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New Zealand 2020

New Zealand is a land with an enchanting nature. While a morning may be greeted high in majestic mountain valleys, the afternoon may be spent on the sea, watching gliding albatrosses and fur seals.
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While concentrating on the special natural features, wildlife and plant communitites, this trip also allows you to join the New Zealand Alpine Garden Society’s 60th anniversary study weekend in Christchurch, South Island.

The tour explores the lesser-known parts of New Zealand. The trip is split into three parts:

10 – 24 Jan: South Island

25 – 27 Jan: New Zealand AGS 60th Anniversary Weekend

28 Jan – 2 Feb: North Island

Travel is by a comfortable small coach equipped with an excellent reference library. Accommodation is in hotels and motor lodge with private facilities.


South Island

  • Visit spectacular and varied alpine worlds.
  • Watch and study the albatrosses and marine mammals at Kaikoura
  • The scenic grandeur or Milford Sound and Lake Wanaka

North Island

  • Kauri and Podocarp rainforests
  • See the volcanic and geothermal activity that has shaped and redefined the island

Itinerary – South Island

10 Jan

Arrive in New Zealand and connect on domestic flight to Queenstown. Meet Nature Quest New Zealand naturalist guides. Short drive to Te Anau. Stay in Te Anau for three nights.

11 Jan

The upper Hollyford Valley through which the famed Milford Road passes contains superb alpine boulder-fields and herb-fields. The Gertrude Cirque has arguably the finest accessible alpine communities in the country. The day is devoted to discovering at your pace this botanical treasure trove in the Darran Mountains. Studying nature in such awesome surroundings is guaranteed to put all in perspective.

12 Jan

South of Te Anau lies Lake Manapouri and beyond is Borland Saddle and the Hunter Mountains. Superb alpine vistas and local endemics characterise this area. This truly memorable day shall enable us to view the bizarre local wild spaniard, hybrid giant buttercups, Buchanan’s buttercup in profusion, plus several species of Celmisia.

13 Jan

Leave Fiordland and cross into Central Otago with its rocky rugged landscapes. This area is a schist plateau, now appearing as a series of block mountain ranges. Lodged amidst the silvery schist vegetation of the Old Man Range are many species of cushion plants and snowbank vegetation unique to this type of extreme climate. The Lilliputian world of the plants atop this range stands in stark contrast to the grandeur and vastness of the surrounding mountains. Late afternoon continue to Wanaka. Stay in Wanaka for two nights.

14 Jan

A day to relax on your own in Wanaka. Optional day excursion to Rob Roy Valley in Mt Aspiring National park available. (No lunch or dinner provided today.)

15 Jan

Cross Lindis Pass to the arid intermontane basins of the Mackenzie Country. The Ohau range rises directly from Lake Ohau. Little visited the tarns, slopes and bluffs of this range hold a fascinating array of alpines. Cushion ‘spaniards’ with the ball like inflorescences are spectacular, not to mention the fields of the blue leaved Celmisia, cushions of Donatia, and delicate mats of alpine Raoulias. Stay in Lake Ohau for two nights.

16 Jan

A day to explore the renowned Mount Cook National Park. At the foot of Aoraki, Mt Cook, lies the spectacular Hooker Valley. The walk along the trail enables us to study the changes in vegetation on successive moraines as the Hooker then Mueller Glaciers are reached. Giant Mt Cook buttercups, golden Spaniards and sub-alpine shrubs abound amidst unforgettable landscapes. An alternative for the more energetic is to walk up the Sealy Range to Sealy Tarns. Several alpine communities are walked through en route with tussockland, herbfield and outcrop plants most conspicuous. Late examples of the famed Mt Cook ‘lily’ (actually a buttercup) may be found up here. Descend back passed Lake Pukaki to Lake Ohau.

17 Jan

Morning drive to Mount Hutt, with afternoon to explore the screes, bluffs and ski slopes. Stay in Methven for one night.

18 Jan

Day excursion to Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass National Park is renowned for its spectacular Southern Alps scenery and for a wide diversity of readily accessible alpine flora. Easy walks exist around the pass itself with good viewing of subalpine wetlands and tarns and subalpine herbfields, but by exerting a bit more energy and climbing into the Temple Basin unsurpassed alpine vistas and a wonderful array of alpine plants awaits. To Hanmer springs for three nights.

19 Jan

Gentians abound en route to Lake Tennyson in the upper Clarence Valley. Just above the valley floor, the fine shingle supports a grand scree flora including scree harebells, lobelias, forgetmenots and penwipers. Further on at Island Pass, we study the scree and rock outcrop endemics. Late afternoon return to Hanmer. (Dinner tonight is not included.)

