Delve into the art, architecture and nature of New Zealand’s North Island, from its Maori heritage to its privately-owned art collections and sculpture parks, on this 13-day tour. The tour begins on the Bay of Islands, before heading south to Auckland, then across the centre of the island to Rotorua and Lake Taupo and Rotorua and on to Napier on the Pacific coast, culminating the capital, Wellington. Experience how the dramatic mountain ranges, centres of volcanic activity, stunning coastlines and rolling green hills, are both setting and context for the art and culture of New Zealand.
Key historic sites around Russell, exploring Maori and European interaction
Remarkable privately owned sculpture parks – Brick Bay, north of Auckland, and Connells Bay on beautiful Waiheke Island
Experience wonderful food and wine at Mudbrick restaurant on Waiheke Island
Auckland’s War Memorial Museum and Toi o Tamaki Art Gallery, New Zealand’s premier cultural institutions
Scenic drives through mountain ranges, volcanic landscapes and verdant countryside
Remarkable volcanic landscape at Waimangu, with steaming geysers and hot springs
Napier’s world-class Art Deco architecture
Days 1–3: From Russell in the north, visit Maori and early European sites and enjoy the Bay of Islands.
Day 4: Travel to Auckland via Brick Bay restaurant and sculpture trail.
Days 5-6: Explore Auckland’s art and cultural scene with galleries and performances, and spend a day on paradisiacal Waiheke Island.
Days 7-8: Travel through the Waikato to Rotorua, our base for geothermal parks and Lake Taupo.
Days 9-11: Travel to Napier and explore the Art Deco heritage before journeying through the Wairarapa Valley south to Wellington.
Days 12-13: In Wellington and explore the city’s cultural heritage at the Te Papa Museum, National Portrait Gallery and the Botanic Gardens.
The tour begins at Auckland Airport and ends at our hotel in Wellington. Qantas and Air New Zealand have regular flights into Wellington and out of Auckland from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Tuesday March 23: Arrival
Meet your tour leader and fellow tour participants at the departure gate at Auckland Airport for our short flight to Kerikeri on the Bay of Islands. On arrival at Kerikeri, transfer to our hotel in Russell, the main settlement in the area. There are drinks and a light dinner this evening. Overnight Russell. (D)
Wednesday March 24: A mission and a Winery
This morning’s introductory talk explores some of the important and complex issues in Maori-European contact. We then walk to the Pompallier Mission and Printery in Russell. Founded by French Marist missionaries in 1842, the mission documents one aspect of European travel to New Zealand, the desire to christianise the inhabitants. We then head a short distance out of town to Paroa Bay Winery, enjoying fine views over the Bay of Islands. Here we enjoy lunch at one of the district’s best restaurants, specialising in fresh New Zealand seafood, as well as sampling the vineyard’s produce. Late this afternoon we board the R. Tucker Thompson, an 85-foot halibut schooner, for a gentle twilight sail of the bay. Overnight Russell. (B, L)
Thursday March 25: Waitangi and Kerikeri
Today we visit the two most important historic sites in the Bay of Islands. Our first stop is the excellent museum and historical site of the Waitangi Treaty, signed by Maori chiefs and Europeans in 1840 and the basis for relations ever since, though frequently criticised and reinterpreted. The museum looks at the shared history from both sides, using artefacts and explanatory texts. The treaty grounds themselves are a peaceful, reflective site. Established in 1819, the Kerikeri Mission is an extensive and well-preserved site. We visit the Stone Store, Kemp House and stroll the award-winning heritage garden, more than 200 years old. Before returning to Russell, we visit Kororipo Pā, an ancient, fortified hill settlement once home to the Mission’s Māori protector, Hongi Hika. Overnight Russell. (B)
Friday March 26: Brick Bay Sculpture Park
This morning we depart Russell and head south. We make a morning coffee stop at Whangarei Falls, to enjoy the spectacle of the 26-metre drop over an escarpment. We arrive at Brick Bay in time for lunch at the winery’s glasshouse restaurant, which boasts a beautiful location amid rolling, vine-covered hills facing the sea. After lunch there is time to walk the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, featuring impressive outdoor installations by prominent New Zealand artists, many of them represented in international collections. We then head to Auckland, arriving in the late afternoon. The evening is free. Overnight Auckland. (B, L)
Saturday March 27: Auckland Museum and a concert
We spend the morning at the remarkable Auckland War Memorial Museum, arguably the world’s finest museum dedicated to Pacific cultures. A museum guide takes us through some of the key exhibits, and explains the history of the building itself, conceived as a war memorial. There will be time to explore the museum independently, as well as take a stroll in the adjacent Domain and its elegant iron and glass wintergardens. This afternoon we visit Sir James Wallace’s Pa Homestead. Sir James is one of New Zealand’s most active and enthusiastic private art patrons, and the homestead hosts regular exhibitions. This evening has been set aside to enjoy a concert by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra or a play by the Auckland Theatre Company (details November 2020). Overnight Auckland. (B)
Sunday March 28: Waiheke Island
This morning we take the 45-minute ferry ride across Auckland Harbour to Waiheke Island. This idyllic island has wineries, secluded beaches and a number of art centres. We visit the Connell’s Bay Sculpture Park on the eastern tip of the island. Here, in an idyllic setting overlooking Hauraki Gulf and the Coromandel Peninsula, collectors and philanthropists John and Jo Gow will take us on a walking tour of their fine collection, which includes many site-specific installations by New Zealand sculptors. We end our visit with a late lunch at the Mudbrick Vineyard, enjoying the spectacular views back to Auckland, before returning by ferry. Overnight Auckland. (B, L)
Monday March 29: Auckland Art Gallery and The Waikato
After a brief talk, this morning we visit the Auckland Art Gallery, the nation’s leading public gallery and home to a celebrated collection of 19th-century Maori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer and others. We also go behind the scenes, visiting the gallery’s well-regarded conservation department. Departing Auckland, we head south and travel through the stunning countryside of the Waikato Valley. This rich agricultural district is home to New Zealand’s thoroughbred racing industry and is also where much of the Lord of the Rings film series was shot. We arrive in Rotorua in the late afternoon. This evening we visit the Te Puia hot springs and geyser park, observing this natural spectacle and learning about local Maori history and culture. Overnight Rotorua. (B, D)
