Gardens of New Zealand

Join garden writer Helen Young to explore the best of New Zealand’s springtime gardens, including the spectacular annual Taranaki Garden Festival.

New Zealand is a hidden gem of garden design, combining English landscape garden design with colonial heritage, indigenous flora and Māori reverence for the natural world.

Begin in Christchurch on the South Island and wander through Broadfield Garden and the elegant Ohinetahi. Visit Upton Oaks, Paripuma and Bankhouse near Blenheim and then cross the Cook Strait to the North Island to visit the annual Taranaki Garden Festival in New Plymouth, where scores of private gardens open their gates to visitors for just a few days in the year. Conclude in Auckland, with a visit to Ayrlies Garden, the ‘quintessential New Zealand garden’.

Note: At time of publication (May 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

Suggested afternoon arrival in Christchurch. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

In the evening join Helen and fellow garden lovers for a special welcome dinner.


Today explore two outstanding gardens. First visit Broadfield New Zealand Landscape Garden, a 3.5 hectare showcase garden established in the 1990s. Many native plants are used formally and informally as are NZ-raised varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, maples, peonies and roses. It includes a Kauri forest with over 100 trees and scores of species of other forest trees, shrubs, climbers and ferns.

After lunch, visit Ohinetahi, a well-structured, carefully designed garden created by architect Sir Miles Warren which consists of a number of formal rooms, of differing style and character. The garden houses an important sculpture collection and a small art gallery. Hedges are used to shelter plants that would otherwise struggle in the high winds. Features include a herb potager, box-edged rose garden, herbaceous borders, a ‘Red Garden’, gazebo, rectangular pond, arched bridge and statues. There are spectacular views down to Lyttleton Harbour.

Enjoy afternoon tea in the garden before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure.


Enjoy a morning to explore the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English oak tree, over the years natural wetlands and sand dunes have been transformed into an elegantly cultivated 21 hectare park with more than 10 different gardens framed by mature trees and expansive lawns, which are mostly contained within a loop of the Avon River.

After lunch in the gardens, depart Christchurch for a scenic drive over the Southern Alps to Greymouth. Drive across the Canterbury Plain and climb to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park before descending to Greymouth.

In the late afternoon, arrive in Greymouth, known for its gold mining heritage and pounamu (New Zealand jade).


Depart Greymouth and travel along the scenic West Coast, stopping to see the New Zealand fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind and the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes.

Begin your exploration of the Marlborough area and its gardens with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onwards to the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought-resistant plants.

In the afternoon, arrive in Blenheim, our base for the next three nights.


After breakfast, visit Barewood Garden for a guided tour and lunch. Recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’, Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100-year-old homestead, and features formal allées of hawthorn and Malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

Continue to Paripuma Garden, with its unique collection of indigenous and rare plant species that have created a haven for wildlife on what was once a bare sandy paddock.

Depart for a visit to Allan Scott Wines, the family-owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting and free time in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas over the vineyards beyond.


Begin with a visit to Huguette Michel’s Hortensia House. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mists and other plants provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

Following a wine tasting and lunch at a local winery, visit Upton Oaks, the English-inspired garden of Dave and Sue Monahan developed around a restored 1911 Victorian villa. Brick walls, ponds, perennial borders and a 17th century style ‘knot-garden’ are divided into sections by colour. Upton Oaks is also recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’.


After breakfast, depart for Picton and enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry to Wellington. The three-hour journey is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world.

Arrive at the hotel in the early afternoon and enjoy some free time in Wellington.


Begin with a walking orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous ‘Beehive’ and Parliament Buildings and visit Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Drive out of Wellington into the picturesque Ohariu Valley to Pepped Warbeck garden, another ‘Garden of Significance’. The garden consists of a majestic entrance and long curving drive, planted with Marlborough daisies and many different native trees and shrubs. Extensive lawns sweep down to the re-modelled bog garden which features five adjoining ponds planted with primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera.

After lunch, return to Wellington for a visit to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Māori culture. Its Māori name translates as ‘The Treasure Chest’.


Depart Wellington for a leisurely drive to New Plymouth. En route, stop for lunch and a visit to Nicki and Clive Higgie’s garden, Paloma, near Wanganui. This exotic ‘Garden of National Significance’ is landscaped with plants from all over the world, and is presented as several distinct zones, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta.

In the afternoon, continue to New Plymouth, our base for the next four nights.


New Plymouth is home to the annual ten-day PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival (formerly the Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival), which showcases some of New Zealand’s most stunning private and public gardens.

The 2018 festival features over 40 diverse and inspiring gardens, including many ‘Gardens of National Significance’, newly-added gardens and more than a dozen special events. Nearly all of the gardens are private gardens and are opened exclusively for the duration of the festival.

The festival includes a mixture of events, including house and garden tours, celebrity chef demonstrations, guided walks, workshops and a diverse garden speaker series.

During this period, another garden festival also takes place in Taranaki region – the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival. The Fringe Festival includes a selection of gardens from cottage gardens to native gardens, highly structured to informal gardens, and is presented with a distinctive laid-back Kiwi charm.

Helen and the festival organisers will curate a stimulating programme in both the PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival and the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival, from the huge range of gardens and events on offer over the three days we will spend here.

In addition to its beautiful parks and gardens, the city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate and art galleries, while the conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city. Meanwhile, down at the waterfront are Puke Ariki, an integrated museum-library-heritage centre, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s first museum of contemporary art, and the Len Lye Centre, the country’s first museum devoted to a single artist.

(B, L or D)

Depart New Plymouth for a leisurely day’s drive to Auckland. En route, stop in Hamilton to visit the Hamilton Garden. Often mistakenly referred to as a ‘botanic garden’, Hamilton Garden is rather a collection of themed gardens, exploring different civilisations and recreating historically important garden styles from around the world.

In the afternoon, continue to Auckland.


Spend the day in some of Auckland’s most interesting gardens. In the morning, visit Ayrlies, situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland. This is one of New Zealand’s best-known gardens, characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed plantings beside ponds and waterways.

Then visit Eden Garden with its collections of perennials, vireyas, camellias, bromeliads and native New Zealand plants.

Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure.

In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Helen and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements, including flights and post-tour accommodation.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 7,950

Single Supplement*

AUD 1,850

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 750

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

20 August 2018

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.


Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian passport holders do not require a visa for New Zealand.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels (or best available) and breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner), including wine with dinner
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Ferry from Picton to Wellington
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (where this service is offered)

Tour price does not include

  • Flights to/from New Zealand
  • Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Christchurch – Rydges Latimer ****+
Greymouth – Kingsgate Hotel ***+
Blenheim – Chateau Marlborough *****+
Wellington – InterContinental Hotel *****+
New Plymouth – The Waterfront Hotel ****+
Auckland – Grand Millennium Hotel ****+

NB Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted