Today we travelled just 45 mins from the famous Waitomo Caves to Piopio. The Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo is no longer a hidden secret. We’re not that keen on the mass market. So we love that there are only 9 people in the group at any one time. View accommodation in the Waitomo region.
Our guide, Suzie Denize is rather special. She actually owns all this land. A full 22 minutes of the first Hobbit film was filmed on her property. And she was on-site as the filming took place. Here’s me with Suzie.
You don’t have to be a hobbit fan to enjoy this tour. I guarantee the scenery alone will blow your mind! Our tour started from the moment Suzie greeted us at her modern reception area. This is a predictable photo I know, but at 6ft.2in, Michael wouldn’t make a very good Hobbit.
You can understand why Peter Jackson and his crew quickly fell in love with this place. The ancient rock formations are perfect for ‘Middle Earth’
After a quick drive up a hill in a modern van you can start following in the footsteps of the hobbits.
How could anyone not be inspired by this magnificent scenery. You will be surrounded on all sides by views lush green hills. The Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo is a half day tour. So this is great news if you want to do the Waitomo Caves on the same day.
There isn’t too much walking and there are plenty of stops on the way. At each stop Suzie holds up a still shot from a particular scene. The photo would match the area we’d be standing in at the time.
She invited each of us to recreate the same shot for ourselves. I tried to look like a worried Bilbo. I’m so pleased we captured the bird house in the background.
Tom, Bert and William are such innocuous names for the revolting trolls from the Hobbit films. This was the very spot poor Bilbo almost got cooked for dinner!
A tour like this is only as good and its guide. Suzie’s personal connection to the film really inspires you to see the film again. That has to be a measure of how successful this tour really is. We also have to mention Suzie’s husband, Warwick. A local artist was commissioned to recreate Warwick’s likeness as a hobbit. We think he did rather well.
If you love ‘off the beaten track’ driving, away from the usual tourist routes, then consider the drive along Whanganui River to Pipiriki. I just did this today leaving south (Whanganui city) to north (heading towards the Tongariro National Park).
From the beginning of your journey at the SH4 intersection, you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a different world. The road is sealed and is in pretty good condition, though mostly narrow.
Once you enter into the Whanganui National Park area, the bush becomes dense. Today, the river water was the colour of milk chocolate. The latest heavy rain most likely helped to create this illusion.
Once in a while you’ll see local housing and even a cafe & gallery!
Yes, there is a Jerusalem in NZ as well – read more here.
While you’re travelling the area. you might want to schedule a jetboat trip to the “Bridge of Nowhere”. Again, local history – this time the Pakeka story with road building a large part of it. Read more here. I did the trip a few years back and loved it!
During the drive this afternoon I must have stopped at least 15 times to enjoy the view over the bush and the Whanganui River. As this journey ends in the central North Island – with its Tongariro National Park – the time has just flown. It’s been a great detour from the busy highways into key ‘heartland’ of New Zealand’s North Island.
Many travellers planning a holiday to New Zealand ask themselves. Should I visit the North or South Island New Zealand?”,Where shall I go?”, “How long do I stay at each location?”, “What can I do in the time I have? And often the more travellers go into the details, the more confused they become. This blog shows the best way to go about planning your visit to New Zealand North & South Island.
Time is the key. The more you have, the better (naturally). Seriously, this is the most important subject when planning a trip to New Zealand. So, what I recommend to travellers is this:
5-10 day itinerary: focus on one island – either North or South Island New Zealand. Use either Auckland, Christchurch or Queenstown as your airport of arrival. See sample itinerary South Island.
11-18 day itinerary: it’s possible to include both the South and North Island, by using domestic flights in between. This will save you serious time. See sample itinerary North & South Island.
18+ day itinerary: for this length of stay, you can drive most of the way, though I would still consider arriving in Auckland and departing from Christchurch. Don’t make the mistake of driving all the way back to Auckland (doing a ‘loop’). You will spend 5000 kms on the road! You’d rather much be spending this precious time on exploring Mother Nature, right?! See sample itinerary North & South Island in 18 days.
Write a few things you’ve already researched on New Zealand. I recommend checking out the New Zealand website with lots of good information. From weather/ climate, to location information, road information, things to see and do etc. The more research you do, the longer your list will become. How about you do this:
1 – make a list with “top 10 things to see + do” according to your interests.
