Gardens of the South Island
Join horticulturalist Elizabeth Swane on a tour through enchanting private gardens and staggering natural landscapes, and feast your eyes on a profusion of late springtime floral colour.
Marvel at New Zealand’s unique garden designs, combining English landscape gardening with colonial heritage, indigenous flora and Māori reverence for the natural world. Begin in Wellington with a visit to its colourful Botanic Garden before crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island to discover the stunning gardens of Paripuma and Barewood in the Marlborough.
Enjoy a leisurely drive down the Kaikoura coast and wander through the meticulously manicured estates of Christchurch. Then, uncover the dramatic ocean vistas of the Otago Peninsula, before exploring the superb beauty of Queenstown’s natural landscapes.
Arrive in Wellington on suggested Qantas or Air New Zealand flights and make your way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including travel insurance (a condition of travel), private hotel transfer, accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
Tour arrangements commence at 18:00 with a welcome briefing by your tour leader, Elizabeth Swane, followed by a welcome dinner.
Begin with a walking orientation tour of this vibrant city, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. Explore the Botanic Gardens, featuring 25 hectares of protected native forest, plant collections, colourful flower beds and some of the oldest exotic trees in New Zealand, with stunning views over the city and harbour.
After lunch, explore another private garden in Wellington before enjoying the remainder of the day at leisure.
Depart Wellington and enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry to Picton on the South Island. Cross the Cook Strait before entering the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The three-hour journey between Wellington and Picton is considered one of the most spectacular sea voyages in the world.
Upon arrival in Picton, continue to Blenheim. Begin your exploration of the Marlborough region and its gardens with a visit of 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.
This morning, explore 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.
Continue to Barewood Garden for a guided tour and lunch. Recognised as a ‘Garden of International 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.
In the afternoon, explore the unique and extensive topiary hedges of Welton House, which mirror the stunning Richmond Ranges.
Depart Blenheim and travel along the coast to Kaikoura. En route, visit Winterhome Garden, featuring classical French lines with intersecting cross axes creating unexpected views within the plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials.
Arrive at the small coastal town of Kaikoura, home to abundant wildlife including blue-eyed penguins, dusky dolphins, sperm whales and fur seals. Enjoy some time at leisure to explore the beautiful surroundings.
Depart Kaikoura and travel to Coldstream, a private garden with mature oaks, silver birch, large garden beds of established roses, camellias and rhododendrons and a large pond.
Continue to Flaxmere Garden, a ‘Garden of International Significance’. Situated near the Southern Alps, this beautifully-landscaped garden is framed by breathtaking mountain vistas and embraces water features in the form of five terraced ponds.
Arrive in Christchurch in the late afternoon.
Start the day with a visit to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and explore the verdant array of native and international flora, also showcasing spring perennials and roses.
In the afternoon, visit Robyn Kilty’s private cottage and garden, originally built in 1873, that has been reshaped into a creative prairie-style property.
Then, continue to Broadfield New Zealand Landscape Gardens, a meticulously designed landscape garden featuring native species used formally and informally, a Kauri forest, shrubs, climbers and ferns.
Begin the day with a visit of the Giant’s House sculpture mosaic garden, a unique exuberant and colourful property located in a valley in Akaroa. The garden surrounds the large historic house with original artworks, and terraced gardens with sculptures and mosaics.
After lunch, discover Ohinetahi Gardens, a well-structured and carefully-designed garden also home to sculpture and woodland trails, box-edged rose garden, and a nineteenth-century homestead.
Depart Christchurch and travel to Dunedin, enjoying spectacular coastal scenery en route.
In the late afternoon, arrive in Dunedin, the second largest city on the South Island, situated at the base of the Otago Peninsula. A city rich with culture and wildlife, Dunedin is built upon the riches of New Zealand’s gold rush and famous for its diverse ecology.
Start the day with a visit to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, which features a wide range of horticultural and botanical collections, including splashes of colourful florals and an extensive selection of indigenous species. A key aspect of the Dunedin Botanic Gardens’ collection is to cultivate and protect a wide variety of rare and endangered plant species from across New Zealand and around the world.
Transfer to Olveston Historic House and Garden for a guided tour of the authentically preserved historic home, extensive terraced gardens and magnificent conservatory.
Continue to Larnach Castle and Gardens for a private guided tour of the lovingly restored Gothic Revival mansion and the surrounding grounds, before enjoying dinner in the castle’s dining area.
This morning, explore Glenfalloch Garden and wander amongst a profusion of floral blooms and exotic imports interspersed between native ferns and indigenous New Zealand varieties, followed by lunch.
Then, visit the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head, home to the largest flying birds and the only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross in the world.
Continue to Hereweka Garden, a stunning ecological sanctuary which features a rare remnant of the ancient Rimu trees that once completely forested the Otago Peninsula and a glorious variety of perennial blossoms.
Depart Dunedin for a leisurely day’s drive to Queenstown.
Stop en route for lunch and a wine tasting at a boutique, family-owned winery in Central Otago, which specialises in rich Pinot Noir and aromatic Pinot Gris, produced in the world’s southernmost wine-growing region.
Continue to the hotel and check in before enjoying the remainder of the evening at leisure.
This morning, explore a private garden before continuing to Arrowtown, a delightful gold rush village nestled beneath the peaks of the Southern Alps on the banks of the Arrow River. Enjoy a walking tour of the village and wander through the historic buildings which preserve the city’s rich heritage, including miners’ cottages, old churches and the Chinese settlement, which was established by immigrants during the Otago Gold Rush in the 1860s.
Then, embark on a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu and enjoy a lakeside dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm, overlooking Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown’s alpine scenery.
In the morning, visit the Queenstown Botanic Gardens. Wander amongst the pristine terraced gardens and admire the manicured lawns, wide variety of native and imported plants and elegant water feature, all surrounded by the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Then, enjoy some time at leisure to explore Queenstown at your own pace.
In the evening, join Elizabeth and fellow travellers for a special farewell dinner.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Make your own way to Queenstown Airport for suggested flights to Australia. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour, private airport transfers and travel insurance (a condition of travel).
Note: At time of publication (February 2023), 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.
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
27 September 2023
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in four–star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinner
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Expertise and insights of your tour leader, garden specialist Elizabeth Swane
- Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Wellington – Movenpick Wellington****
Blenheim – Scenic Hotel Marlborough****
Kaikoura – Sudima Hotel Kaikoura****
Christchurch – Crowne Plaza Christchurch****
Dunedin – Scenic Hotel Southern Cross****
Queenstown – Crowne Plaza Queenstown****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
Tour code: GD2311
Fitness level: Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.
Suggested airlines: Qantas / Air New Zealand
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.
Download booking form here.