Coyle, whereby extensive planting of rare and unusual plants have been included in the garden. We then continue to visit Beverley McConnell’s 12-acre country garden Ayrlies, one of the most celebrated gardens in New Zealand. 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. Our next visit is to Eden garden – formed within the former Eden Quarry.

Departing Auckland into the dairy-rich Waikato countryside where we visit 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. The Landscape Garden Collection with areas representing the different historical interpretations of an idealised landscape. From Hamilton we continue to Rotorua, the “Sulphur City”. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, coloured hot springs and terrace formations. With a large Maori population whose cultural activities are interesting and accessible as will be witnessed tonight when we are treated to a Maori cultural experience. On arrival we visit Rainbow Springs – set amidst beautiful native bush with meandering crystal clear freshwater streams and deep fern-fringed pools, showcasing New Zealand’s natural flora and fauna. Enjoy a guided tour which includes the opportunity to see the rare Tuatara lizard, New Zealand’s only native reptile species and the Kiwi bird in the special nocturnal enclosure. This evening visit Tamaki Maori Village for a Cultural Experience and Hangi Dinner. Experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling & hangi feasting. Enter the pre-European Maori village and enter their ancestral Meeting House to relax as their family entertain you with a powerful cultural performance before dining on the traditional hangi buffet dinner.

This morning carry out a morning day city tour of Rotorua, including a visit to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley featuring the Pohuto Geyser. We depart Rotorua to New Plymouth via the west coast of the North Island. New Plymouth is dominated by the almost perfect volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki. The mixture of mountain and coastal scenery is difficult to beat. The Taranaki area is known for its dairy farming and offshore natural gas and oil field resources.

Today take in a city sights tour of New Plymouth, featuring the Gardens and beaches of this unique town, visits to the following gardens: Visit Pukekura Park with it’s many displays then the historical Tupare Grounds and gardens before visiting the world renown Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust where we enjoy the rhododendron and bush gardens, grass walks, mountain streams and glass houses. As we leave Pukeiti and head back to our hotel, time allowing, we can stop along the way at a local garden or two. On arriving back in New Plymouth we are free to explore the city.

Leaving New Plymouth today to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. En route we will visit the amazing structure that is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge for a photo stop, before continuing to 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 cycads, e.g. Dioons from Mexico, and species from Madagascar, the Solomon Islands and beyond. Also growing here are Pachypodiums 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. Paloma is classified as of national significance.

This morning we enjoy an informative sightseeing tour, New Zealand’s Capital City, Wellington. Begin with a visit to Otari/Wilton’s Bush, New Zealand’s only native botanic garden, devoted to the cultivation and preservation of indigenous plants. Native trees include mahoe, tawa, kohekohe, rewarewa, hinau and northern rata. Other features at Otari include a fernery, alpine garden, rock garden with adjoining fish pool and a wild garden, all easily accessed by a network of paths and boardwalks. One of the stand out highlights today includes a visit to Old St Paul’s. Old St Paul’s is a fine example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture adapted to colonial conditions and materials. Constructed entirely from native timbers, the glowing interior is enhanced by stunning stained glass windows. Memorial items and displays tell the early history of Wellington. Next we take a ride on the one-hundred-year-old cable car from the city centre up to the Botanic Gardens. This afternoon is free to explore the city. We highly recommend a visit to Te Papa, (Our Place) New Zealand’s national museum, which truly is not like any other national museum in the world.

This morning we board the Interislander Ferry and cross Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island. The last part of the cruise through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds is especially scenic. In Picton board your coach and travel through to Blenheim – Forty years ago there was hardly a commercial grape grown in the Blenheim area. Now the Marlborough district is the top wine producing area in New Zealand with its wines winning awards around the world. Today visit the sumptuous tasting room and cellar at Wither Hills Vineyards. Wither Hills produces award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winery is named after the imposing Wither Hills ranges, which form a dramatic backdrop to the vineyards.

Today we visit the Nelmac Marlborough Garden event. On this day tour, you will be taken to the paradise of Marlborough’s most sensational gardens. It’s not only beauty, form and colour, but energy, passion, hard work and diversity that see gardens selected for your tour. Your tour has a volunteer courier that will host you throughout the day. These friendly and helpful people will pass on their knowledge of the region and history on the province as you travel between the glorious gardens that make up your tour.

Depart Blenheim and drive along a thin ledge of land pinned between the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged ranges to Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea then travel across the farmlands of the North Canterbury Plains. Continue South where on our arrival we enjoy the sights of the ‘Garden City’ also known as “the most English city outside of England”. Highlights include the River Avon, the Canterbury Museum and Arts Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery; Provincial Chambers; the Catholic Basilica; Bridge of Remembrance; and the Art Deco New Regent Street. Learn about the effects of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake.

From Christchurch we traverse the Southern Alps aboard the famous Tranz-Alpine rail journey to Arthurs Pass. From your carriage you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps. Once we have crossed into the Southern Alps we are met at the Village of Arthurs Pass by our coach for us to continue our journey to Hokitika where a visit is made to the Greenstone and Glass Blowing factories. Further south we tour the Westland National Park, the home of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. On arrival, time is available for optional scenic flights.

This morning visit Lake Matheson, before we depart to Haast. Driving towards the southern end of the West Coast Road, there is a strong sense of entering a primaeval land as you are surrounded by a landscape of rainforest, wetlands, sand dunes and surf-pounded shingle beaches. A visit is included to the Blue Pools which contain crystal clear blue glacier water. This wilderness forms part of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, so designated because South Westland and Fiordland have some of the most dramatic forest and mountain scenery and natural resources in the world. From the Westland National Park, travel over the Haast Pass to Makaroa and past Lake Hawea we reach the popular Lake Wanaka, the starting point of the mighty Clutha River. This afternoon we travel via Cromwell into Queenstown. Copthorne Lakefront Resort, Queenstown – 2 nights
Today is at leisure. Visit the Remarkable’s or Coronet Peak. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers. Perhaps a scenic 4 wheel drive excursion through Skippers Canyon, it’s up to you. 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.
Day 14 – QUEENSTOWN – TE ANAU (BLD) Leaving Queenstown we skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake to reach the beautiful Eglinton Valley climb to Homer Tunnel before descending through the spectacular Cleddau Canyon onto Milford Sound where we enjoy a cruise. The Sound is dominated by the grandeur of Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls. From Milford Sound we return to Te Anau reaching our accommodation. Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau
Day 15 – TE ANAU – DUNEDIN (BLD) Departing Te Anau, travel across country through some of New Zealand’s most populated sheep country to Lumsden then south to visit Maple Glen Gardens in Wyndham for a guided tour of this magnificent 25 acre private garden, nursery, aviary, woodland and wetland set in the rolling countryside. A picnic boxed lunch today is included. From here we continue to Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the South, visit Olveston House, an impressive turn-of-the-century house that is still home to all the lavish furnishings and art collections that have been collected from all corners of the world. Scenic Dunedin City Hotel, Dunedin
Day 16 – DUNEDIN – CHRISTCHURCH (BD) This morning, visit Larnach Castle for a guided tour of their magnificent gardens. Departing Dunedin via the Moeraki Boulders, to view this unusual phenomenon with a photo stop before heading on to Oamaru to look at the ‘White Stone City’. The old buildings have been constructed with local limestone. Here we visit Oamaru Public Gardens officially opened in October 1876, the Oamaru Gardens are one of the oldest in the country. For well over a century Oamaru Public Gardens has welcomed, entertained and inspired. The well-tended gardens and distinctive features reflect the unique style and heritage of Oamaru and Whitestone Waitaki. From Oamaru we follow the east coast north back to Christchurch.

Farewell from New Zealand, today you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch International Airport, if time permits we will include a visit to the Botanical Gardens en route.