2 – check out the locations for your top 10 list (see Tourism NZ).
3 – use a Google map (see sample below) to pin down those key sites.
Getting excited? You see, the more ‘homework’ you do, the more enjoyable planning your vacation. Getting the most out of your holiday, is the key. If you require some local advice on New Zealand travel planing contact us and we’ll point out your options.
Now that you have a better idea on what to do and see, its time to get serious on locations. Ask yourself: “Can I really do it all in the 10 days I have available in New Zealand”?.”Shall I cut back? Should I travel ‘faster” (one night each place)?
1 – travel ‘slow’: try to base yourself for 2+ nights at as many places as possible.
2 – less is more: focus on the ‘must-dos’ as your first priority.
3 – make key decisions now: be realistic with travel distances and avoid the unworkable.
New Zealand is a paradise for self-drive travellers. Breathtaking scenery invites many stops on the way. One of our favourite routes is the stretch of road from Nelson via the Buller Gorge to the gorgeous West Coast of the South Island. Today we drove the Nelson to West Coast self drive touring route
After leaving the Buller Gorge approach, we entered ‘The Great Coast Road‘ regarded as one of the Top 10 Coastal Drives in the world! This drive actually starts in the north near the remote village of Karamea, along the ancient limestone cliffs of Paparoa National Park.
At this time of year during Autumn, the roads are mostly empty.
Today, our first stop was as Cape Foulwind near Westport. Cape Foulwind has a stunning coastal walkway where you can view fur seals and their little pups. A fellow traveller took this photo of us showing the ocean backdrop.
Contrary to what the name would suggest, Cape Foulwind is a pristine piece of New Zealand and a great place to refresh the mind and stretch the legs.
I think it should be made compulsory to stop at PR’s Cafe in Westport. Their display cabinet groans with gigantic homemade cakes, savoury ciabatta rolls and salads. We hope the owner stays around for a long time.
Next stop was at beautiful Punakaiki. Overall the the drive from Nelson to Punakaiki is 265 kms and takes about 4 hours. This is allowing for plenty of stops on the way!
Punakaiki is a beautiful place to relax, trail-walk or kayaking. These sensational views are sure to sweeten the senses.
Hokitika was our final destination for the day. We have a soft spot for this town, famous for it’s Pounamu (Jade) and gold. Hokitika has a great history and a stop at the museum is highly recommended.
Further inland we found more local highlights – Lake Kaniere with the Westcoast cycle trail and Hokitika Gorge, both well-worth seeing.
As nearly everywhere in New Zealand there are lots of local walks from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Or maybe try a cycle day tour in the area. Well worth it!
Lance and Wendy are both in their 70’s. They booked a water taxi into the Abel Tasman National Park to enjoy a track walk. They were told the track walk was ‘easy peasy’. At low tide, it is, but an entirely different story at high tide! What should have been a great day, turned into an ordeal. Here’s some Abel Tasman National Park tour options to suit your budget and fitness.
This is probably the most popular option into the Abel Tasman National Park. Take one of the water taxis from Kaiteriteri and get dropped off in one of the bays alone the shoreline. Stay on the beach to sunbath, or take a walk on the Abel Tasman Track. Get collected by water taxi at another bay. If you want to walk between bays, make sure you check the tides beforehand. You’ll need good walking shoes, food and bottled water. See more details.
Join a sea kayaking tour for a half day, full day or overnight stay. Many visitors to New Zealand are trying this activity for the very first time in their lives. It’s safe, fun and no previous experience is required. However, your feet will get wet and the sun is strong. Take sun cream and a wide brimmed hat. If you don’t want to sit for a long period in a kayak, the good alternative is the kayak/walk option. See more details.
If you really want to learn more about the area, Abel Tasman Eco Tours is suitable for everyone, including children and seniors. Read our blog. You’ll get a wider range of experiences that larger boats don’t offer. Imagine a world of golden sands, majestic native New Zealand forests and private inlets. See more details here.
This option suits the leisure traveller. Imagine cruising on a yacht or a 14 metre full-displacement cat, with a beautiful timber interior. Little physical effort is required and you relax in comfort to enjoy the turquoise blue of the ocean. You’ll explore remote beaches and be able to take the kayaks out for a short paddle. A highlight is the tasty lunch with local fresh seafood and wine. It’s perfect for the soft adventure explorer. See more details here.