Although just a few hours from the east coast of Australia, New Zealand is a strikingly different country to our own, and well worth the kind of in-depth investigation that this unique itinerary offers. Unlike most scenery-focused tours to New Zealand, this itinerary visits the North Island only and has a strong emphasis on history, the visual arts and architecture, as well as the opportunity to enjoy the performing arts. Highlights include historic sites on the Bay of Islands, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Auckland Art Gallery, the privately-owned Connells Bay Sculpture Park and the world-class Art Deco architecture of Napier.
The striking landscape of New Zealand and its Maori heritage are ever-present, and have had a profound influence on history, literature and the visual arts. Our journey takes us to sites of dramatic volcanic and geothermal activity, across stunning mountain ranges, along wild coastlines and through rolling green hills. We visit sites of Maori heritage, especially around Rotorua, and places of early contact between Maori and Europeans.
The tour begins in Russell in the country’s north, before heading south to Auckland. Crossing rich agricultural lands we spend a few days exploring the natural wonders of Lake Taupo and Rotorua before travelling to Napier, on the Pacific coast. The tour culminates in the capital Wellington, significant for its history, scenery and modern cultural institutions.
The journey has all the characteristics of an Academy Travel tour: stays in centrally-located hotels which have been personally inspected by our staff, background talks before site visits and a maximum group size of just 20.
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Bay of Islands, visit a number of sites in the area which explore complex history, including the treaty grounds at Waitangi and several well-preserved missions.
Enjoy a private tour of Connells Bay Sculpture Park
Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a walk through the steaming valley takes us past steaming geysers, hot springs and waterfalls.
Visit the city of Napier, with its Art Deco buildings and beachside promenade.
Enjoy some of New Zealand’s best food and wine using local ingredients.
The tour starts at 3.30pm on Sunday, December 4, at the departure gate at Auckland Airport for the domestic flight to Kerikeri. The tour ends after breakfast on Friday, December 16, in our Wellington hotel.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 4 December: 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)
Monday 5 December: 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 a local winery, enjoying fine views over the Bay of Islands. Here we enjoy lunch at one of the district’s best restaurants, 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)
Tuesday 6 December: 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)
Wednesday 7 December: 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)
Thursday 8 December: Auckland Art Gallery and A Concert
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 wellregarded conservation department. 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 to be announced). Overnight Auckland. (B)
Friday 9 December: 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)
Saturday 10 December: Auckland Museum and The Waikato
After a brief talk, 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 wintergarden. 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)
Sunday 11 December: 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)
Monday 12 December: Lake Taupo To the Pacific
We travel through a geothermically active area of 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)
Tuesday 13 December: 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 of 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 and walking tour of the vineyard. Overnight Napier. (B, WT)
Wednesday 14 December: 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)
Thursday 15 December: 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)
Friday 16 December: 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 Jeni Ryde
A linguist and art history specialist, with a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.
Dr Jeni Ryde is a linguist and art history specialist with over fifteen years experience leading tours to Italy, Spain and Portugal. She is passionate about art, design and architecture both ancient and modern and particularly enjoys how both complement each other. Her special interests are the simplicity of the Romanesque and the breadth and depth of the Renaissance. When she is not traveling with Academy Travel she is able to indulge her interests in drawing, music and teaching the less fortunate.
Jeni holds two undergraduate degrees with majors in Anthropology and French and Interpreting and Translation with NAATI qualifications, two Masters degrees in Italian Linguistics and TESOL and a cross disciplinary PhD in Renaissance Art History, Tourism and Museum Management.
After an early career as an assistant director in film and television both for the ABC and BBC, she worked as an interpreter and translator and then as a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University with a focus on Italian language, history and culture. She was also head of the postgraduate programs in Languages and Interpreting and Translation. Teaching in Adult Education has included several courses in Renaissance Art History, the Italian language and Italian Cinema for U3A and other community organizations. Jeni speaks fluent Italian and Spanish and has an understanding of French and Portuguese.
Jeni first began designing and leading tours to Italy with her own company in 2002 in response to requests from travelers searching for small group tours with specific themes. She joined Academy Travel in 2009 and has since led many tours to various regions of Italy as well as Spain and Portugal.
We asked Jeni, what motivates you as a tour leader?
“I delight in being the catalyst for showing our travelers beautiful places and works of art and especially seeing their reactions – a tear in the eye before a moving painting, a sigh of wonder on entering a beautiful building, a gasp at the beauty of an exquisite landscape. This for me is the great privilege and reward of being an Academy Tour Leader.”
“Many travelers comment on my boundless energy and curiosity for paths less travelled. I like to think that people who travel with me are swept along by my waves of enthusiasm and are inspired to go beyond the obvious to explore and learn with me. I’m known for introducing many little surprises along the way! An added bonus for me is the shared experience of like-minded people enjoying each other’s company while traveling together.”
We have selected good four and five-star hotels in convenient locations for sightseeing and free time.
Russell, The Duke of Marlborough Hotel (3 nights)
Auckland, Sofitel Viaduct Harbour Hotel (3 nights)
Rotorua, Millennium Hotel (2 nights)
Napier, Scenic Hotel Te Pania (2 nights)
Wellington, QT, Museum Art Hotel (2 nights)
➢ All accommodation in selected four- and five-star hotels
➢ All breakfasts
➢ 8 lunches or dinners, as mentioned in the itinerary
➢ One-way flight Auckland-Kerikeri
➢ Land travel in an air-conditioned coach
➢ Extensive background notes
➢ Background talks
➢ Services of an Australian tour leader throughout tour
➢ All entrance fees to sites mentioned on itinerary
➢ Expert local guides at selected sites
➢ Tips for all services stated as included in the itinerary