I have a confession to make. For the last three years I have been living and breathing the New Zealand flora, as we prepared and then dedicated our new 2.5 acre New Zealand garden for the Washington Park Arboretum. I have met with people from the Seattle/Christchurch sister city organization and plotted celebrations, and I have described the flora to interested people, taking them on tours through the new garden, spouting off scientific names. I have even see the Hobbit movies and tried to recognize the various species of plants in the scenes depicting Middle Earth.
But I have never been to New Zealand.
Well, all of that is going to change in November. The University of Washington Botanic Gardens is pleased to officially launch a very special tour of New Zealand in November of 2015! Our partners at Holbrook Travel have developed a very special trip for all of us. We will see birds, gardens, forests, and more. It looks like the trip of a lifetime!
We will start out in New Plymouth, where will see the amazing Pukeiti, a rhododendron garden set in a rain forest (remember, it will be spring in the southern hemisphere, so we will see them in flower!). There are more than 10,000 rhododendron plants, with more than 2,000 varieties. While in New Plymouth, we will also visit Pukekura Park, a garden known for its diversity of plants and landscapes.
We will then journey to Auckland, where we will visit Ayrlies Garden, world famous for the beautiful garden Bev McConnell developed. We will even be having lunch with Ms. McConnell. While in Auckland we will visit other gardens and a large park surrounding the cone of an extinct volcano. We will be able to take in some Maori culture, hopefully seeing an example of a haka dance. On our last day in Auckland, we will do the activity that may turn out to be my favorite of the trip – we will take a ferry to Tirtiri Matangi Island. It is an amazing example of ecological restoration, turning long-time farms into native bushland and habitat for birds and other animals. We will be lead around the island by a Department of Conservation staff person.
We will then leave the North Island and head south to Dunedin, on the southeast coast of the island. I am really excited that we will be staying at Larnach Castle and Gardens. The castle is 100 years old and the gardens are known to be beautiful. The scenery is spectacular! In Dunedin we will be learn about albatross and yellow-eyed penguin conservation. We will take the Oroklonui Express train, which hugs the coast, to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary. These 750 acres of protected habitat have very rare plants, birds, and reptiles and we will be guided so that we will see more species.
Heading north, we will visit Mount Cook for one night, where we will have the opportunity to explore the area around our hotel or to take a separate expedition to the base of the Tasman Glacier!
We will be finishing our adventures in our sister city, Christchurch. After suffering a 6.3 earthquake in 2011, the city is rebuilding, including restoring the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a place where many people sought refuge after the earthquake. Our sister city officials there have promised us a special welcome! After visits to other gardens in the area, we will visit the workshop of Caine Tauwhare. Caine carved Maori symbols on the very special back slats for a bench in our New Zealand garden. The sister city organization brought Caine to our 2013 garden dedication, where he explained and demonstrated his carvings and performed a mesmerizing ceremony that allowed representatives of the Muckleshoot Tribe to welcome him onto their ancestral lands.
So come with me! We will have so much fun reveling in the rich flora, fauna, gardens, and culture that abound in New Zealand. We will make new friends and have new adventures to last a lifetime! And when we come back, we will visit the garden in the Washington Park Arboretum and remember when and where we saw the beautiful plants that we now share with our visitors.
ITINERARY with cost and full details.