Auckland to Queenstown

Beginning in Auckland and ending in Queenstown, this self-drive journey explores the wonderful gardens of New Zealand and its horticultural history.

Making it such a fascinating adventure for the garden enthusiast! You will visit both iconic destinations and off-the-beaten-track garden gems which we are delighted to share with fellow gardeners. You’ll travel the length of New Zealand, from North to South from the sub-topical Bay of Islands to the wild and blustery Otago Peninsula.

Staying in boutique lodges and hotels ensuring each evening is spent in comfort and in a great location, this tour doesn’t have to last 25 days – we can tailor it to suit you. Though if you have the time and enthusiasm, this is a wonderful Gardens of New Zealand Tour.

Image: Cromwell Orchard (c) David Wall

Your tour documentation pack and support

On arrival into New Zealand your tour pack is hand delivered to you by our representatives. The pack contains all the documentation you will need for your tour including a printed and bound detailed version of your itinerary with driving instructions and maps for each leg and all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities. You’ll also receive a wonderful New Zealand picture atlas and lots of relevant brochures and information on the destinations you’ll be visiting. While travelling throughout New Zealand 24 hour support is offered should you need it.

Complimentary New Zealand cell phone for your holiday

You will receive a New Zealand cell phone for the duration of your tour with $50 credit pre-loaded for your use. The number is allocated to you around 14 days before your arrival so you can leave this with friends and family if you wish. Receiving calls (including international) does not cost anything on this phone so there are no expensive roaming charges. It’s a great option to help you make dinner reservations, book an activity, call ahead to your accommodation or for calling us if you need any help.


Kerikeri Mission State Gardens

Whangarei Quarry Gardens

Hamilton Gardens Guided Tour

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Wai O Tapu thermal reserve

Mitai Maori Village Concert & Buffet Dinner

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Huka Jet Totally Taupo Combo

Huka Falls Taupo

Historic Gwavas Gardens

Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Botanic Gardens

Abel Tasman National Park beaches, bays and seals kayak tour

Kaikoura Lavender Farm

International Antarctic Centre

Christchurch Grand Tour

Dunedin Botanic Gardens

TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner at Walter Peak high country farm

Also included in our guide line price: Please bear in mind our prices are based on 2 people travelling and sharing a bed.

Some meals: 2 dinners & all breakfasts, Private airport transfers, Interislander ferry crossing,  GPS navigation. unlimited kms,airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers.

Fully inclusive Rental car insurance included. (+ all the highlights admission costs where applicable).


Day 1: Arrive Auckland City

Transfer to your accommodation and rest of day at leisure

A private transfer will meet you from your flight and drive you to your Auckland accommodation.

Auckland City is New Zealand’s largest. Known as the ‘city of sails’ it is situated on a narrow neck of land between two harbours, Manukau Harbour and the beautiful Waitemata Harbour which flanks the city centre. There is somewhere for every visitor to feel right at home as each suburb has its own unique style and atmosphere, from the vibrant and trendy fashion and cuisine found along Ponsonby Road to the breath-taking native bush and beaches of the West Coast. Spend the day exploring the city or relaxing before your adventure begins.

Accommodation: Eden Villa


Day 2: Discover Auckland's Botanical Gardens

A relaxing start to the trip in the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Auckland, home to over 10,000 plants from around the world. There is seasonal interest throughout the year with a number of specific gardens devoted to native plants.

Accommodation: Eden Villa


Day 3: Leave the 'City of Sails' for port-side Whangerai

Whangarei Quarry Gardens is a garden project created by community volunteers in the forested western hills of Whangarei City. What was once a dilapidated quarry site has now become a subtropical oasis for all to enjoy. Often referred to as the Winterless North, With an annual rainfall of 1500-2000 mm per year and New Zealand’s highest average temperatures Northland has a truly subtropical climate. These climatic conditions, coupled with the sheltered and heat-radiating properties of a stone quarry, create an ideal microclimate for growing a plethora of native and exotic subtropical plants. Whangarei Quarry Gardens is a wonderful work in progress – historically fascinating, botanically captivating, and a beautiful reflection of the power of community.

Please note that a gold coin donation is required on entry.

Accommodation: Lupton Lodge


Day 4: Travel to Kerikeri

Travel to Kerikeri to explore ‘The Winterless North’

The Winterless North is so called because of its year round milder climate. An opportunity to see the impact on the flora and fauna of the region.

