New Zealand: Hobbits, Caves & Geysers
Whilst we stayed at Golden Springs, the idea was to be within driving distance of Hobbiton and Rotorua, as there were not a lot of caravan parks in the small towns in the surrounding areas.
Hobbiton Movie Set: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata
Hobbiton has tours running all day but the peak times get booked out easily. We were running late and had to drive more than an hour to arrive there for our morning tour. The tour bus literally left a minute after we hopped on. Phew!
The Adventouriist has never watched Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit but she really wanted to see Hobbiton. On the other hand, I was the opposite, skeptical about whether it would relate at all to my love for Lord of the Rings.
Luckily, we both loved the tour! Being immersed in the little shire and town was amazing and the sceneries were straight out of the movie (minus the sunshine).
Unfortunately, you don’t really get to go in the Hobbit holes…because there’s nothing there. However you get to have a break at the tavern (Green Dragon) and enjoy drinks inspired by the movies. They also stop throughout the tour to allow you to take plenty of photos.
Te Puia: Hemo Rd, Rotorua
Te Puia is a geothermal valley and tourism attraction located in Rotorua. Not only does it encapsulate New Zealand’s unique geothermal features, but it also houses Maori culture, acting as a National School for Carving and Weaving.
The park is large enough to walk around for more than an hour or so, with some magnificent geysers on display and small, bubbling thermal pools. Wear boots or sturdy hiking/active shoes as it is gets wet and muddy, especially if it’s raining like on the day we visited.
At the start of the day, the customer service assistant told us it was booked out. We tried our luck again on the way out and what do you know – there was a cancellation! We were so excited but the customer service assistant didn’t even bat an eyelid when he told us…
The night was a memorable experience – the Maori host taught us how to say ‘Welcome’, showed us how they cook their meat, provided us with interactive dance performances and served us a Maori buffet.
Unfortunately the buffet was a little lacklustre, the meats were a bit dry and unexciting, but it made us eager to explore more Maori food.
The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co: 585 Waitomo Caves Rd, Waitomo
You may have heard of White Water Rafting but what about Black Water Rafting? We almost didn’t choose to do his tour as it’s a bit expensive, but we had it highly recommended to us.
The tour is located in Waitomo’s glowworm caves. We went with the basic tour, The Black Labyrinth, as it was beginner level and the other alternative didn’t involve going in the water. Our tour involved tubing, caving, walking and some small waterfall jumps into the water.
The tour was great – you get a buoy to stay afloat in the water, which works for me because I can’t swim! The best part was lying back and drifting in the caves, switching off our headlights and admiring the glowworms light up the cave ceilings.
At the end, we split into two teams and raced to the end of the cave and The Adventouriist lost her boot! One of the tour guides flipped her over and she kicked so hard to swim, that her boot fell off haha!
The worst part – the customer service. We tried to book via Viator and we had to wait for dates to be approved by Black Water Rafting. Instead they kept getting rejected and they never picked up the phone to arrange alternative dates. We didn’t finalise this until we had arrived in New Zealand after many attempts.
We’re glad we didn’t miss out as the tour was one of our highlights – but I think they may need to employ more people to answer phones or work out an online booking system. Another downfall is that we bought the USB photos for our memories but the photos weren’t great.
All in all – we had some great fun in the middle of the North Island and we did some very memorable activities. If you’re interested, there are packages for these three activities here but with variations (ie. cave tours instead of black water rafting), so you just have to weigh up whether it includes the tours you want.
Stay tuned for my final instalment and a video recap of my New Zealand adventures!
Thanks to The Adventouriist for helping take photos as always!