New Plymouth  Festival of Lights   - a new 5   day New Zealand Tour

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Day 1 - Departing the Bay of Plenty we head west, traversing the Waikato and then south through the King Country, making a stop for morning tea, before continuing on to Te Kuiti for a quick rest stop and to see the Colin Meads statue. This legendary All Black is the favourite son of this small King Country town.

Then on towards the rugged west coast for our lunch stop at Mokau and a chance to try some of the famous west coast whitebait at the local cafe. Time for a stroll to see the panoramic views, from Mount Taranaki to the sea, just breathtaking.

Its then just an hours drive south along the coast to New Plymouth, our base for the next 3 nights. Tonight, we have a lovely dinner at our city central 4 star hotel, it's restaurant is rated number 1 on TripAdvisor for restaurants in New Plymouth.

  

Day 2 - Our first garden today is a real showcase for what a local council can achieve. Pukehura Park is just one of many 'green spaces' that you will find in New Plymouth and is the home of the TSB Festival of lights.  This morning we will take a stroll down the winding paths from the top section to the boating lake and the cafe lodge, a chance to see the stunning woodland gardens in daylight. We can enjoy a morning coffee  here, overlooking the lake before we head to our next garden, a highly rated 6 star garden that has been created in a small valley inside the urban landscape of the city.

Our host will walk us around the property and explain the concept of a 'native species' garden, achieved over a life time of dedication and hard work.

We next head out of the city to visit a stunning private garden on the slopes of Mount Taranaki. This historic homestead is surrounding by formal 'garden rooms' each with their own style and our hosts will guide us around the the garden, telling us the story of each 'room' and naming any plants you cannot identify.  This was a stand out garden for our 2022 tour and we are sure you will be equally impressed.

We then continue up and through the rain forest landscape to the famous Pukeiti Gardens. This is a garden of national significance with rhododendrons and other exotics creating an explosion of colour amidst lush native rainforest. Pukeiti is a great place to visit all year round and we can learn stories and secrets of the garden and see it through the eyes of a gardener during our one-hour guided walking tour. Their 'Rainforest cafe' is our lunch venue today where there is a great selection of food available (lunch is at your cost today). 

Please note that guided tours are not always available.

Leaving Pukeiti Gardens we take the road directly to the coast and then head west to visit the Cape Egmont Historic Lighthouse.  This marks the western-most point of the Taranaki coast and from its prominent location you will have amazing views not only of the Tasman Sea, but also to the snow and ice capped peak of Mount Taranaki.

Arriving back at our hotel, there is time to freshen up before we head out for dinner and  to see the TSB Festival of Lights, which transforms Pukekura Park into a world of light and wonder! Each year there are new light installations to the festival, which adds magic to the park's large exotic specimen tree collection, inter planted within a margin of luxuriant native bush. Highlights are the native orchid and fern collection housed in a partially sunken conservatory. The are many special display gardens, all with the stunning backdrop and views of Mount Taranaki, this really is a must see destination, both day and during the festival at night.

Day 3 - We start today with a visit to a most unexpected garden where we will meet with one of the volunteers who have transformed a once neglected area of city green space into a riot of colour. The setting may feel odd to some but genuinely moving to others.

Changing the theme, our next garden visit is very different, to a small private but very productive garden where the owners have developed systems to grow produce for local supply.  Explaining and demonstrating some of the processes they use will inspire you to do the same in your own gardens. Time here for morning tea (included) before departing. 

Next we visit Tupare House and Garden. This 'arts and crafts' inspired property - a unique homestead set in a beautiful garden, was originally developed by Sir Russell Matthews for his family back in the 1930's. Tupare has recently earned the NZ Gardens Trust highest six-star rating - a distinction shared by only 13 other locations nationally. Our guided house and garden tour will let us experience the best of the garden as we wander the winding paths cut out of the hill-side leading to surprising vistas and intimate garden rooms. Please note that guided tours are not always available.

Next we head out into the Taranaki countryside as we travel higher up Mount Taranaki to the North Egmont visitor centre and cafe. Time here to take a short walk or just relax and enjoy the stunning scenery from the almost 900m elevation. This is also our lunch location today, with plenty of choices for you at the cafe.

Returning to central New Plymouth, there is time for you to explore this coastal city at your leisure - which is known for its sunny climate, art galleries and beautiful parks. Chance for you to grab a bite to eat at any of the local cafes and browse the shops. 

You may want to visit Puke Ariki - a combined museum and library. An amalgamation of the New Plymouth Public Library and the Taranaki Museum, it's name (Māori for "hill of chiefs") is taken from the Māori village that formerly occupied the site.

Another option could be the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery & Len Lye Centre - a contemporary art museum and home to the The Len Lye Centre – New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist - the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye. The building itself is stunning - an award winning unique design.

