The North Island Must Do: Hobbiton and Rotorua

The weather finally warmed up a bit past weekend, and I decided to sit on my patio and continue writing about my journey — New Year 2020 in the South Pacific series. I can’t believe it’s already May and things have dramatically changed around the world due to Coronavirus. In a way, it feels nice to have a downtime staying in, enjoying the new house I just moved into in March. At the same time, I do miss flying, and it’s challenging to make a future plan, given the uncertainty.

In this series:

For those who have been following my journey in the South Pacific — thanks for reading! I spent a few days in the South Island wandering around Christchurch. While there wasn’t much to do in the city itself, I very much enjoyed the countryside, visiting Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. I also had a great time staying at Doubletree Chateau on the Park. I then flew to Auckland on new year’s day. My impression of Auckland was quite different than I expected, but I’m excited to share a couple of Must-Do activities I did!

My tour guide was supposed to pick me up at the hotel at 6 in the morning, but he ran 10 minutes behind — no biggie. His name is Collin, a funny and lovely Kiwi. We drove around the city center to pick up four other passengers, then off we went.

The first destination was Matamata, a small town, to the South East of Auckland. The journey took about two and a half hours with a few stops for photo ops and bio break.

The ride was quite comfortable as there were a few vacant seats. Snack and bottled water were provided as well as non-functioning Wifi.

We arrived at the Hobbiton Movie Set around 9 AM. We were given half an hour for a coffee break at The Shire’s Rest before the tour started.

Half an hour later, we grouped and got on the Hobbiton bus to the movie set. The weather was slightly overcast, but the scenery was incredible, regardless.

I’m not a big fan of The Hobbiton and The Lord of the Ring, to be quite honest, I’ve never watched the movies. I don’t dislike them, but I just don’t have much interest in fantasy movies. Regardless, I think it was awesome to experience the Middle-Earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set.

So since I don’t know much to tell you about the storyline, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

I can’t say it enough that the landscape around the site was spectacular — it’s unbelievable. I just wished that it wasn’t overcast.

Admittedly, I didn’t even pay attention to the tour guide as I was busy taking photos. 😉

After walking one hobbit hole after another, we finally passed the Mill and into the famous Green Dragon Inn, where complimentary adult beverages known as Southfarthing were offered.

Our next stop was Rotorua, about an hour South East of Matamata. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity that features geysers. There are many geothermal complexes in Rotorua, and our tour group specifically visited a semi-rural geothermal area called Te Whakarewarewatanga Geothermal Valley.

Depending on the tour package, there were several activities to choose from, such as Geothermal, Kiwi Birds, Māori Arts and Crafts, Māori Cultural Show, Steambox Lunch Tour, and Māori Feast. There were also pricing for adult, child, and family.

We first did the Māori Arts and Crafts. We then toured the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

I’m not an artsy person — though I think I’m more artsy and cultured than I give myself credit for! 😉

While I can appreciate the arts, I wasn’t listening, instead, I was just busy taking photos as usual. 😛

Some of the artworks were pretty adorable! I’d like to have and keep them as souvenirs, but as you imagine, they were quite pricey.

There were also several more exhibitions outside the building.

The next session was Geothermal, where you can get close to the most active geyser in the complex.

It was the first time for me to see a geyser up close, and I’d say it was quite fascinating watching it erupting every few seconds.

Nor far from the geyser, there was a mud pool which was traditionally believed by Māori to treat a variety of illness.

The guide then took us on a Kiwi Birds tour, where you can see the birds wandering around in their closed blacked-out cage.

Since the birds were susceptible to light and sound, no photography was allowed inside the glass-covered cave.

That concluded our tour in the Te Whakarewarewatanga Geothermal Valley. Before we left the complex, we had an hour of free time to wander around the complex for lunch and shopping.

And course, one has not been to New Zealand if he hasn’t tried the famous meat pie! Yum!

On our way back to Auckland, we drove around the City of Rotorua to check out the architecture.

We also drove by Rotorua Lake.

Conclusion

I can’t stress enough how much I love nature. It was one of the reasons why New Zealand was at the top of my bucket list. If you have a few days to spend on the North Island, I highly recommend the Hobbiton and Te Puia Geothermal. There are also other places you should check out like Waitomo Caves and Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal. As I mentioned before, roads in New Zealand are easy to navigate, and traffic wasn’t bad at all, so I’d recommend renting a car.

I can’t wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over. So let’s stay home, be safe, and help flatten the curve.

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