|Every bit of New Zealand's landscape is breathtaking.|
|Spend some time stargazing in New Zealand.|
So quick draw, pull out the laptop, find the cheapest flight back in, what do you think, Josh? Five weeks? We decided on five weeks, right? Book it, pay it, show the nice lady at the check in counter with a bad case of pinkeye our booking confirmation so she’ll let us on the plane. But because we booked so quickly, selecting our return flight to Brisbane from Auckland because it was quite a bit cheaper, we didn’t know we’d actually be costing ourselves more in the long run. But more on that later.
|There is freedom camping all over New Zealand whether you have a car, campervan or tent.|
|Hobbiton is a magical place for Lord of the Rings fans.|
|Trollshaw Forest is just one of the many Hobbit filming sights you'll see on a tour with Hairy Feet Tours Waitomo.|
Day two we had scheduled a tour with Hairy Feet Tours in Piopio so we headed south. Now that was a tour. Small and personal, Suzie, the guide and owner of the farm where it took place called everyone by their first names all afternoon as she took us around their farm where much of the first Hobbit movie was filmed (18 minutes of screentime!). Trollshaws Forest was there and we got to take photos with replicas, stand where actors stood, and hear many, many more stories of her and her family interacting with the actors and Peter Jackson, how their farm was transformed into a movie set, and a plenty more facts about the movies. (Did you know nearly every stone and building was made out of nothing more than polystyrene?) This tour was way more enjoyable and relaxed than Hobbiton and only cost $50 NZD. Totally worth it.
|The Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been called the best day hike in New Zealand. They weren't joking. Just look at those lakes!|
|Outside WETA you'll find the trolls from The Hobbit. Not for much longer, though. When we were there we met one of the folks responsible for designing their replacement when they wear out.|
|The Putangirua Pinnacles are crazy cool rock formations.|
A few more hours saw us at the Putangirua Pinnacles, massively impressive rock formations that would have been spectacular to see even if they hadn’t been the location of the Paths of the Dead in Return of the King. They were absolutely worth the 45 minute detour.
|The beautiful turquoise waters of Huka Falls in Taupo.|
|Just under the bridge are the beautiful and free thermal spas where locals and backpackers flock for a soak in Taupo.|
Lake Taupo was up next so we drove there that same afternoon. We went straight to a free thermal pool in Thermal Spa Park where we found dozens of other locals and backpackers relaxing in the nook where hot water bubbing from waterfalls met the cool river, providing soakers with the opportunity to move around until they found their perfect temperature. Just like Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. And while this was lovely, we enjoyed it even more when we returned the following morning around 8:30 and had the whole place to ourselves. Priceless. And fabulous on a cool morning! We also checked out Huka Falls before we left town headed toward Rotorua. The falls were lovely and the water so turquoise!
We were less than impressed with Rotorua and its expensive tourist attractions, but we thought we’d stop by the Redwood forest and another free hot pool a local had told us about. Unfortunately, the forest was not only tricky to locate, but far from awe-inspiring, and the pool we were told about didn’t exist, apparently, so we moved on and that evening walked to the summit of Mount Maunganui farther north.
|The view from the top of Mount Maunganui.|
|You just can't stop Josh from climbing on rocks. These are at the base of Mount Maunganui, on the beach.|
|Cathedral Cove is a beautiful spot for a refreshing dip.|
|Relaxing at Hot Water Beach at low tide. Don't forget a shovel (or at least a bowl)!|
|The walk to Cathedral Cove on a beautiful sunny day.|
|The national bird can be spotted at Kiwi North in special nocturnal enclosures a couple times a day. Too cute.|
|Tane Mahuta. Awe inspiring.|
|Yakas. Impressive. Reminds us how small we are.|
|Our favorite towel makes an appearance in front of the Sky Tower in Auckland.|
We can’t recommend more highly that you get yourself on a plane, take a few weeks off, and get thyself to New Zealand!
Regarding Bluebridge, I was pretty stoked to have 3 solid hours of free Wi-Fi so we could get some work done, publish some posts, but once aboard, the Wi-Fi was so slow, and there were so many people using it as to make it totally unusable. Boo. Also the boat was packed. You had to practically fight for a seat. On the way back we took the InterIslander ferry, the late crossing at 10:00 pm, and it was much emptier, so we had our pick of seats and all the wireless bandwidth we could hope for. You don't get the views at night, but it's much more comfortable.