Tuesday March 30: Rotorua
We spend the morning exploring the Waimangu ‘volcanic valley’ with a local guide. The valley was formed through dramatic volcanic activity in 1886. We first take a path past craters, lakes and hot springs before joining a short cruise on Lake Rotomahana, with fumaroles and other evidence of the 1886 eruption. The afternoon is free and you can choose to be pampered in a hot spring or stroll the hot springs and Maori sites in Rotorua. Overnight Rotorua. (B)
Wednesday March 31: Lake Taupo to the Pacific
We travel through a geothermically active area or hot springs to the Lake Taupo area, stopping to view the dramatic Huka Falls on the way. At Lake Taupo, we visit the small but interesting local history museum, and take a short boat cruise to see some impressive contemporary Maori rock carvings on the lake shores. We then head across the Kaweka Range, a spectacular drive that takes us to the Hawke’s Bay district on the Pacific Ocean coastline. We arrive at Napier in the late afternoon. Dinner is at Bistronomy, in the heart of Napier’s dining district. Overnight Napier. (B, D)
Thursday April 1: Art Deco and Hawke’s Bay
Napier boasts a remarkable architectural heritage. An earthquake in 1931 destroyed most of the city centre, but it was rebuilt immediately in a consistent Art Deco style. Today Napier is recognised as one of the densest concentrations of small-scale Art Deco architecture anywhere in the world. After a brief talk, a specialist architecture guide takes us on a walking tour of the city centre. After some free time to visit the regional art gallery and stroll the seaside promenade (also Art Deco), we head by coach to the Art Deco residential suburb of Marewa and the nearby National Tobacco Factory, and onto Hastings, built mainly in the Spanish Mission style. The nearby town Hastings is at the heart of the Hawke’s Bay wine district. With a climate similar to that of Bordeaux, the area is known for its sauvignon blanc and syrah varieties, which we have the opportunity to evaluate for ourselves at a wine tasting. Overnight Napier. (B)
Friday April 2: The Wairarapa
We continue south through the Wairarapa Valley, which developed initially through timber getting and is today largely dedicated to sheep farming. Our lunch stop is at the Puhaka Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, where we can see Tuatara, Kiwi and other native New Zealand fauna. Our mid-afternoon stop is at Martinborough, a charming historic village in the heart of an excellent cool climate wine-producing district, little known outside New Zealand due to the small quantities of wine produced. We will have the chance to sample some wines and learn about its distinctive characteristics. The district also produces excellent olive oils. We then make the spectacular crossing of the Rimutaka Mountains north to the Hutt River Valley and on to Wellington. This evening there will be the option of attending a performance at Wellington’s well-regarded Circa theatre, close to our hotel. Overnight Wellington. (B, L)
Saturday April 3: Wellington heritage
We begin our exploration by visiting the summit of Mount Victoria, overlooking Cook’s Strait and Wellington Harbour. Well before the arrival of Europeans, the summit was the site of a Maori Pā. Next stop is the botanic gardens above the city, from where a walking tour takes us down to the waterfront and introduces us to the history of Wellington, from its establishment as a profit-making colony by Edward Gibbon Wakefield to its later position as the national capital. In the afternoon we visit the impressive Te Papa Museum. We visit the Maori heritage and the early colonial exhibitions, to give us a sense of the country’s earliest years. There is also an excellent Anzac gallery to visit and a good collection of paintings. We farewell Wellington and our tour with dinner at the Boulton Street Bistro, one of the city’s better restaurants. Overnight Wellington. (B, D)
Sunday April 4: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Airport transfers will be organised for those who have booked their flights with Academy Travel. Wellington is also a good starting point for independent travel to the South Island, with flights and regular ferry crossings of the Cook Straits. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
A cultural historian with a PhD in History, and practicing painter who brings this passion to the visual arts.
Dr Nick Gordon is a cultural historian and artist, with over 10 years of experience leading tours to Europe. He has strong interests in art, history, philosophy and architecture, from the ancient world to the present.
Nick holds a University Medal and PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He taught medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney, the history of political thought at the University of Western Sydney, and architectural and Australian history elsewhere. He continues to teach at the Centre of Continuing Education, and gives occasional lectures on topics ranging from Classical Rome through to Australian and contemporary art. Nick has lead tours for Academy Travel since 2007, and designs study tours, residential tours and art-focussed tours, such as the Venice Biennale, Art Along the Rhine, Art Basel, and Amsterdam to Paris: Van Eyck to Van Gogh.
Nick is also an artist and his firsthand experience of art complements his academic expertise, through his knowledge of materials and the processes behind how an artwork is made, and his well-practiced eye for reading art.
We asked Nick, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?
“One of the things I enjoy most about touring is helping people understand more about what they’re seeing. This happens through a combination of background lectures exploring different contexts, cultural commentary on the road, and especially by being able to explain what is going on in an artwork with the artwork in front of us.”
“The aim of all of this is to help people see more for themselves, independently, both on tour and beyond. Some of the best moments for me on tour are when this happens, and you get to be part of something bigger as people start adding their own knowledge and experience to what we’re looking at. It makes each experience unique.”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity