Hello from the North Island
After having an amazing time in the scenic South Island, it was time to head to the North Island. We flew to Auckland and stayed here for four days. During our time here we explored the city on foot quite a lot: we went to the Art Gallery to take in more of the culturally rich pieces on display; and visited Britomart (more than once) for amazing food. Our stay here was quite short compared to some other places in New Zealand, but we made the most of it.
We picked up our hire car and made our way towards Coromandel and Bay of Plenty. When driving we noticed just how much more industrialised the North Island is compared to the South; small things like the amount of non tourist drivers on roads that actually have crash barriers!
We spent the night in Tauranga at a house of an amazing young couple we found via AirBnB. The next day we made an early start towards our objective…to go and see the Hobbits at Hobbiton! As big fans/geeks, the idea of visiting the actual shire was very exciting.
The tour itself was much more than we expected. The description on the website was not great and we were under the impression we would be dropped off at the entrance and be told to be back in a couple of hours. It was great to find the whole tour was guided, along with a free drink at the green dragon thrown in at the end as well. We loved hearing about stories from the making of the movies and learning about different filming methods like perspective distortion to make Gandalf appear huge to the hobbits for example. Overall we think it’s well worth the $70 each we paid and to top it all off, we had the perfect weather for it!
From here we made our way to Rotorua; with the smell of sulphur in the air wherever you go it’s an unforgettable place. We visited the mud pools of Wai O Tapu but did not pay to go into the thermal wonderland as we were running short on time.
Continuing on South we stopped at Huka Falls for a quick photo and then made our way towards Wellington. On the way we drove past a very familiar looking site, as we got closer and closer we became sure…we were at Mount Doom! Again, we didn’t have long to take photos, but we managed a quick snap!
We arrived in Wellington, and it’s infamous weather as well! It was pretty dire for the 3 days we were there…but we made the most of it. We visited a Maori restaurant (they certainly know how to eat well) and the (free) Wellington museum…which is huge and definitely worth visiting.
We then headed back up the North Island and stopped at the Waitomo Caves. We had both been wanting to see the glow worms for some time now so this was on our list of top things to do whilst we were here. As usual, we wanted to avoid the very touristy parts so we did some digging online and found Glowing.co.nz – and how glad we were! We were part of a small group of just 4 plus the guide who took us caving through his family owned land. Heath, our guide, was great and gave us the unhurried personal feeling we were looking for. 2 hours of climbing over rocks, squeezing through gaps and flooding our boots gave us sights and views we would have never seen with other companies…and we got very up close to the glow worms themselves.
We continued towards the Northland for our final stop, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. What a fascinating place; showing the history of the treaty, and how the Maori and British people now came to coexist. It was great seeing where everything took place, the huge Maori warships and the house where James Busby lived with his family.
Overall we loved New Zealand. The scenic views, the rich culture and large yet relatively new amount of history there. It’s definitely somewhere we would like to travel to again in the future to visit some places we did not get a chance to do this time around.
Next up, Indonesia!
Jake & Ana