New Zealand – North Island

Our one day in Auckland was rainy and overcast. After a visit to the Sky Tower where we looked at Auckland from above, we took a boat to Devonport, where we hiked to the top of mount Victoria and had some chocolate with kiwi from Devonport Chocolates.

Auckland skyline

Auckland skyline

View from Mount Victoria. Started raining when we reached the top.

View from Mount Victoria. Started raining when we reached the top.

Back in Auckland we explored the port area where we had an amazing meal at the fish market. It started pouring hard after lunch so we went back to the hotel to wait it out.

Auckland dock area

Auckland dock area

Auckland dock area

Auckland dock area

Largest crayfish I've ever seen. $65 USD for about 2 lbs.

Largest crayfish I’ve ever seen. $65 USD for about 2 lbs.

Really good seafood at the Fish Market

Really good seafood at the Fish Market

After the rain stopped somewhat we took the bus to Domain Wintergardens park, then Mt. Eden for what could’ve been a gorgeous view of the city at sunset. Unfortunately the rain started again and being on the highest point in the city, there was a good chance of a lightning strike, so we hurried back to the hotel.

Domain Wintergardens.

Domain Wintergardens.

Domain Wintergardens. I wouldn't want to wear a wedding dress in this weather.

Domain Wintergardens. I wouldn’t want to wear a wedding dress in this weather.

View from Mount Eden.

View from Mount Eden.

The sun came out the next day! We rented a car and headed to Waitomo Glowworm Caves. We booked a black water rafting tour through one of the caves, but because of rain, the tour was cancelled :( So we went on a walking tour through the Ruakuri cave instead. As the tour guide said, it’s 80% formations and 20% glow worms. The cave was nice, but in our national park adventures we’ve seen so many caves that it’s hard to be impressed with just cave formations. There were not that many glow worms and it was extremely hard to take a picture without a tripod.

Entrance to the Ruakuri cave.

Entrance to the Ruakuri cave.

Ruakuri cave. The blue dots on the walls are the glow worms.

Ruakuri cave. The blue dots on the walls are the glow worms.

Glow worms leave silk threads covered in mucus to attract prey

Glow worms leave silk threads covered in mucus to attract prey

We had a light lunch at Huhu Cafe with a great view and tasty food.

Huhu cafe - lamb sliders

Huhu cafe – lamb sliders

Huhu cafe - mussels

Huhu cafe – mussels

Hobbiton
We then headed to Hobbiton, which, surprisingly, was the highlight of the trip. What I thought will be cheesy and overly touristic proved to be good entertainment. The guides were excellent – good story tellers, energetic and funny. The Hobbiton village looked very realistic, with wooden, colorful doors and real trees and flowers. No Hollywood plaster type construction there. The majority of the visitors were hardcore movie and book fans, so I felt a little out of place, but it was all good fun.

Hobbiton is located on a farm, so there are sheep grazing all around

Hobbiton is located on a farm, so there are sheep grazing all around

Some people knew the hobbits' names who

Some people knew the hobbits’ names who “lived” in these hobbit houses

Bilbo's house

Bilbo’s house

One story told by the guides was how Peter Jackson did not like the apple trees that were planted on the set because, according to the books, they were supposed to be plum trees. So he ordered all the leaves and fruit to be removed and replaced with artificial plum leaves and fruit. All that money and effort for a 10 sec appearance in the movie!

The guide took pictures of everybody who wanted to get a shot with one of the few full size doors.

The guide took pictures of everybody who wanted to get a shot with one of the few full size doors.

A much smaller door

A much smaller door

After all the picture taking and walking around the village we headed to the Green Dragon Inn were everybody was given a drink followed by a family style feast. The food was surprisingly good and there was a LOT of it. The night walk through the village was fun as well.

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The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon Inn

Local cat joined us for dinner. Totally spoiled :)

Local cat joined us for dinner. Totally spoiled :)

Inside the Green Dragon Inn

Inside the Green Dragon Inn

View from the tavern window. Sun was setting while we were eating.

View from the tavern window. Sun was setting while we were eating.

Hobbiton at dusk

Hobbiton at dusk

Later that night we drove back to Auckland and took an early flight to Queenstown on the South Island. Coming up in the next post!

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