The following itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. At the time of publication (August 2021) most visits had been confirmed. While several are accessible to the public, others require special permission from the garden owners which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2022.
The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Christchurch – 2 nights
Day 1: Friday 4 November, Arrive Christchurch
- Check-in at the Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square hotel
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens
- Welcome Dinner
Meeting Point: Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square Hotel at 52 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City. Check-in time is 2.00pm.
Please meet your group leaders in the foyer of the hotel at 4pm where the program will commence with a walk to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Situated in the historic precinct of the city, the gardens are within walking distance of the museum, library and art gallery. Almost 150 years old and situated along the banks of the Avon River, these delightful gardens with their picturesque design and mature landscape features, are the perfect beginning for our garden tour. Considered the premiere Botanic Gardens of New Zealand, their sweeping lawns and old trees provide the backdrop for many fine plant collections including New Zealand Dahlias, cacti, succulents and orchids. The garden also contains many examples of New Zealand’s unique and fascinating flora. After touring the gardens we shall return to our hotel.
Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Christchurch) D
Day 2: Saturday 5 November, Christchurch – Allandale – Rolleston – Christchurch
- Ohinetahi Gardens, Lyttelton
- Broadfields NZ Landscape Garden
- Robyn Kilty’s garden and cottage
This morning we drive a short distance to Governors Bay to visit the Ohinetahi Gardens of Sir Miles Warren, arguably New Zealand’s most famous landscape architect. Ohinetahi is Sir Miles’ own garden and is centred upon a lovely restored heritage house, with magnificent views of surrounding volcanic hills and Lyttelton Harbour. A garden was first designed for this site by T.H. Potts in 1865, but this fell into disrepair after he died in 1888. Sir Miles Warren has developed his spectacular Ohinetahi garden over several decades.
We then drive to Broadfields Garden, a NZ Garden of International Significance, designed by Landscape Architect Robert Watson for owner David Hobbs. The ‘pancake flat’ site for this garden in the middle of the Canterbury plains posed special problems for Robert. His highly original solution incorporates a cricket field leading to a long avenue at the centre of which is a watercourse leading to a round pond. It has allowed the owners to implement a planting scheme featuring an extremely important collection of New Zealand native flora, in stages. Of the plantings, Robert has stated, ‘I wanted it to be a garden that reflects the character of Canterbury – it’s not trying to be an English garden or an Italian garden or something from anywhere else…’ The framework of the garden is created by hedges, allowing for twenty-one discrete garden areas using cross axes from the main lines ‘to create a journey through various formal and informal spaces. Although each garden has its own visual focus, the design also takes into account the vastness of the sky in this region.’ (see, R. Thodey and G. Hanly, Landscape, Gardens by New Zealand’s Top Designers, Auckland, Random House, A Godwit Book, 2005, p.58).
Next, we return to Christchurch to meet Robyn Kilty. We will start the visit with her own cottage and garden. She started restoring this place in 1993, and designed the garden to reflect the traditional symmetry of these worker’s cottages. Unfortunately, the design had to be revisited after the earthquakes, and Robyn then introduced beds with flowers and some grasses in the ‘prairie style’ inspired by Piet Oudolf’s ideas.
Robyn will then take us on a short walking tour through the narrow streetscapes and cottages of this historic Englefield area, explaining the history of this early part of Christchurch as it links with the city and the Avon River. We will see the Red Zone, an area largely affected by the earthquakes and deemed infeasible to rebuild on, finishing our tour at the Heritage Rose Garden in nearby Beverley Park. (Overnight Christchurch) BL
Blenheim – 2 nights
Day 3: Sunday 6 November, Christchurch – Hawarden – Kekerengu – Blenheim
- Flaxmere Garden, Hawarden
- Ellerton Garden, Kekerengu
We depart Christchurch early this morning and travel north to the Malborough Region visiting two spectacular gardens along the way. Our first visit is to Flaxmere Garden, a large country garden in North Canterbury. Flaxmere, with its long vistas and cross axis, sits very comfortably in its Southern Alps landscape. A garden that has evolved over the last 40 years, it uses elements of water, stone and timber to present a sense of belonging. A mix of both formal and informal, native and exotic, add to the garden’s richness. At times it is hard to establish where the garden finishes and the countryside begins; formal areas merge into woodlands and in turn into countryside. This is a garden that exudes personality, and with its lush plantings providing softening to the stone and timber landscape features, it is bound to please. Following our guided tour by garden owner and creator Penny Zino, we will enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh produce, salads and freshly baked bread.
After lunch we drive north to reach Ellerton Garden in Kekerengu. Located on a hill between the Kaikoura Ranges and the Pacific Ocean, it offers breathtaking views. Established 11 years ago from two hectares of farmland and still a work in progress, Ellerton Garden shows off Mediterranean plantings, a hillside of lavender and intriguing nooks and crannies. We then continue our journey to Blenheim. (Overnight Blenheim) BLD
Day 4: Monday 7 November, Blenheim: Malborough Region
- Winterhome Garden, Kekerengu
- Barewood Garden
- Hortensia Garden
- Bhudevi: garden visit & light evening meal
Today we begin with a visit to Winterhome garden at Kekerengu. Positioned on a cliff with dramatic views over the Pacific Ocean, Winterhome is renowned for its powerful design combining the classic cross axes with plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials. The garden features a rose garden with formal box edging, an orchard and a canal garden.
The second beautiful garden on today’s program is Barewood which lies in the Awatere Valley. Owned by Joe and Carolyn Ferraby, this garden surrounds a rambling old homestead. Wisteria and old-fashioned roses frame its wide verandahs and mature trees surround its garden. Colourful mixed borders, a summer house, a formal potager, a pond with carefully tended water plants and sweeping lawns all combine to make this one of the premier gardens of the region.
Nearby lies Hortensia, the creation of artist Huguette Michel, whose French origins are expressed in the Impressionist inspiration of this lovely garden. We spend a couple of hours touring this garden before continuing to Bhudevi for a light evening meal. Bhudevi is an eight hectare property in the heart of Marlborough wine country. The large modern home, surrounded by an organic sauvignon blanc vineyard, features 1.5 hectares of gardens combining a formal garden of geometric design with a meandering water garden planted with New Zealand natives. (Overnight Blenheim) BLD
Hokitika – 1 night
Day 5: Tuesday 8 November, Blenheim – Punakaiki – Greymouth
- Moritaki Garden
- Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Close to our hotel is Peter and Andrea Forrest’s Moritaki Garden, situated at the foot of Withers Hills. Dedicated solely to New Zealand natives, it nevertheless was designed by a Japanese gardener to express the traditional Japanese design principles of a water garden, in which a waterfall, stream and pond express the place of water in nature.
We next drive across the Marlborough Region to Greymouth on the west coast. This is one of the most sparsely populated areas of New Zealand. With the Tasman Sea to the west and the Southern Alps to the east, we will drive through a series of beautiful National Parks to the seaside town of Greymouth where we shall spend the night. We drive through the Mount Richmond Forest Park and the Nelson Lakes and Victoria National Parks to the west coast of the island.
We follow the ‘Coast Road’, one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. One of the scenic stops we make during the day will be at Punakaiki where the famous Pancake Rocks are located. These are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay. The result is a fascinating rock formation that gives the appearance of vertical stacks of thin rocks. (Overnight Greymouth) BLD
Lake Moeraki – 2 nights
Day 6: Wednesday 9 November, Greymouth – Fox Glacier – Lake Moeraki
- Lake Matheson
- Fox Glacier Lookout
- Evening rainforest walk, Lake Moeraki
As we continue our journey south we encounter classic west coast river- and forest scenery, rushing water, impressive bridges and tiny, picturesque towns. Hokitika was first settled in 1860 after the discovery of gold on the west coast. Composed of lovely old buildings, it still has the feel of a frontier town. The road south from Hokitika travels through farmland that constantly threatens to revert to wilderness; the beauty of the region’s rivers is raw and primeval. Continuing south we arrive in the Glacier Country.
After lunch we enjoy a short walk to Lake Matheson. The lake is nestled in ancient forest and is famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Its excellent reflecting properties are due to the dark brown colour of the water – the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor. The walk to the Jetty Viewpoint takes you past tall kahikatea and rimu as well as a rich profusion of smaller plant varieties. Lake Matheson was formed when Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe retreated from its last significant advance about 14,000 years ago. During the last major ice age, the glacier spread across the coastal plains towards the sea, dumping huge piles of rock. The glacier ground a depression which later filled with water, forming the lake.
Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier was named after an early New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox. At 13kms, Fox Glacier is the longest of the awe-inspiring New Zealand West Coast glaciers. At its head, soaring peaks of over 3000m dominate the horizon. This mighty moving river of ice falls 2600 metres, on its journey from the base of the Southern Alps to the West Coast. New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers are unique and probably the most accessible glaciers in the world, as they terminate amongst temperate rainforest just 250m above sea level. So special is this mountain environment, that it forms part of the South Westland World Heritage Area.
We continue south to Lake Moeraki (meaning “to sleep or dream by day” in Maori) in the South Westland, where we spend the night at the peaceful lakeside Wilderness Lodge. It is surrounded by untouched rainforest with stunning views of the snow-capped Southern Alps. Owned by teacher Anne Saunders and biologist Dr. Gerry McSweeney, the lodge was set up to help protect the rainforests and share this extraordinary natural setting with visitors.
This evening we dine together while enjoying the peaceful view from the lodge’s Riverside Restaurant. The owners will then accompany the group on a short easy after-dinner walk to discover the rainforest at night and see its glow-worms and Morepork owls, as well as the Southern Cross and Milky Way. (Overnight Lake Moeraki Wildnerness Lodge) BLD
Day 7: Thursday 10 November, Lake Moeraki
- Guided walk – freshwater life of Lake Moeraki
- Guided walk – rainforest jungle & Fiordland Crested Penguins on Robinson Crusoe Beach
- Afternoon at leisure
For those who wish, today will begin before breakfast with a short excursion in which a nature guide will introduce to you the freshwater life of Lake Moeraki. You’ll see shrimps, snails, small fish and plankton that are the building blocks of life in the lake. A short walk through the rainforest and you’ll feed a colony of tame giant long finned eels.
After breakfast back at the lodge, there will be a guided walk through the rainforest jungle to the Tasman seacoast, where you’ll encounter Fiordland Crested Penguins on Robinson Crusoe beach. You will pass through a jungle-like temperate rainforest with forest bird life, vines, tree ferns and orchids. You’ll see giant kahikatea, rimu and silver beech. We reach Robinson Crusoe Beach and sit and watch from close up small numbers of Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguin) crossing to and from the sea to their rainforest breeding areas and chicks. Note: subject to numbers, there will be a less arduous alternative walk, which is moderately strenuous.
After our morning walk we shall have a reviving picnic lunch followed by an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Lake Moeraki Wildnerness Lodge) BLD
Queenstown – 2 nights
Day 8: Friday 11 November, Lake Moeraki – Wanaka – Gibbston – Queenstow
- Coe Garden, Lake Wanaka
- Lunch at the Gibbston Valley Winery Restaurant
- Afternoon at leisure
This morning we depart Lake Moreaki for Queenstown. After a short drive along the coast, we arrive at a long one-lane bridge and cross over the Haast River into the settlement of Haast. Haast was once a construction camp for the Ministry of Works and it’s a town with a touch of the Wild West. We then leave the coast and drive past waterfalls and river scenery and climb up the Haast river valley to Haast Pass. The road snakes through the Aspiring National Park, and the vegetation becomes sparser as we travel inland.