Accommodation: Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast


Day 5: Visit the Kerikeri Mission Station Gardens and Bay of Island Surrounds

These award-winning riverside heritage gardens and orchards in the Kerikeri Mission Station surrounds have been cultivated over the past 200 years making them New Zealand’s oldest gardens. Enjoy the picture perfect landscape in the Bay of Islands where the buildings and surrounding areas carry stories of labour, passion, gods and battles when Maori met missionaries and history changed forever.

Accommodation: Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast


Day 6: Return south to Murawai Beach and Lone Kauri Lodge

An easy day of travelling and exploring the locality.

Accommodation: Lone Kauri Lodge


Day 7: Waikato king country to Hamilton

Accommodation: Hadleigh Boutique Accommodation


Day 8: Hamilton Gardens then south to Waitomo

Explore the spectacular Hamilton Gardens then travel south to Waitomo

Telling the story of gardens through themed collections, Hamilton Gardens explores different civilisations, and recreates historically important garden styles from all over the world.

You will be guided on a journey of discovery along paths delivering mysterious surprises. From a peaceful Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholar’s garden to an Italian Renaissance garden, there are 21 themed garden areas with more being developed. Hamilton Gardens is not a botanical garden. Instead, it’s a unique and internationally recognised concept that has been compared to a museum. Each garden collection has historic integrity and provides a window into the story of civilisations, their arts, beliefs and life styles.

Your guide will share the ‘inside story’ of how Hamilton Gardens was transformed from a rubbish dump into an internationally significant garden. Around every corner there is something different.

Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage


Day 9: Visit the Waitomo Caves then travel east to the Central North Volcanic Plateau

For over 100 years Waitomo Glow-worm Caves have attracted people from all over the world to this subterranean wonderland. An ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos, and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glow-worm Caves which are 16 metres apart. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave, the Catacombs and the Organ Loft. The lower level consists of stream passages and the Cathedral. As you glide quietly beneath the lights of thousands of glowworms, it is only the gentle sound of dripping water that reminds you that you are deep underground and not beneath a star filled sky.

Accommodation: The Princes Gate Hotel


Day 10: Relax in the geothermal hotspot: Rotorua

This thermal area around 30 kilometres south of Rotorua has many walking tracks to take you through this strange landscape. Bubbling mud pools, simmering waters rising from the depths and colourful sulphurous pools make this a fascinating insight into the geothermal activity that goes on below Rotorua’s surface. Lady Knox Geyser can be seen erupting at 10:15am daily, shooting water up to 10 metres into the air.

There are 3 well signposted walking tracks and an informative brochure tells you about each feature. A gift shop and cafe are also on site.

An evening at Mitai will give you an authentic introduction to Maori culture leaving you amazed and in awe. Be enthralled by the natural bush setting, see warriors in traditional dress, paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream, and don’t miss your only opportunity in the Rotorua area to see glow worms in their natural habitat.  Marvel at the crystal clear water full of eels and trout, flowing directly from the earth at the sacred Fairy Spring. See your traditionally cooked hangi meal being lifted from the ground. During our cultural performance, you’ll learn about our past, carvings and ta moko (tattoo art).  Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat, coupled with the grace and beauty of the poi dance. You’ll be amazed by the spine tingling haka finale. The Mitai family is proud to have created a sacred and spiritual place that offers you an indigenous cultural experience like no other.

Accommodation: The Princes Gate Hotel


Day 11: Travel through the Volcanic Plateau via Huka Falls to Hawke's Bay

Begin this Totally Taupo day with a scenic cruise on Great Lake Taupo. Explore secluded bays and take in magnificent views of the mountain peaks of Tongariro National Park as you cruise out to view the Maori Rock Carvings on board the modern catamaran. Enjoy an informative commentary along with complimentary coffee and muffins on board.  After your 1.5 hours cruise return to Taupo where you’ll board your helicopter for an exciting 12 minute scenic flight over the geothermal areas of Craters  of The Moon, the Maori rock Carvings and the Huka Falls before landing near Huka Falls for your final adventure, the thrilling Huka Falls jet boat ride.  Finish with a blast on this 30 minute jet boat ride, sliding past cliffs and trees at an incredible 80km/hr before reaching the base of the spectacular Huka Falls.

Lake Taupo has a massive capacity of approximately 59 cubic kilometres and its only outlet is the Waikato River. At Huka, just north of the town centre the Waikato River is forced through a narrow volcanic rock chasm. The resulting spectacle is compounded as this massive volume of water surges towards the falls. A jet boat ride is a fun and thrilling way to see this geographic wonder or a short walk from the car park will position you onto a viewing platform. Close to the falls (look for the signs) is the Prawn Farm and here you can enjoy a prawn feast.

