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, November 20, at the departure gate at Auckland Airport for the domestic flight to Kerikeri. The tour ends after breakfast on Friday, December 2, in our Wellington hotel.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 20 November: 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 21 November: 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 22 November: 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 23 November: 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 24 November: 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 25 November: 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 26 November: 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 27 November: 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 28 November: 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 29 November: 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 30 November: 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 1 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 2 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)
A cultural historian and founding director of Academy Travel, with a strong interest in visual arts, architecture and music.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
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