Our first visit leads us to John and Kate Coe’s garden, surrounded by Lake Wanaka’s snow-capped mountains. The garden was created from a paddock over a 30 year period. For the first ten years they operated the local plant nursery which allowed them to travel around the South Island finding plants that were unusual and interesting. The emphasis is on perennials, for which the nursery was noted. The continental climate of the area, with cold winters and hot summers, calls for a degree of careful plant selection. The garden is framed by spectacular mountain which adds a feeling of continuity to the many garden view corridors.
Lunch will be enjoyed at Gibbston Valley Winery, one of the most scenic vineyards you will ever see. The South Island’s cold winters have produced grapes that, turned mainly into pinot noir, have gained worldwide recognition. The area’s cheeses are also noteworthy.
We then continue our journey to Queenstown which sites on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps. The rest of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Queenstown) BL
Day 9: Saturday 12 November, Queenstown – Lake Dunstan – Arrowtown – Lake Hayes – Queenstown
- Jo Wakelin’s Garden, Lake Dunstan
- Arrowtown historic village
- Chantecler Gardens, Lake Hayes
This morning we travel to the Central Otago ranges where Jo Wakelin’s garden sits in solitude at the foot of the Pisa range near Lake Dunstan. Inspired by a visit to Beth Chatto’s pioneering dry garden in the East of England, Jo has designed a garden that can withstand drought and requires little, if any, watering. Today it is considered a test ground for dry-loving plants from many parts of the globe, including New Zealand.
Following lunch in Arrowtown and time to explore this historic gold mining town, we explore Chantecler, described as ‘a garden for all seasons’. Nestled in the heart of the Wakitipu Basin, and surrounded by majestic snow covered mountains, this 40 acre property includes 12 acres of mature gardens including an English garden, a large Asian garden, the NZ native garden, as well as a large vegetable patch and orchard. Chantecler’s gardens are complimented by mature Redwood, Oak, Beech, Ash, Rowan, Maple, Willow, Birch and many other trees including exotic Conifer. The driveway is lined with Liquid Amber which displays amazing colours in Autumn. (Overnight Queenstown) B
Te Anau – 1 night
Day 10: Sunday 13 November, Queenstown – Milford Sound – Te Anau
This morning we journey along the edge of Lake Wakatipu, through Kingston and Mossburn, to Te Anau, the hub of New Zealand’s fiordland region and the entry point to the Fiordland National Park. Along the way, we shall pass trout fishing rivers and high country scenery, and the small towns of Mossburn and Lumsden.
From Te Anau we continue along the Eglington Valley to the Mirror Lakes, before following the “Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain”, past Cascade Creek and Lake Gunn to The Divide. We drive through the Hollyford Valley to the Homer Tunnel, a man-made tunnel cut out of the rock wall, to emerge into the Cleddau Valley, and on to Milford Sound. This road is one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary. The first part crosses relatively mild farmland, but then we’ll ease into beech forest near the entrance to the Fiordland National Park. The rough-hewn Homer Tunnel brings us into Milford Sound, an amazing twenty-two kilometre long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak (1,692 m).
In the afternoon we depart for our cruise of Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘8th wonder of the world’. “This spectacular fjord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins and offers a sweeping landscape of jagged snow-capped mountains, shimmering fjords and lakes, and emerald greenery. It is famously known for its towering Mitre Peak, and waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls, which plummet down its sheer sides.” (Overnight Te Anau) BD
Invercargill – 1 night
Day 11: Monday 14 November, Te Anau – Lumsden – Wyndham – Invercargill
- Kepler Track walk, Te Anau
- Castelmaine Garden, Lumsden (to be confirmed for 2022)
- Maple Glen Gardens, Wyndham (to be confirmed for 2022)
We start the day with a gentle morning walk around the shore of Lake Te Anau. The track begins after crossing the bridge over the River Waiau known as Kepler Control Gates. The gates regulate water flows between lakes Te Anau and Manapouri. Once over the control gates you enter Fiordland National Park and find yourself walking on the Kepler Track. It follows the lake shore through mountain and red beech forest, with kamahi, scattered rimu, miro, and yellow-flowering kowhai. The track passes an attractive grove of hard tree ferns and crown ferns before reaching Dock Bay.