Accommodation: Craggy Range


Day 12: Visit the historic Gwavas Gardens and Hawke's Bay wine country

Gwavas Garden is a beautiful woodland garden, based on the Cornish family home of Tregrehan, where Carlyons have lived for 500 years. It comprises nine hectares (20 acres) of both native and exotic trees and shubs. The very first plantings were those beside the family cemetery, planted by Major Carlyon in 1860. Gwavas Garden is listed as a “registered group of historic trees”  with the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. Many of the trees and shrubs came from seeds sent to New Zealand from Tregrehan by ASG’s older brother Jovy. The Carlyons bred their own hybrids, and exchanged trees and plants; there are many New Zealand natives, including large Totara trees in the Tregrehan garden today.

Hawkes Bay Wine and Gourmet Odyssey – NZD198

Accommodation: Craggy Range


Day 13: Head down through the southernmost part of the North Island to the capital city, Wellington

Accommodation: Edgewater Lodge


Day 14: Discover Wellington's Botanical Gardens

Take the Wellington Cable Car to the Botanical Gardens

Join locals and visitors alike in a historic trip on the Wellington Cable Car. For over a hundred years passengers have enjoyed the dramatic views of the growing cityscape and the surrounding hills that define Wellington’s harbour. This five minute trip to the top of the Kelburn Hill offers a charming escape from the busy city streets. You will enjoy views of the city & harbour Te Whanganui-a-Tara from the indoor or outdoor platforms.

Once at the Kelburn Lookout, you can visit the Cable Car Museum located adjacent to the Kelburn Terminus. It houses the original winding machinery for the cable car system which operated from 1902 until 1978. You can also visit the Space Place at Carter Observatory, located two minutes from the top of the Cable Car with multimedia exhibitions and some of New Zealand’s most prestigious astronomical artefacts. Enjoy the show in the digital full-done planetarium and explore the Southern skies.

The Wellington Botanic Gardens are home to over 26 hectares of exceptional views, unique landscape, exotic forests, native bush’s and specialist gardens. One of the oldest botanic gardens in New Zealand, this central city garden was established in 1868. The conifer species were planted as part of a programme to import plant species and assess their economic potential to the new colony. The very large specimens of Pinus Radiata that dominate the landscape were grown from the first seed of that species to be imported from California. A feature of the gardens are major seasonal floral displays, spectacular in spring, with a massed display of 30,000 tulips. In summer, the Lady Norwood Rose garden provides a colourful spectacle with 106 formal beds each containing a different cultivar. Adjacent is a large Begonia House displaying tropical and temperate plants and a tropical conservatory with a seasonal display of orchids. Victoria Amazonica, the giant water lily can be found here. There are several key attractions in the garden that visitors can experience such as glow worms in the Main Garden, public art throughout the garden, children’s play area, Botanic Garden Café located in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Carter Observatory. The information centre is located in the spectacular Tree House and nearby there is a rock garden, an extensive fern collection and a camellia walk. There are extensive, well-maintained, walking paths throughout the garden.

Accommodation: Edgewater Lodge


Day 15: Catch the Interislander Ferry accross the Cook Strait and then head to Abel Tasman National Park

The 92 km journey between Picton and Wellington takes around 3 hours and has been described as ‘one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world’. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays is a true photographic opportunity. From the Cook Strait spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen. After crossing the strait you approach Wellington Harbour and pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the countries highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph).

Accommodation: The Pepper Tree


Day 16: Spot dolphins and seals as you explore the Abel Tasman

This trip combines the best the Abel Tasman has to offer – Beaches, Bays & Seals!  Meet your guide and join the 9.30am Vista Cruise along the magnificent coastline to Torrent Bay.  On arrival at the Torrent Bay Lodge a full training session and safety briefing is delivered.  Then you move onto the water, to discover the beautiful beaches, tidal estuaries and rivers of the most scenic kayaking area of the park – Torrent to Pinnacle Island. Pause at a sheltered cove for your picnic lunch (included), take time out to relax, explore, swim or sunbathe on the golden sand.   On your return journey, if the winds are favourable the kayak sails will be hoisted and you will sail back to Torrent Bay, stopping at Pinnacle Island to view the seal colony there.  Sea birds working the shoals of fish or resting on the rocky outcrops add to the experience. You may even see some of the Blue Penguins that live here. Back at Torrent Bay Lodge, freshen up with a hot shower and re-join the boat – recount the days adventure while cruising back to Kaiteriteri, arriving 4.10pm.  During summer there is the option to enjoy an unguided 2 hour coastal bush walk after the kayaking trip.  Walk around picturesque Torrent Bay Lagoon via Cleopatra’s Pool to Anchorage where you re-join the boat at 5.15pm to arrive back at Kaiteriteri at approximately 5.50pm. Minimum age 12 years.

Wilsons Provide: Top quality kayaking equipment.  Full instruction and safety briefing. Dry bags for clothing and camera and a picnic lunch.

You Provide: Towel, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, warm top (plus polypropylene thermals if you have them), wind jacket, swimsuit, change of clothes, walking shoes, personal water bottle.

Accommodation: The Pepper Tree


Day 17: Take a spectacular drive to the east coast whale watching capital, Kaikoura

Accommodation: Manakau Lodge


Day 18: Visit the Kaikoura Lavender farm and try the local seafood for lunch

Lavendyl Farm grows over 50 different varieties of lavender plants on the 5 acre Lavender farm.  A visit to the farm is a sensory experience.  Stroll through the gardens while admiring lavender and native New Zealand plants and flowers, meet the friendly sheep and take in the spectacular views.  From January to February, when the flowers are at their peak for oil production, the distilling process can be observed on site.  All year round a wide range of lavender products are available to purchase from the unique onsite gift store and gallery.  Finish your visit with a relaxing cup of tea or coffee inside the tearoom or out in the gardens.

Lavendyl farm is open from 10am to 4 pm every day from September till May. For more information visit

Accommodation: Manakau Lodge


Day 19: Onwards to Christchurch

Follow the coast to New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch

Te Wepu Native Garden

Accommodation: Elizas Manor Boutique Hotel


Day 20: Discover Christchurch's Botanical Gardens and City

Board the Grand Tour luxury coach for an interactive and fun guided tour of Christchurch. You will see the best Christchurch has to offer; beautiful parks and gardens, quaint seaside suburbs and superb views of the city and surrounds. On tour you’ll will learn about the exciting plans for the rejuvenation of the city following the major earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.  Included in the tour are 4 of  Christchurch’s premium attractions – Punting on the Avon, the Caterpillar Botanic Gardens tour,  the Christchurch Gondola and a hop-on hop-off ticket to see the central city from the newly re-opened heritage Tram.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Don’t miss the Central Rose Garden in summer or the New Zealand Gardens for a unique taste of NZ natural heritage. If you’ve got the time, bring a picnic and relax for a while.

For more information:

Accommodation: Elizas Manor Boutique Hotel


Day 21: Onwards to Dunedin

Continue down to the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin

Explore Olveston Historic Home whilst in the area – plan ahead to ensure it is open at your time of year.

Accommodation: Larnach Lodge at Larnach Castle


Day 22: Discover Dunedin's Botanical Gardens

The Dunedin Botanic Garden is New Zealand’s first botanic garden and is also a Garden of International Significance. It is home to more than 6,800 plant species and is spread accross both rolling hills and flatlands. Wild native bellbirds, wood pigeons and tui can be heard on most days. The garden occupies 30.4 hectares in North Dunedin.  Its varying range of floriculture and horticultural includes roses, herbaceous and perennial borders, a rock garden, New Zealand native plants and four hectares of Rhododendron Dell. It also houses a New Zealand Native plant collection including cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species.

Accommodation: Larnach Lodge at Larnach Castle


Day 23: Onwards to Queenstown

Head into the heart of the Goldfields to alpine destination, Queenstown

There are some great garden tours around Queenstown which offer something seasonally different. Take a moment to plan your day in one of the town’s many great café’s.

Accommodation: Queenstown House Boutique Hotel


Day 24: Queenstown

Spend your final day relaxing with the stunning backdrop of Queenstown

Enjoy a return scenic cruise from downtown Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Farm on board the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. On disembarking at Walter Peak you are warmly welcomed and escorted through the beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming Colonel’s Homestead. Relax in the unique ambience of the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, the heart of the stately homestead at Walter Peak.  Here, you’ll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The delicious seasonal menu includes an expansive array of New Zealand and local produce, from succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie or grill, a selection of delicious vegetables and salads.  Then finish your meal with our irresistible desserts, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country. On the magical night-time cruise home, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a sing-a-long with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Accommodation: Queenstown House Boutique Hotel


Day 25: Depart Queenstown

Orakei Korako Hidden Valley with Volcanic Air Safaris by floatplane – NZD970

Orchard in Spring, Cromwell, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand