Rotorua: Waimangu Volcanic Valley and the Hobbiton

Greymouth  was our last destination on the Southern Island of New Zealand. As far as we understood, we were quite lucky with the weather, as there had not been a proper summer yet this year. We happened to be there the only 10 days of full sunshine. In the Northern Island, on the other hand, we did not get that lucky. Out of 4 days, 3 were rainy. But we were finally in the land of the Hobbits, so it did not matter as much. The holiday feeling did sink a bit though with the “European” weather full of rain.

We took an internal flight to Auckland. We could in theory have taken the boat from Picton to Wellington, but given the limited time we still had, we had decided that would have been total madness. With an extra week, we would have taken that route and seen a bit more of the islands along the way. But this way, we woke up in Greymouth and went to bed in Rotorua, while enjoying a nice dinner underway at The Good Union restaurant in Cambridge. This is a restaurant in a church building.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

20 minutes south of Rotorua you’ll find one of New Zealand’s most incredible places. The volcanic landscape gives you the feeling of a land before time. It’s simply magic! With its many different pools, its large amounts of steam rising (the sulphur smell hits you full force), craters boiling, the variety of mesmerizing colours: orange, blue, green, turquoise, yellow and the deep forest, it is truly a geothermal wonder!  We are happy we took almost an entire day for this and just enjoyed the purity and magic of this place. Most of the walk is easy and downhill so it was doable with our toddler.

After visiting Waimangu we drove towards Lake Taupo, and on the way, we made a short stop at the amazing turquoise Huka Waterfalls.

The Hobitton

We were looking forward the whole trip to see Hobbiton, the movie set of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies. It is probably the most cliché place in New Zealand (for those not so much into Lord of the Rings like myself) but it was nonetheless definitely worth visiting. In order to visit the set it is best to book your tickets in advance and pick the time slot you want. There is also the possibility to choose for the Evening Banquet Tour, where you can enjoy a delicious dinner in the Green Dragon Pub. However, when we booked the Hobbiton (about a month in advance) there were no more places available for this.

The morning we had our reservation it was raining cats and dogs. We were equipped with ponchos, umbrellas and the stroller. Despite the weather, we enjoyed the fact that we had a really small group (probably lots of people cancelled) made up of 5-6 people. It is probably the only bad luck we had during our entire trip. We went up and down the hills (not particularly easy with a stroller in the heavy rain) saw the cute, cosy village with its colourful, oval doors and could even look in one of the hobbit houses. It definitely looked like the hobbits were actually there and hiding from the rain and curious eyes. Clothes were hanging out to dry (in the rain:), vegetables at the front door, little signs that indicated the presence of the hobbits. The enthusiastic guide, the interesting and funny facts about the movie set (on set and behind the scenes) about Peter Jackson’s ideas and extreme attention to detail, and finally the delicious cider and fireplace at the Green Dragon tavern kept us kept happy and warm.