Overall, the North Island impressed me a lot less than the South. The North Island is still quite remarkable, but I feel that the untouched beauty of the South Island is truly unparalleled. On our last full day on the North Island, we explored the city of Rotorua and went on the tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Mata Mata.
We skipped the overpriced breakfast at the restaurant and headed into the city to find a bakery. Rotorua is a unique and quaint city, one of the finest we visited in New Zealand. There is a nice downtown area with shops and a beautiful park by the water. We were able to grab a few delicious pastries from a bakery, along with coffee of course, and headed to the park to enjoy our breakfast by the water. The kids had a great time playing in the volcanic playground. Though there was really nothing volcanic about it, except for the sulphuric scent that can be smelled throughout the town.
I took a walk by the water and was greeted by quite a few black swans!
We were lucky to be in Rotorua on the weekend, as we were able to enjoy the festivities of a Saturday flea market.
We walked through the market, but only bought a couple of very small items for the kids. Kian and Hannah were able to enjoy a nice simple pony ride before we really had to head back to the hotel and pack up our things for our Hobbiton Movie Set tour!
We grabbed a quick bite of pizza in Rotorua before bidding the city adieu and driving to Mata Mata, where the Hobbiton Movie Set is located.
Hobbiton Movie Set
I completely agree that the tickets for this tour are way overpriced, but as a fan of the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) movies, to be in the North Island of the New Zealand and not see the set might be considered a crime! At the ticket center you are greeted by Gandalf the Gray, and if there is time before the tour bus's departure time, you can check out the gift shop. Once again, everything is overpriced, including the ring itself which will set you back $280 without the chain. Don't get me wrong, the ring is awesome and it has the writings around it, which makes it extra awesome. I did see a couple actually purchase the ring with the chain, so they must do quite well on that business front. We had fun looking around the store and then got in line to catch our bus. In order to see the movie set, you must take the bus from the ticketing center. The ride is about 5-10 minutes and the driver gives a little history about how this specific land was selected by Sir Peter Jackson as the filming grounds.
Welcome to the Shire
Ahhhh!! So much fun! We got off the bus and were greeted by lots of hobbit holes! Our guide gave us a lot of random facts about when the movie was being filmed, some were interesting and some...well...let's just say they filled the time. The only disappointing part of the tour was...ready for it... there is nothing actually in the hobbit holes :( not even at Bag End!! It's all just dusty and dirty in there and the size of a closet. Apparently the inside of the homes were filmed at a workshop in Wellington, NZ. nI wish at least there was a set in one of them, even if it actually wasn't used for filming.
I guess we didn't listen to the instructions very well when our tour guide told everyone that we were only meant to go inside ONE hobbit hole, the one she specifically had told us we were allowed to peek into. We realized after we had found a cute door and snuck in to take a family picture and were reminded, slightly sternly, by our guide. Oops! But for what it's worth it definitely is the cutest family picture we have from there! The tour also includes a "complimentary" beverage from the Green Dragon Inn. This is another spot you can spend your money buying a snack to go with your drink, or perhaps even buying food! We enjoyed our drinks and the scenery, plus a couple of really yummy chocolate chip cookies.
Overall, I would say the money you spend on the tour ticket is worth it, especially if you are a Lord of the Rings fan. The tour is fun, not intensive, and totally kid friendly. We had a great time and so glad we decided to include it on our itinerary before leaving NZ.
Last Supper...in New Zealand
We left Mata Mata fairly close to dinner time and headed to Hamilton. We decided that we would stay at a place near Hamilton instead of driving all the way to Auckland, where our plane departs from tomorrow. Hamilton is a fairly lively town with a lot of restaurants. We ended up at an Italian restaurant with pretty good food. After dinner, we headed to our hotel in crazy rain!
Finding the hotel was a bit of a challenge since it was fairly remote and somewhat in the woods up a mountain! It was beautiful and isolated, but the rain was hammering down hard and the fog was quite thick, which made the place just a tad bit spooky! It also seemed like we might have been the only guests there(?!). Nah...I like to think we saw a few other cars in the parking lot besides the people that worked there.
Nevertheless our room was amazing. It was almost like a honeymoon suite with magnificent views! Hopefully tomorrow the rain will subside a little bit and I can take a few good pictures. I had every intention of repacking our bags and doing a good amount of organizing, but I was really grumpy for some reason (long day perhaps?!) and decided to go to sleep instead. Packing had to wait for the absolute last minute!
Elmer the Elf Update
Elmer made it to Rotorua without any problems. He did learn a lesson from his mistake, last night, and chose a spot completely out of the way. You live and you learn!
A couple of more days in NZ and Elmer will have to follow us to Australia! This Elf is sure worldly. :)