Hobbiton (AKA Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand)
A ROAD TRIP ADVENTURE PICTORIAL…
At the end of May I, along with other colleagues, was sadly made redundant from my workplace of six years. To mend my broken heart, the following day I booked Paul and I a Bilbo-style impulsive adventure, leaving three days later, to the paradise we’ve wanted to visit for many years…
Our campervan style itinerary was brief, allowing us the freedom to pull over wherever we fancied. Our only commitments were the 3-hour flight from Sydney to Auckland, a campervan to be picked up in Auckland and returned to Queenstown 11 days later, an Interislander ferry, then a Queenstown-Auckland-Sydney return flight.
With 5 nights in the North Island, 5 nights in the South Island, and a road trip of 1,700km (1,056 miles) ahead of us, it was time to explore Middle-earth…
Middle-earth road trip music, of course
Firstly, some observations:
- After years of viewing tourism photos and Lord of the Rings, I was amazed to see the scenery was just as breathtaking in person.
- IT’S SO CLEAN – no rubbish littering the streets, the air is pure, it’s pristine.
- They’re big on recycling.
- The rivers and lakes are so blue and clean.
- The people are so friendly and helpful.
- Travelling by campervan is an awesome way to see New Zealand, but the bed is uncomfortable.
- Sometimes you’ll have zero phone coverage, meaning no Google Maps, so you’ll try to read a physical paper map with no idea where you are at that moment.
- Alcohol is cheap.
- Supermarket groceries are not.
- Feijoa fruit is so aromatic with a unique flavour – it’s addictive.
- I only saw one tiny spider, but several cats.
- They were filming extra footage for The Hobbit WHEN WE WERE IN TOWN! Sadly, we didn’t see any Hobbitses – but we did meet Bilbo’s trolls.
- ‘WOW, it’s so beautiful!’ and ‘Gah it’s cold’ were our most frequently uttered phrases.
- You think you might lose your toes when it ‘feels like -6°C’ at night in Queenstown, but you probably won’t.
Middle-earth map leggings + Sting sword
The Hobbit dwarf statue at Auckland Airport
Kokako Cafe & Roastery
Googling for a cafe to visit for breakfast on our first full day in New Zealand, I came across a place named Kokako. Their website reminded me of a Surry Hills cafe, with great coffee and a vegetarian menu.
Curiously, there is no mention of the word ‘vegetarian’ on the menu or website. It just is. After gazing at the menu for a few minutes Paul remarked ‘Er, where’s the meat?’. I grinned.
We both ordered the organic potato hash, a tower of rich flavour in the form of a chunky golden potato hash, smokey eggplant relish, braised greens, a perfectly oozy poached egg, and creamy Hollandaise sauce. Paul didn’t miss the bacon after eating this.
Organic Potato Hash (gluten & dairy free), NZD$17.50.
Double-shot cappuccino for Paul, NZD$5.50
HOBBITON (MATAMATA, WAIKATO)
Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours is a 2-hour guided tour located on a private farm in Waikato, approximately 2 hours south-east of Auckland. The set includes Hobbit-holes, the party tree, the mill, and the Green Dragon Inn.
The Hobbiton set was built as a temporary structure for The Lord of the Rings, but when Peter Jackson & co returned to film The Hobbit the family who own the farm requested that the set be rebuilt as a permanent structure, for tourism.
All external shots were filmed on this set, but the internal shots (inside Bag End and the Green Dragon Inn for example) were filmed at the Wellington film studio. The Hobbit-holes and props were built in three different scales so that the characters would appear to be the appropriate size.
Bag End, Bilbo & Frodo’s Hobbit-hole
Final stop: The Green Dragon Inn, for an ale and a muffin!
Huka Falls, the coldest looking water I’ve ever seen.
Supermarket onions are sold pre-peeled! | Campervan cooking
Taupo Hot Springs: 11°C air temperature, 40°C pool temperature.
This is my ‘I’m freezing’ face.
TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK
AKA the home of Mount Doom (hidden by clouds, and other mountains).
Bilbo’s trolls at Weta Cave
Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park: awesome communal kitchen
A FERRY FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
Ginger beer to quell my sea sickness
Cattle takes over the roads
As we drove along the West Coast from Reefton to Fox Glacier, we unexpectedly came across Monteith’s Brewing Company. Being a fan of their apple cider I was VERY excited.
We stopped at the brewery for a light lunch and a tasting paddle of Monteith’s cider and beers. I do love a beer tasting paddle, and Monteith’s paddle of 6 x 200ml samples had me in a very merry mood.
Bruschetta | Chickpea & cumin salad
Tasting paddle | Salt & pepper squid
Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park
A 30 minute uphill trek led us to the foot of a 13km long glacier
Fox Glacier 4-hour Fox Trot tour
FOX GLACIER TO QUEENSTOWN DRIVE
Our reactions to the scenery included: “Wow!” “WOW!” and “Wow…”.
That pure water… Amazing.
We made it! Auckland to Queenstown in 9 days! Boom!
Queenstown is the home of extreme sports, though as neither of us are into that type of activity, our 1.5 days in Queenstown consisted of sensible activities such as eating and scenery gazing.
Our first night in Queenstown was spent escaping the cold with a warm fireplace, sipping mulled wine, in a gorgeous Art Deco style restaurant: Ivy & Lola’s.
I rarely order pumpkin soup when dining out due to disappointing watery soup experiences that don’t compare to homemade. Happily, my entree of roast pumpkin soup with spiced cream and French toast (NZD$16) was perfect – creamy, spicy, and rich. Paul also loved his entree – duck liver parfait on brioche with candied bacon and French lentils (NZD$14).
My hearty main of braised French lentils with pumpkin, mushrooms, herbed ricotta, pea-shoots and almonds (NZD$26.50) was full of flavour, and proved again that it shouldn’t be hard for a restaurant to create a vegetarian dish more interesting than a vegetable stack or tomato pasta. Paul ate his oven-baked whole sole with mussel and cider cream sauce (NZD$29.50) in silence, his sign of an extremely enjoyable meal.
Discussing cooking techniques with other travellers in the communal kitchen – as you do, Queenstown Creeksyde
The famous Fergburger (warning: their website music automatically plays), and next door, Fergbakery!
Fergburgers live up to their hype. They’re huge, like maybe the size of your face huge. And they’re so fresh. The burger buns are fluffy white inside with that glorious golden shell outer. The fillings are fresh too, and they’re not stingy with them.
A burger each plus chips with wasabi mayo to share was enough to defeat us for several hours. In hindsight, I think one burger plus chips would be enough to satiate two eaters – leaving room for dessert at Fergbakery, of course.
Double Ferg w/ cheese, NZD$15.00
Bun Laden, NZD$12.50
After 11 days, our adventure came to an end. I was sad to leave, yet at the same time I was excited to get home. We were missing Satine and Isis dearly (crazy cat people).
Until next time, New Zealand, you amazingly beautiful country you.