Three of today’s four activities, Paul and I had done on our last visit. But we had loved them so much last time that we were happy to repeat them.
For me, the power of thousands of litres of frothing, whirling, ice blue water hurtling through Huka Falls was just as moving and surprisingly emotional the second time. I find the sheer power of the Falls totally mesmerising.
Craters of the Moon
Then the geothermal landscape around Taupo is spectacularly shown off in “The Craters of the Moon” boardwalk trail. You walk through a harsh steamy landscape, with the smell of sulphur in your nostrils, marvelling at huge craters and bubbling mud pools. The sun shone; it was very hot.
Then a quick detour to watch the opening of the Aratiatia dam sluices. The water company open the sluices three times a day just to amaze tourists and help attract visitors to the area. A siren blasts four warnings which heightens the anticipation. There are several excellent viewing platforms. The dam gates open and a frothing torrent of water fills the empty ravine. It is awesome and generates gasps of amazement. It is also a Lord of the Rings film location.
Finally the adults finished the day with a very welcome relaxing soak in two huge warm/hot geothermal pools while Amelia and Ben played in an aqua-park and on aqua-slides. It’s a hard life being on holiday ?
Sign Post, Hobbiton
We visited Hobbiton (the Shire in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films) almost exactly 3 years ago. That time it poured with rain, really poured. So we decided this time that if the weather was fine as we passed by then we would try again. Luckily as we drove from Piha to Tauranga, a 3 hour journey, the weather was OK and we decided to stop off.
As soon as we arrived at the booking office and departure point we realised it was busy – loads of visitors, and the distinctive green buses were flying around. Luckily, we managed to book a tour giving us an hour to grab lunch in the café by the booking office. There’s also a cute shop selling all sorts of Lord of the Rings merchandise. Entry is fairly expensive at $79.00 for adults and $39.50 for youths (9-16 years) but well worth it in our view. The tour lasted 2 hours.
Bag End, Hobbiton
You leave the booking centre in a coach which takes you the mile or so to the centre of the Shire. The bus driver gave us a running commentary on the history of the farm and how Peter Jackson found the location.
One of the tour guides then walked us around the site. The guides are invariably American or British backpacker types who are working there for a season or so. However, they are very knowledgeable and give you a lot of context around which locations are used in which film.
Yellow Hobbit Hole
It really feels as if you are really in Hobbiton, which of course you are. They work really hard to make it feel like the real thing. The chimneys are smoking and it has a good atmosphere about it. It even smells like the real thing. Of course the only thing missing are the Hobbits themselves!
There are lots of opportunities to take photos, and to pose in front of hobbit holes.
Well worth a visit, it’s recommended to book if you visit at busy times, and the Evening Banquet looks worthwhile to give you more time in the wonderful Green Dragon Inn.
Click on any photo for a bigger view.
The Old Mill, Hobbiton
Green Dragon Inn, Hobbiton
Thursday 24th April.
Anne here, a catch up post for last week . . .
You are quite right, we couldn’t leave New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton, near Matamata. Even though it was pouring with rain, absolutely pouring, it was definitely worth a visit.
You catch a coach from a central point, out into the Alexander family owned farm and immediately the rolling hills looked familiar to all Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film fans. Our group was made up of a few LOTR fanatics, a few brave souls who admitted to never having seen the films or read the books and the rest of us who had some knowledge.
Highlights include lots and lots of Hobbit holes, the party tree and field, a free drink in the very cosy Green Dragon, the loan of a huge umbrella and a really excellent, cheerful and knowledgeable guide. They need to be incredibly knowledgable to satisfy the LOTR geeks but our guide also had lots of “behind the scenes” anecdotes and explained how some of the scenes were filmed. For example some of the Hobbit holes are large and some are smaller depending on the height of the actor and the size that they need to look on screen.
Definitely recommended, although apparently it gets very busy in summer.
Anne here . . .
Te Papa museum, The national museum of New Zealand. Everyone was quite right: Te Papa is a fascinating insight into the life, history, culture and wildlife of New Zealand. But I have found all the NZ museums that we have visited so far really excellent with innovative and interesting ways of displaying their collections and keeping the interest of their visitors.
Also to repeat one of my previous comments: I love New Zealand hospitality. Everyone we have met, without exception, is so friendly and welcoming.
Lunch in the Chocolate Fish cafe in Shelley Bay. The four of us ordered the following sandwiches: crayfish, scallop, whitebait and Paua and we had a taste of each. A first for me especially the Paua, but very yummy.
Weta Cave Troll
Then in the afternoon, another activity on our “must do” tourist list. A tour of the Weta Cave film production workshops. The tour is only about 45 minutes long and is just a small snapshot of the work involved in making the models, weapons, costumes etc for big blockbuster movies. But our tour guide, who normally is in charge of hair and make-up, was a larger than life character and absolutely fascinating. Full of amazing and hilarious anecdotes. Great fun.
We ended the day with Chris taking us on a tour of the beach road overlooking Wellington harbour and Bays. Wellington is set in just the most amazing scenery with a lovey waterfront and hills behind. Sadly slightly obscured by rain and mist today.