Along the waterfront you can see the famous Wind Wand - a 48-metre kinetic sculpture, made to designs by artist Len Lye. It is one of the main icons of New Plymouth and also lights up at night.

We return to our hotel for dinner this evening and you have the option to visit Pukekura Park after dinner again to see the lights and gardens. 

Day 4 - Today we leave New Plymouth and head north. Leaving the dairy farms of Taranaki behind we make a short stop at the town of Stratford to view the Glockenspeil Clock Tower - the only one of its kind in New Zealand. A glockenspiel resembles a xylophone, but has metal rather than wooden keys. This is one of many Shakespeare-themed features of a town named after the birthplace of William Shakespeare. 

We will time our visit to hear the chimes at 10am, when Romeo and Juliet emerge from the tower, reenacting a scene from Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as the glockenspiel plays for approximately 5 minutes. The wooden figures were made by Nigel Ogle of Hawera’s famous Tawhiti Museum.

Our next destination is Cairnhill Gardens, this gem of a garden has year-round interest and colour, with rhododendron, roses, clematis and mature trees. Paeonies, hosta, heuchera and iris feature strongly amongst the many perennials that nestle in and around the beds of this ‘one level’ garden, an easy walk.  Our hosts will tell us about their lifelong work to change a simple farm paddock into an amazing visual delight. Morning tea will be served here before we continue north on SH43 to the famous Whangamomona Hotel - which is our lunch stop today.

This is one of New Zealand’s most iconic country hotels and also the headquarters of the Republic of Whangamomona. Formed in 1988 by some disgruntled locals annoyed by boundary changes imposed by the district council. Note that Passports can be purchased at the hotel to ensure safe passage through the Republic, or bring your own New Zealand passport to get the all important passport stamp!

After lunch we continue along the ‘Forgotten Highway’ through stunning native bush, heading north towards Taumarunui to a Lavender Garden for afternoon tea, breaking the journey along this winding and challenging route before we reach our destination this evening at the Chateau Tongariro, one of New Zealand's most iconic hotels.

Dinner this evening will be in the elegant Ruapehu Room, where style is combined with great service and of course, excellent food.

Day 5 - After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, there is time for a short walk to the Tongariro National Park Visitors Centre. This Department of Conservation facility offers exhibits of the volcanoes, Māori mythology, flora and fauna, a 3D model of the national park, audio-visual displays and quality merchandise and gifts.

Heading up The Bruce Highway, we climb to the ski village of Whakapapa, where weather permitting we can ride the Sky Waka cable cars to see the views from 2100m above sea level.  No snow today we are sure so there will be no skiing, just time for a morning cuppa at the cafe, from which you will have amazing views, even back as far as Mount Taranaki.

Heading back down the Bruce Road we begin our journey home to Tauranga, with plenty of stops along the way to see the sights and have a bite to eat.

​* Please note, that unless specified in the itinerary we do not usually include the cost of lunches or morning and afternoon tea stops in the tour cost, but we always make stops where there are a range of options available so you can choose what you want, and have flexibility to do things on your own if you wish.

The gardens we visit and the order of the itinerary is liable to change.

All Hinterland multi-day tours can be taken by clients from any region of New Zealand or Australia. Please contact us for details. Additional charges may apply.

New Plymouth Festival of Lights

Experience one of New Zealand's iconic festivals on our 5 day tour to the TSB Festival of Lights....

This is must see event for garden lovers and should not be missed. Join our small group tour for 5 days as we travel south and west through stunning rural scenery to New Plymouth with an alternative return route to see even more of the less travelled roads of New Zealand. With visits to many of the top gardens, some including guided tours - the headline act is our evening visit to view the light displays at Pukekura Park. Plenty of time to see other local sights or just relax at our city central hotel.

23rd Jan 2023
$1995 pp Twin share

Whats Included:

  • 5 days on tour

  • 4 nights quality accommodation

  • Door to door service (Tauranga area)

  • Quality air-conditioned vehicle

  • Full commentary by your guide 

  • All dinners and 2 lunches

  • Lunch at the Whangamomona Hotel

  • Breakfasts each day

  • Visit to Pukekura Park Gardens

  • Visit to Pukeiti Gardens

  • Visit to Tupare House and Gardens

  • Additional private garden tours

  • A ride on the Sky Waka cable car

You will see:

  • Stunning scenery throughout

  • The Festival of Lights displays

  • Amazing gardens and scenery 

  • The Whangamomona Hotel

  • The Forgotten Highway

  • Mt Taranaki

  • Stratford's Glockenspeil Clock Tower

  • Taranaki and The King Country

  • Taumarunui and Te Kuiti

Not included:

  • Any lunches unless specified* 

  • Morning/afternoon tea stops*

  • Any alcoholic beverages with meals

A single room surcharge of $395 applies.