It was so, so refreshing to step off the plane and out into the cool, New Zealand evening air after a month straight of roasting hot weather. I was greeted at the airport by Terry, a friend of my aunt. He and I had coordinated him picking me up, but he graciously offered me dinner and a night’s stay at his home in the Auckland suburbs, which I accepted. Sure, I’d arrive at my hostel one night late, no big deal. We had a wonderful Indian meal and then I more or less went right to bed for the night.
An awesome shot of the sunrise from my plane to Melbourne, before my transfer to Auckland
The next morning I was up bright and early to catch a bus to Hobbiton, aka Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ village from the Lord of the Rings! The tour bus took a good two hours to get there, but it was totally worth the time. A family farm out near Matamata ended up being where the set was constructed, found only after director Peter Jackson and his crew had struggled to find a suitable location for Hobbiton for many weeks.
Each Hobbit hole had a unique theme and personality to it. This one seemed to have bird feeders and bird seed!
The guided tour brought us past the 44 uniquely constructed hobbit holes, laid out across the beautiful green rolling hills. We were told little tidbits about the filming of the movies, like how Gandalf knocking his head on Bilbo’s ceiling beam wasn’t scripted! Of course, we got to see the famous Bag End itself.
Bag End, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ home in the Lord of the Rings
After walking by all the hobbit holes, we of course got to grab a drink at The a Green Dragon, the village pub. Most of the interior of the pub never actually showed up in the films, including the sculpted green dragon above the bar that gave it it’s name!
We all got free beers at The Green Dragon to wrap up the tour!
That night I checked into my hostel, Haka Lodge Auckland, which was nicely situated just a 15 minute walk from the downtown core. I also started trying to plan the rest of my time in New Zealand - I didn’t have any idea how long I would be staying in Auckland, let alone the rest of the trip!
The next morning I spent some more time planning and booking stuff, and met a girl named Chloe. She had just arrived from Alabama to become an au pair, and had some free time in Auckland before she started. We ended up hanging out for a chunk of the day, and had a lot of good discussion about the southern US and the stereotypes given to the people who live there!
After a quick visit to the Auckland Sky Tower in the evening, where I failed to catch the sunset through the clouds, I participated in a pub crawl with Chloe. She was pretty exhausted from her flights though, so we only ended up doing two of the bars before calling it a night.
My view of the sunset from Auckland Sky Tower was obscured by clouds
To fill my last day in Auckland, I decided to do a wine tour on Waiheke Island! It started off with a short ferry ride that dropped us on the island, where a bus was waiting to pick us up. We were shuttled around to three different wineries, where we got to try several red and white varieties local to New Zealand. The first winery offered the most spectacular views, but the second one had cheese boards, so we all know which one was the winner.
Finishing off a glass of Chardonnay on Waiheke Island
I ended up staying on the island for Thai food, but did call it an early night after getting back to the mainland. I had booked my trip to Wellington on the Northern Explorer train that runs through the North Island countryside, and it was leaving bright and early the next morning!
Want more? Check out an overview of my New Zealand trip here!