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Taranaki Rhodo Fest steam train on track for sell-out bookings

Click image to find Rhododendron nurseries
Click image to find Rhododendron nurseries

Just 50 of the 200 seats remain on a steam train package out of Wellington to this year’s Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival – with most passengers coming from anywhere but Wellington!

Passengers are driving or flying in to Wellington from as far away as Whangarei, the Hawkes Bay, and Kaikoura for the three-day historic steam train trip to Taranaki, says Stewart Erb from Kiwi Tours.

“It really surprised us that most passengers are booking from outside the Wellington region,” says Mr. Erb.

“People have simply been inspired by the romance of traveling by steam train.”

Leaving Paekakariki on Friday October 30, the steam train operated by Steam Incorporated will stop at all major stations en route to New Plymouth to pick up passengers for this year’s Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival running from October 30 to November

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While the JA1271 steam train was built in 1956, it will be hauling four historic passenger cars and a buffet car that have all been refurbished and date back as early as 1908.

Hosting and entertaining passengers will be TV One’s Good Morning celebrity and regular presenter, Astar, who specialises in demonstrating floral, craft and cooking segments for the morning television show.

Costing $750 per person, the three-night package includes hotel accommodation, three cooked breakfasts, two lunches, entry to nine Festival gardens and all coach transfers by Kiwi Tours who have been running coach tours to the Festival for the last 14 years.

Festival gardens in the package include premiere gardens such as Pukeiti, Tikorangi – The Jury Garden, Ngamamaku, Rosedale and more. And while the train is in New Plymouth, it will be running day trips to Hawera and Wanganui so Taranaki locals can also experience the joy of traveling by steam train.

Now in its 22nd year, the 10-day Festival will showcase more than 50 premiere private and public gardens, including one Garden of International Significance and 13 of Significance – the highest concentration of any such gardens in New Zealand.

This year’s lineup of speakers throughout the 10-day festival includes Professor Guan Kaiyun – one of China’s leading botanists and Rhododendron experts. The lineup also includes former gardening TV show presenter Maggie Barry, and locals Tony Barnes, Jenny Oakley, Greg Rine, Mark and Abbie Jury, Dee Turner, Mitch Graham and Yvonne Brunton all speaking on their areas of plant and gardening expertise.

In addition to the guest speaker line up, there are a number of guided walks through some of Taranaki’s unique gardens including the Pukekura Park fernery, Pukeiti, Tupare’s house and garden, Hollards Garden, and the Stepping Stones and Duncan & Davies Nurseries guided tour of its large nursery where visitors will view production fields of Japanese Maples, Magnolias and Hamamelis.

The Landscape Design Installation is taking a completely new direction this year and will be created by emerging media design firm Inc Creative Ltd in the role of Landscape Project Designer.

This New Zealand-based firm specialises in video and interactive installation, video production and post-production, spatial design, motion graphics and 3D animation – giving away a taste of what to expect from this year’s challenging design concept.

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