After the walk, we drive east to reach Castlemaine Garden located in a rural setting near Lumsden. Sharon and Peter have developed this garden over the last 26 years. A large macrocarpa hedge, providing shelter from strong winds, inspired a protected country garden with a formal touch in places, including an English garden area. Long cold winters and often mild to very dry summers are normal in this area. At 200 metres above sea level and inland, Castlemaine is subject to hard frosts and quite a bit of snow at times. Springtime is always a lovely time in the garden with bulbs, prunus trees, rhododendrons, wisteria, laburnum, alliums, peonies, irises, and the beginning flowering for roses, clematis and other perennials.
We continue south to Maple Glen, a private garden, nursery, aviary, woodland and wetland set in the rolling green countryside of Southland. The garden is home to a large population of native and exotic birds including hand-reared parrots and waterfowl. Established in the early 1970’s by Bob and Muriel Davison, this 25-acre garden which developed in a curving glen, includes massive collections of spring bulbs, perennials, magnolias, dogwoods, rhododendrons and azaleas, exotic trees, maple trees and several lakes. The annual rainfall here is 1,100 mm allowing the European and cool loving plants to thrive. Conifers and other trees were planted for winter interest with an excellent range of spring flowering trees and autumn leaf colouring trees planted for year round colour. Around the ponds and lakes they have planted masses of astilbes, bog primula, daffodils and bluebells.
From Maple Glen we continue to Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand. Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco heritage buildings give the city a charming old-world character. (Overnight Invercargill) BD
Dunedin – 2 nights
Day 12: Tuesday 15 November, Invercargill – The Catlins – Dunedin
- Waipapa Point Lighthouse
- Curio Bay Fossilised Forest
- McLean Falls Forest Walk
- Nugget Point Lighthouse
Today is spent exploring The Catlins, a rugged, sparsely populated area, located in the southeastern corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The area features spectacular coastal scenery and dense temperature rainforest. It is also harbours many endangered species of birds including the rare yellow-eyed penguins, and numerous marine mammals including New Zealand fur seals and Hooker’s sea lions.
We depart Invercargill early this morning and drive approximately 60km to the Waipapa Point Lighthouse. First lit in 1884, this wooden lighthouse was constructed in response to one of New Zealand’s worst shipping disasters; the wreck of the passenger steamer Tararua on the rocky reefs off Waipapa Point in 1881. A short walkway leads us to the beach where Hooker’s sea lions may often be viewed.
From Wiapapa Point we continue our journey around the coast to Curio Bay. Our visit is timed for late-morning when, during low tide, the fossilised remains of an ancient forest is exposed. This is one of the most extensive and least disturbed examples of a Jurassic fossil forest in the world and stretches about 20 kms from Curio Bay south west to Slope Point. 180 million years ago the Curio Bay area was a broad forested coastal floodplain. During this time, the middle Jurassic period, New Zealand was part of the ancient super-continent known as Gondwana. The forest predominantly consisted of trees forming a low canopy and undergrowth dominated by ferns. Over time, massive sheet floods of volcanic debris are believed to have destroyed the forest. In the millions of years since, the sediments were buried deeply and eventually turned the wood to rock. In some places fern fronds and leaves have been preserved as fossils within the mudstone rocks.
From Curio Bay we make the short drive to McLean Falls where we take an easy 40-minute forest walk to view the most striking of The Catlins’ waterfalls.
Further around the coast we visit the Department of Conservation Wildlife Reserve at Nugget Point which has dramatic views of “The Nuggets.” These wave-eroded rocks, which are likened to the shape of gold nuggets, can be seen from the viewing platform at the Nugget Point Lighthouse. Along the way to the lighthouse you may see the fur seal colony on the rocks at sea level to the left of the track and also below the lighthouse, or the many seabirds that make The Nuggets their home. (Overnight Dunedin) BL
Day 13: Wednesday 16 November, Dunedin – Otago Peninsula – Dunedin
- Hereweka garden
- Guided tour and lunch at Larnach Castle
- Royal Albatross Centre
This morning we drive to Hereweka garden set in a hidden valley below the prominent feature of Harbour Cone on the picturesque Otago Peninsula. The gently sloping hillside is planted with a wide variety of rhododendrons and many interesting trees and shrubs. Around the house there are wide borders containing perennials, old fashioned roses, lilies and an excellent collection of snowdrops and other bulbs. Hellebores are a particular speciality at Hereweka and a late winter visit is well rewarded though the garden peaks over spring and summer. A fascinating collection of plants with a Gondwana theme including palms, cordylines and tree ferns is well established in a side valley. The garden is partly surrounded by regenerating native bush which includes a stand of mature rimu and pokaka trees, the last such remnant on the Otago Peninsula.
We then drive a short distance to the magnificent Larnach Castle, built in 1871 by William Larnach, a merchant baron and politician. Located at an altitude of three hundred metres overlooking the Otago peninsula, this grand mansion has spectacular views. It is surrounded by one of New Zealand’s greatest gardens that boasts a unique collection of plants seldom seen elsewhere. Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) and a cedar, planted over one hundred years ago to provide shelter, give the garden an air of maturity. We will tour the house, which has an excellent collection of New Zealand antique furniture, and the extensive garden.
In the late afternoon we continue our scenic drive along the Otago Peninsula to the Royal Albatross Centre to visit the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. We will take a tour of the centre, watch a David Attenborough film and take a guided walk with a ranger around the colony. (Overnight Dunedin) BL
Oamaru – 1 night
Day 14: Thursday 17 November, Dunedin – Puketoi – Ranfurly – Oamaru
- Dunedin Botanic Garden: Guided Horticultural Tour
- Clachanburn Station, Puketoi
- Moeraki Boulders (time-permitting)
We start the day with a short drive to the Dunedin Botanic Garden. This is New Zealand’s oldest public garden and holds the status of six-star Garden of International Significance. Occupying 30.4 hectares at an altitude of 25-28 metres above sea level, the garden features more than 6800 plant species and the song of wild native bellbirds, wood pigeons and tui. It offers formal garden beds on flat land and also more naturalistic plant collections on a sun-facing slope. Native birds can also be seen in the aviary. An important aspect of The New Zealand Native plant collection is the cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species. The garden reflect the Victorian penchant for collecting plants and includes specimens from temperate climates of North Asia, the South, Central and North Americas, Southern Africa, the Himalayas and the Mediterranean.
After exploring Dunedin Botanic Garden, we continue to Clachanburn Station located 164km north of Dunedin on the dry rough plain of Maniototo in Central Otago. This 4.5 acre rambling country garden, developed by Jane Falconer, is recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance. The garden developed around the stream which flows through the heart of the property, and the original plantings of the 1930s. Lawns and borders roll gracefully away from the house to two large ponds with rugged hills to one side and the distant mountains beyond. An arching natural stone bridge, and a boat shed on the lower pond are special features. Central Otago enjoys brilliant autumn colours. The gardens feature many deciduous trees – maples, rowans, poplars and willows. Shrubs that colour well include many viburnums, cornus and spireas.
After lunch and a tour of these beautiful gardens we continue our journey to Oamaru, making a brief stop at Ranfurly well known for its 1930’s simple modernist art deco architecture. Time-permitting we also view the unusually large and spherical Moeraki Boulders which lie along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast. (Overnight Oamaru) BL
Lake Tekapo – 2 nights
Day 15: Friday 18 November, Oamaru – Riverstone – Lake Tekapo
- Riverstone Kitchen: Guided tour of the vegetable gardens
- Lake Pukaki Lookout
- Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo
- Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, Summit Experience with the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory
This morning we visit Riverstone Kitchen and tour its gardens and orchards filled with vegetables, fruits and herbs. Opened in 2006 by chef Bevan Smith and his wife, the restaurant was named Supreme Winner in the Cuisine New Zealand Restaurant of the Year Awards in 2010. The success of Riverstone Kitchen is cultivated by Bevan and Monique’s adherence to their simple philosophy: to make good food using ethically produced and locally grown ingredients. All ingredients are sourced either from the castle’s gardens or from local farmers and growers.
This afternoon we take a scenic drive to the Mackenzie Region, which is situated in the heart of the South Island. Sparsely populated, with amazing wide-open spaces, the region is ringed by snow-capped mountains and features turquoise-blue lakes, fed by meltwater from the surrounding Hooker and Tasman Glaciers. Our journey takes us past Lake Aviemore and Lake Benmore to Lake Pukaki, Mackenzie’s largest lake. From the Lake Pukaki Lookout we may view this vast jewel of surreal colour with New Zealand’s tallest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook in the background. We also visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo, built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country.
The Mackenzie Region has been recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. The region has one of the most pristine night skies in the world. After checking in to our resort hotel we will discover the magic of the night sky at the world-renowned astronomical centre: University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory. Here, talented astrophotographers will share the science and stories of our Southern skies. The Mackenzie region is an alpine environment meaning it is cool at night; please remember to bring a jacket suitable for cold weather! (Overnight Lake Tekapo) BLD
Day 16: Saturday 19 November, The Mackenzie Region
- Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre
- Nature walk with local park ranger
- Farewell Dinner
We spend the day exploring the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, an expanse of untouched, breathtaking, alpine landscape extending over more than 700km in the Mackenzie region. A rugged land of ice and rock, the park includes 19 peaks over 3000 metres including New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. We begin by visiting the spectacular Visitor Centre where a local ranger will introduce us to the park’s natural and human history. There will also be time to view the various interpretation exhibits and artwork collection. After lunch a local ranger will guide us on one of the walking tracks that leads to alpine tarns with spectacular views, perfect for avid photographers. Tonight we celebrate the end of our tour with a final farewell meal at the hotel. (Overnight Lake Tekapo) BLD
Day 17: Sunday 20 November, Lake Tekapo – Ashburton – Christchurch Airport
- Trott’s Garden, Ashburton
- Afternoon transfer to Christchurch Airport
This morning we depart Lake Tekapo and travel to Ashburton where we visit the award winning garden of Alan and Catherine Trott. It is one of the most inspiring and extensive private gardens in New Zealand, covering over 2.8 hectares. The Trotts have combined formal herbaceous borders with woodland and water gardens that are quite outstanding. A designed garden from its inception, it leads the visitor through a series of different garden spaces that are carefully revealed. The garden is a blend of intense plantings, sweeping lawns and extensive water areas, which are all well balanced, creating a delightful rhythm to the overall design
Awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Excellence, this garden also has a very fine collection of plants. With over 50 species of magnolia, 70 different maples and hundreds of different shrubs and woodland species, there is always something in flower. Structural elements including a dovecote, boardwalk, gazebo and climbing frames, all add extra highlights to the garden. A chapel built in 1916 and moved to the garden in 1999 is set against a hedged garden. It features an interior of superb native New Zealand timbers. The area of the garden surrounding the old cobbled stables is a specialist nursery.
After a light lunch at Trott’s garden we proceed to Christchurch airport arriving at approximately 2.30pm. BL