Travel

Visiting New Zealand: The Waikato Region

As mentioned in our previous post, DJ and I recently returned from a two week long trip to New Zealand. I shared a handful of pictures each day on my personal Instagram, but thought it might be nice to share some highlights via the blog as well. While I could easily fill up the blog with a full post per day of our trip, I will try to restrain myself. This will be a three part series, each post focusing on a different region that we visited. We saw and did a lot, so expect each post to be bursting with pictures. Ready? Let’s go to New Zealand!

Hobbiton

We started off our trip with a visit to the Shire. For our time in the Waikato region, we rented an Airbnb in Matamata. It was about a 15 minute drive from Hobbiton, where the entire village of hobbit holes resides in full glory, including the Green Dragon Inn. The tour involved meandering through the whole village, augmented with interesting filming tidbits supplied by our guide, and plenty of picture taking opportunities. Trust me when I say limiting my choices to just a few for this post was HARD.

Here we have Bilbo and Frodo’s house, Sam’s house, and the hobbit hole DJ and I moved into and are now blogging from (just kidding).

We ended the tour with drinks in the Green Dragon Inn, followed by a banquet feast in a nearby party tent. All in all a good time. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, I cannot recommend this experience enough. It was incredibly fun.

Wairere Falls

Exploring Hobbiton took up about half the day, so since we had plenty of time left, we spent the afternoon hiking to the top of Wairere Falls. This is where we first learned that New Zealand estimates for hike times and difficulty level are… optimistic. Though more challenging than we anticipated, we kept going once we reached the halfway viewpoint and hiked to the top of the falls where we were rewarded with some stunning views. Fortunately, the second half of the hike was no more difficult than the first half — though no easier either!

Wai-O-Tapu

The following day we drove down to Wai-O-Tapu, an impressive geothermal park. Self-described as a wonderland, I cannot help but agree. The air was a little sulfurous, but we (mostly) adjusted quickly. It was easily the most surreal experience we had on the trip.

Government Gardens, Rotorua

On our way back to Matamata from Wai-O-Tapu, we stopped by the Government Gardens in Rotorua. It rained on us a little, but it was still very picturesque. The museum there was closed for structural upgrades, but the building was still quite photo-worthy.

To our surprise, we stumbled across a rose garden named Klamath Falls. Being formerly from Oregon, this was an unexpected find in Rotorua. Apparently, the two are considered sister cities. Rotorua was linked to Klamath Falls in 1962 and the rose gardens, funded by the Ray Boord Trust, were installed in the 1970s.

The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway

For our final full day in the area, we did the shorter 15 minute version of the walk to the Blue Spring. Somewhere around 60-70% of New Zealand’s water is bottled at this spring. The spring is fed from the Mamaku Plateau where the water takes up to 100 years to filter through and arrive here. The water temperature is a constant 11° celsius throughout the year. We regret not having had enough time to do the full 3 hour round trip walk, as the area was simply stunning and the water was the clearest we’d ever seen.

We also met this adorable little fantail bird that spent quite a bit of time flirting with us before we continued on our way. If you’ve never seen one of these before, do a quick Google image search, my photo does not do the tail justice. Beautiful little bird.

Waitomo Caves

After a bit of driving, we spent the remainder of the day in Waitomo, exploring caves and admiring glowworms via Spellbound Tours. Glowworms light up the caves like the night sky. It has to be totally dark to really see them. It’s somewhat magical but nigh impossible to capture whilst sitting on a small boat in the pitch black, so you’ll have to take my word for it — or go to New Zealand to see for yourself!

While exploring one of the lit caves, we saw the undisturbed bones of a now extinct bird called the moa. We also saw some goat and cow bones, but as those are wandering about all over New Zealand (and the rest of the world), they were not quite as exciting as these.

We concluded our time in this region by driving back to Auckland, the city in which we initially arrived, and grabbing a few winks at a hotel near the airport. The next part of our trip takes us to the South island, to the mountain resort town of Queenstown. But that’s a post for another day. If you have any questions about things we did and saw, please let us know. We’re more than happy to gush about this beautiful country.

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