Day 5 - A quick evening in Auckland
I didn’t sleep very well after the excitement of the wedding and woke up around 5:30am, so we headed to town and got some Starbucks. Reheated some meat pies (veggie and steak & cheese) from Fergburger bakery that was purchased the day before. Then we packed up everything and headed back to Glenorchy. We learned that we missed the most exciting part of the town which was 6 miles past the town and was featured in two scenes from Lord of the Rings.
We drove for 40 minutes through a gravel dirt road with many broken areas where we had to drive through water. We stopped at the end where an avalanche covered the road and got out of our car. Hopped a 4 foot wide rushing steam and hiked foranother 40 mins into the middle of Paradise Valley. This is where Isengard was shot in Lord of the Rings. It was pretty breathtaking and a bit ominous being the only ones in this vast valley.
After the valley we headed back to the Glenorchy cafe and had a quick lunch of a sandwich and soup, then drove back to Queenstown. We met up with the rest of the family and flew from Queenstown to Auckland. After getting our rental car, we drove to downtown Auckland to meet the family for dinner at Mad Samurai in Snickel Lane. For dessert we walked over to the famous Giapo ice cream. It was definitely a fancy assortment of daily fresh-made ice cream, but the flavors were too sweet for my taste. We then headed to the Four Points hotel after saying our goodbyes to the family.
Over all Auckland seemed super pricy, it cost us $33nzd to park for two hours and another $25nzd to park at the hotel. The city itself seemed so large and overwhelming after being on the remote South Island. We didn’t feel it was necessary to tour the city and decided one night in Auckland was enough for us.
Day 6 - Driving around the North Island
We woke up early and hit the road by 6:00am, so we could get a head start on the busy day. We grabbed a to go coffee from the hotel and an extra cup of hot water for the ramen (my sister had thoughtfully gave to us).
We drove a little over 2 hours south of Auckland to Waitomo Caves, the most visited spot to see glow worms. Sadly there was a large storm last year and a 1/3 of the glow worms in the cave were wiped out, this will take two lifetimes to regrow this population. The tour we purchased consisted of a 1 hour walking tour of the cave, ending with a 15 minute boat ride. These tours happen every 15 minutes and the earlier you go to the cave, the less crowded it will be.
I highly recommend purchasing a vodaphone SIM card and over 2gb if you’re here for a week, you’ll definitely need this if you’re driving around the island. There were many times that our google maps really came in handy.
We then headed to Matamata where the Hobbiton ser tour is. This was super worth a visit and it was definitely a major highlight. There are 44 hobbit holes, the party tree, and the green dragon pub. Since the insides were created on a set, you can only visit the exteriors. It was neat to see the small and big doors, the big doors to make the hobbits look small and the small doors to make Gandalf look humongous. The surrounding lands were filled with sheep and beautiful green rolling hills. The 2 hour tour ends with complimentary drinks of hobbit ale or ginger beer.
We drove another hour south to Rotorua, the town known for thermal pools and geysers. As you drive into town you can see the billowing steam from the ground as if there are multiple camp fires alit. The smell of the sulfur gives the town and unmistakable rotting egg smell.
We purchased tickets for the 6pm award winning Traditional Maori show at the Tamaki village, which included a round trip hotel pickup, haka fighter ceremony, dinner/hangi, and traditional customs (dance, fighting, games, tattooing, etc).
We saw a performance of song and dance both historic and contemporary (with guitar). Dinner included traditional ground steamed meal with vegetables, various meats (lamb, chicken, and fish). The show was definitely worth checking out and I highly recommend it. This ended before 9pm and we went back to the Holiday Inn to pass out from the long day.