20 Jan

Day excursion to Mt St Patrick. A widely diverse herbfield and unique scree and rock outcrop species feature today as we explore the ridges above the Amuri Ski-field.  Special plants include Swainsonia novae-zealandiae.

21 Jan

Travel via sup-alpine tarns at Lewis Pass to Nelson Lakes National Park. The beautiful Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa nestle amongst the northern peaks of beech forest. This afternoon we enjoy short walks in this enchanting forest. Stay in St Arnaud for two nights.

22 Jan

Day excursion to nearby Mount Arthur, a marble region with a wide diversity of upland and sub-alpine species. Mid-afternoon return to Nelson Lakes.

23 Jan

The journey today takes us back east. A study of NZ alpine scree and rock outcrop vegetation begins with a trip to the summit of Blackbirch. Here, giant vegetable sheep abound amidst a dry cushion flora. Scree plants, rock outcrop species, herb field daisies and cushion plants are featured today. If the plants do not take your breath away the panoramic views are sure to! Mid-afternoon return again to sea level and continue to Kaikoura.

24 Jan

This morning an optional three-hour marine trip should enable viewing of sperm whales which inhabit deep water just off the coast (approx. price $NZ 155.00).  Alternatively you may opt for the Oceanwings Albatrosss excursion (approx. price $NZ95.00). Early afternoon depart for Christchurch. Trip termination at Christchurch Airport or continue to stay Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch for NZ AGS Weekend

Itinerary – NZ AGS 60th Anniversary

25 – 27 January

Anniversary celebrations in Christchurch.


  • Four nights accommodation at Rendezvous Hotel, Christchurch.
  • Breakfast daily.
  • The conference registration fee includes morning and afternoon tea on the Saturday, a boxed lunch each day for the three days and a set menu for the dinner (drinks are extra).
  • Transport can be arranged but is excluded from the cost below.

Itinerary – North Island

27 Jan

Completion of NZ AGS Weekend.

28 Jan

Morning flight to Palmerston North. Immediately to the south of Lake Taupo are the three high volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park. Today we travel into this, the earliest national park in NZ, and spend the day on the slopes of the highest peak, Ruapehu.

With laval and/or mud flows having occurred in recent years off both Ruapehu and nearby Ngauruhoe, the vicinity is an excellent one in which to study the impact of volcanism on subalpine and montane vegetation. Stay in Whakapapa on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu for two nights. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

29 Jan

Further walks today onto the slopes of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, or relax and enjoy the alpine splendour. Today’s explorations will include opportunities to study the sub-alpine shrublands, alpine herbs and montane/sub-alpine NZ beech forests. There will also be an opportunity to seek out the endangered Blue Duck while in this region. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

30 Jan

Lush rainforest surrounded the plateau until wholesale forest clearance began with European settlement. Now only relatively small tracts remain. Today we visit one of the finest tracts of podocarp rain forest in the country to study the intricacies and complexities of this, the predominant forest type in New Zealand. These forests are the so-called ‘dinosaur forests’ that have changed little over 100 million years and are typical of the forest cover of Gondwana. The rimu-dominated forest here is perhaps the finest in the country. We study the podocarp forest communities in detail today then continue to Taupo. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

31 Jan

This region is the heart of NZ’s geothermal activity. Many of the thermal regions are now major tourist attractions which has alas been to their detriment. A few, however, remain relatively natural geothermal wonderlands. At Waimangu Valley we study the impact of the major Tarawera eruption of 1886 and the successive lesser periods of activity – a rift valley undergoing primary succession, sinter terraces and large steaming cauldron lakes.

The valley is also home to a variety of sub tropical fern species found only in NZ, within metres of the steam vents. Continuing northwards the landform abruptly changes as we drop off the central North Island volcanic plateau and drive through lush farmland to Auckland. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

1 Feb

Boat trip to Tiri Tiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf. This island is home to superb coastal pohutukawa forest and endangered bird species such as saddleback, takahe, brown teal, red crowned parakeet and stitchbird. The opportunities for photography are tremendous.

The island is also an excellent example of just what can be achieved by conservation volunteers involved in a major revegetatlon project. Our visit today will contribute directly to further assist in the on-going wildlife conservation of the island. Mid-afternoon return to Auckland. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

2 Feb

Trip ends in Auckland.


Please note: The tour begins on 10 January but departure from the UK is on 8 January.


Contact the AGS Centre to secure your place.

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