10 Reasons you need to visit Hobbiton, stat | New Zealand 

One of the first things people ask me when I’m overseas and they find out I’m from New Zealand is ‘Do you live with a lot of sheep?’, closely followed by  ‘Are you a Hobbit?’ I never quite know if they’re serious or not, but I hope it’s the latter. Yes New Zealand has a lot of sheep, and no, we’re not Hobbits. But we still love everything Lord of the Rings and will always pride ourselves on being a close at least a little similar to Middle Earth. Minus the Mordor and evil ruler thing.

The greatest LOTR related locations in New Zealand is, in my opinion, Hobbiton itself. It’s the most wonderful place to visit if your’re a fan, and even if you’re not, it’s still a really fun outing.

Not sure if you want to add Hobbiton to your New Zealand trip itinery? Here are 10 reasons you should.

10 Reasons you need to visit Hobbiton, stat | New Zealand 

1 | It’s Hobbiton

Beginning with an obvious. It’s Hobbiton. You know it’s going to be great.

2 | Everything is small, which makes you feel like a Giant

Hobbiton is, well, it’s Hobbit sized. There are little vests hanging on trees, and little wheelbarrows everywhere. It makes walking through so much fun because you feel so big.

Hobbiton - The Wandering Jandal

3 | It’s super fun, let’s face it

How often does a movie set remain standing after the film series is ended? Not that often. It’s so much fun being able to go back time and time again to a beautiful place full of exciting facts and stories.

4 | It’s exactly like the movies

Picture Hobbiton in the films. That’s 100% what it’s like. The houses, the gardens, the pathways, the hills, the Dancing Pole.

10 Reasons you need to visit Hobbiton, stat | New Zealand 

5 | The fruit and vegetables are actually real

The farm that Hobbiton is built on is a working farm, but as are the vegetable gardens around the set and the fruit trees. The produce from these plants are used in the Green Dragon and also driven into Matamata, the closest town. Having the real gardens may require full time gardeners, but they are wonderful and really add to the whole experience.

6 | You feel like you’re in Middle Earth

“I’m going on an adventure!” You can run through the exact part of Hobbiton that Bilbo does in The Hobbit, and see the Hobbit’s beautiful homes. You really feel like you’re there.

7 | The Green Dragon is spectacular

If you do the Green Dragon meal at the end of an evening tour, you get to explore the Inn. If not, though, you still get a pint at the end of your tour, and it’s delicious and wonderfully made.

Hobbiton - The Wandering Jandal Hobbiton - The Wandering Jandal

8 | …and the food is the most incredible meal you’ll ever eat in your life

Just look at it. A-mah-zing. And it tastes even better (if possible) than it looks.

9 | Carrying lanterns around at night makes you feel magical

If you do the evening tour with dinner at the Green Dragon, then  you get to carry magical lanterns around the site to end the tour. If that in itself doesn’t make you want to check it out, then you may want to reevaluate your love of LOTR.

10 | You learn a lot of behind-the-scenes information

If you’re a fan then you’ve probably read up on a lot of behind the scenes information, but actually being on set like this you get to see the information first hand, and it comes to life that little bit more.

Bonus | It’s Hobbiton

Ending with an obvious. It’s Hobbiton. You know it’s going to be great.

Have I convinced you? Book your tour here! 

10 of New Zealand’s Famous ‘Big Things’ | New Zealand

New Zealand. The home of hobbits, sheep and the occasional Kiwi. In among the raging battles for Middle Earth and the hordes of tourists that flock to our shores (‘flock’…see what I did there?), there are a multitude of ginormous icons scattered around the country in varying degrees of both ‘awesome’, and ‘slightly mad’.  All of which, however, are worth a visit.

1 | Paeroa’s L&P Bottle

‘L&P’ stands for ‘Lemon and Paeroa’ and is New Zealand’s national soft drink. Originally, Lemon and Paeroa was simply mineral water found in a deep spring in Paeroa, with a squeeze of lemon in it for taste. Little did they know back in the early 1900s that ‘L&P’ (originally called ‘Paeroa and Lemon’) would become such a hit, be bottled out by Schweppes in the 1960s and made into one of the most iconic Kiwi items that ever was.

Now, the L&P bottle stands tall in Paeroa, at a great 7 meters high, and 1.3 meters round. It was first built on the edge of State Highway 2, but since then has been relocated back, into Ohinemuri Reserve, so we can stand with our seflie sticks and capture the bottle without disturbing the traffic.

2 | Rakaia’s Salmon

rakaia salmon

Rakaia: The Salmon Capital of New Zealand. Just 50km south of Christchurch, Canterbury, across the Rakaia River, lies the small fishing town of Rakaia. The road and the bridge you cross to reach the town was built in 1873, and at the time, the bridge was the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, coming in at 1.8km. Now, of course, there are bridges much longer than that, but it’s unlikely that any result in a 12 metre high leaping salmon. While it may be a little obvious, the salmon on the side of the main highway is a symbol for the incredible salmon and trout that is found in the River, and it even has an attraction called Salmon World right next to it.

Image from Christchurch Daily Photo

i-site_centre3 | Tirau’s Corrugated Iron Dog and Sheep

On the main highway between Taupo and Auckland is the tiny blip of a town, whose corrugated iron creations know no bounds. From street signs to shop roof tops to purchasable home-décor designs, the Corrugated Town of New Zealand is a main stop off for travelers. What makes the town even greater than it is already is, is the two giant corrugated iron buildings in the shape of a dog, and a sheep.

So which came first? The sheep or the dog? The Big Sheep Wool Gallery was there first, selling everything woolen, from souvenirs to sheep skins to slippers. Later, in 1998, the giant dog was created as the Tirau Information Site and public toilets, complete with neighbouring car park and picnic area. Steven Clothier was the man who created the dog’s head, along with the majority of the other building pieces, sculptures and quirky art works that can be found around the rural town.

Image from Tirau Info

4 | Waitomo’s Big Apple

800px-Big_Apple_Waitomo

Perhaps not as well known as some of the other large attractions in New Zealand, the Big Apple Café is located at the Waitomo Orchards. Waitomo is a town mostly famous for its glow worm caves, with a never-ending stream of tourists at its doorstep. For people around the area though, the 7.5 metre apple sign is well known, and is situated on State Highway 3.

The Big Apple Café changed ownership in 2015, with the new owners hoping to bring in more tourists who are in the area visiting the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The restaurant can hold over 400 people, and also has café and tourist facilities. A lot of the food that is served at The Big Apple comes from the orchards, and if the new owners succeed in bringing in more tourists, perhaps the giant apple will become more of Waikato region icon than it already is.

Image from Commons Wikipedia

5 | Otorohonga’s Kiwi

800px-Kiwi_in_Otorohanga

Near Waitomo and the Big Apple is a town called Otorohonga, and they pride themselves on Kiwiana (all things kiwi; kiwi icons), and their Sir Edmond Hilary Walkway. At both entrances to this King Country town are corrugated iron kiwis, and no, this isn’t another Tirau in the making. The corrugated iron kiwis have become somewhat of a mascot for Otorohonga, but only after the town adopted the Kiwiana Capital status in the late 1990s.

The Kiwi’s really come from the fact that Otorohonga has a fantastic Kiwi House, pulling in tourists and school trips alike. The Kiwi house was the first place in the world  to have a live kiwi on display, and that’s partly why it’s so famous. While the kiwis in Otorohonga aren’t as large as the building corrugated iron sheep and dog in Tirau, they have their own quirkiness about them, and they are definitely something special.

Image from Wikipedia

6 | Te Puke’s Slice of Kiwifruit

Ah, the kiwifruit. Perhaps a little known fact (even to New Zealanders) is that the kiwifruit is actually a Chinese Goosebury, from the Yangtzee Valley in China. Back in 1904, a teacher planted a seed in New Zealand, and the rest, they say, is one of New Zealand’s largest exports. Okay, so perhaps they don’t say that, but it’s true, and the history of the kiwifruit in New Zealand  is worth a read. But in the Bay of Plenty region in the North Island of New Zealand, the town of Te Puke was put on the map.

The kiwifruit itself is a well known kiwi icon, both as a fruit, and also as the giant sign for Kiwi360 in Te Puke. One of the best growing areas in New Zealand for kiwifruit, it’s no wonder the little town jumped on this great opportunity to dub themselves Kiwifruit Capital of the World. Kiwi 360 isn’t only a gigantic slice of kiwifruit, it’s the symbol of the history and the heritage of the land it’s on, as well as a symbol for many attractions that around the Te Puke area. There’s a Horticultural Theme Park with KiwiKart Tours, a café, a shop with kiwifruit products, and even a functions room, all in the shadow of New Zealand’s largest slice of fruit.

7 | Ohakune’s Carrot

Perhaps one of New Zealand’s most famous Big Thing is the giant carrot at the bottom of Mount Ruapehu, in the town of Ohakune, in Tongariro National Park. If it’s not the most famous Big Thing, then it’s definitely the most hugged. As tourists flock to the ski fields of the mountains in the Central North Island, Ohakune is a great stopping place, even more so that there’s a giant carrot to take a picture with.

Back in 1925 , the first market gardens were grown in Ohakune, and from there the town flourished in vegetable growing. In recognition of the town’s fantastic vegetable growing abilities and the importance of the gardening community to New Zealand, the 7.5 meter giant carrot was erected by the Ohakune Growers Association in 1984. While it was the talk of the town (nay, the country) at the time as people argued over its suitability and possibly ridiculousness, it remains there to this day, and New Zealander and tourist alike gather around it every single day.

Image from Wikipedia

8 | Te Kuiti’s Sheep and Shearer

674px-Te_kuiti_shearer_statue

New Zealand: a small little island nation at the bottom of the world. Home to just over 4 million people, and 60 billion sheep . The human to sheep ratio is higher than most other countries in the world, and while dairy is a bigger industry nowadays, the town of Te Kuiti has celebrated one of the most famous champions of shearing, David Fagon (soon to become Sir David Fagon), by sporting a 6 meter tall stature of a shearer, in full shearing mode.

Every year in Te Kuiti there are shearing competitions, and even a ‘Running of the Sheep’ event, where about 2000 sheep run down the main street. Only in New Zealand, eh? The sheep and shearer statue,  like many of the Big Things of New Zealand was on a post stamp in New Zealand Post’s town icons series, and continues to be a well loved symbol of the great achievements in shearing that have come out of Te Kuiti.

Image from Wikipedia, used with CC licence 

 

9 | Gore’s Trout

800px-Gore_New_Zealand

Being one of the southernmost towns in New Zealand, Gore is the official home of New Zealand Country Music. However, perhaps more importantly, it is known for its fantastic fly-fishing. Renowned as the Brown Trout Capital , Gore is on the Mataura River, one of the best trout fishing rivers in the world. It’s no wonder, then, that 7 meter brown trout was erected among a pile of large rocks at the entrance of the town. Proudly situated by the Welcome sign, you can’t miss it as you drive into this Southland fishing-frenzied community.

Much like the giant salmon in Rakaia, Gore’s trout’s meaning cannot fool anyone. It is what it is, and it means what you’d think it should mean: ‘We have trout here. And it’s good trout.’ Nevertheless, as silly as it may be, it is definitely an icon to both the people in Gore and in the wider Southland region.

Image by Mr. Bungle on Wikipedia, used with CC licence 

10 | Taihape’s Gumboot

The_Gumboot_throwing_capital_of_New_Zeland_-_Taihape

In case the word ‘gumboot’ is foreign to you, it is just the name given in New Zealand for rubber boots. They are above knee-high and are used by famers and anyone else who walks through water and mud. Everyone New Zealander has at least one pair, if not two, and everyone has experienced that awful feeling of their socks slipping down inside their boots and not being able to do anything about it.

Taihape, a little town in the central of the North Island, is (yes, you guessed it) Gumboot Capital of the World. Located right on State Highway 1, it’s right on the main route between Taupo and Auckland, and prides itself on being a humble but hardworking community – just like gumboot . The corrugated iron gumboot was created after comedian John Clark mentioned Taihape as the Gumboot Capital of the World in one of his skits. That was a beginning of it all.

In an attempt to revitalize the dying town, and picking up on John Clark’s humorous comments, the Gumboot Day Festival  was initiated. That was in 1985, and every year since then the festival has run. With competitions and championships and a lot of gumboot throwing, it’s a day not to be missed, and people from all over the North Island attend.

Image by Charlie Brewer on Wikipedia, use with CC licence

While these Big Things in New Zealand may seem like silly road side attractions, these and the others, are kiwi icons that we all know and love. With so many dotted around the country, the mind boggles as to what kind of Big Thing they’ll put up next.

The Cook Strait Ferry: Is it Worth it? | New Zealand

When people come and visit New Zealand, they have to do it in at least 2 parts, if not more. Being an island nation, New Zealand is split into several islands, and it depends how you’d like to get around as to what method of transport you use to get between the islands. Do you fly into one island, tour around, and fly to the next? Or do you hire a car and jump on a ferry and head over the Cook Strait?

Fly or Sail?

The time it takes to fly between islands will depend on your point A and point B, but unless you’re going from the top of the North Island to the Bottom of the South, then most flights around New Zealand take between 30-mins and 1 hour 15 minutes. It’s definitely faster to fly, and not only does it take out travel time, it cuts down on driving time. The view of the country is beautiful as you fly over it, and it’s an easy, mostly cheap, way to get around the country. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of road tripping, perhaps hiring a car or a van, then taking the ferry is a fun way to go.

The ferry has to be done at least one. It’s about a 3 hour trip from Wellington Harbour, across the open ocean and into the Sounds at the top of the South Island. On a nice day, you can see both the bottom of the North Island and the top of the South as you make the crossing. If you’re lucky you might see a pod of dolphins.

picton ferry 4

Night Crossing

As well as the day trips,  you can book a night crossing, which I’ve done once in my life, and that was enough. We drove onto the ferry at about 2:45am for a 3:30am sailing. Unless you can sleep anywhere, I suggest avoiding the night crossing. We went straight for the most lounge-looking place on the boat we could find, and I managed to find a spot on the floor between chairs where I could lie down with the pillow I had brought with me. That was all fine, except when I eventually woke, I had a bruise the size of England on my hip and was freezing cold. Unless it was the busy time of year, then the night crossing wasn’t any cheaper than a day crossing, so it’s up to you whether that’s something you look into or not.

If you do decide to try a night crossing, head to the lounge parts of the boat as fast as possible so you get a comfortable seat for the duration of the trip. The bonus to going on a night crossing is that you’ll reach the sounds (if you’re heading south) at sunrise, and that’s a beautiful sight. Breakfast would then happen in the little harbour town of Picton, which has cafes, and a McDonalds.

picton ferry

Day Crossing

But in the day time, it has beautiful views right across the waters between the islands. If you’re not one for sitting in front of a pretty view, reading a book, then there are plenty of other things to do on the boat. The ferries have great levels of decking and viewing platforms, and they are clean, tidy, and easy to navigate, so wandering around is doable. There are play areas for the children, and some of the ferries have cinemas in them for those rainy crossings. They also have cafeteria’s, but they are very expensive and it’s best to bring your own snacks and meals.

picton ferry 5

Rough Crossings

While it’s a fantastic trip on a good day, on a bad day it’s atrocious. There was one crossing we did where the wind and rain was so bad that the ferry rocked and swayed both front to back and side to side. It was as if it were on a one of those rodeo bulls at the showgrounds. If you’ve got a weak stomach, then head to the back of the boat, where the rock and roll is less. If you’re like me and you can stand the movement, then you get the entire front of the boat to yourself. Rarely is it that bad though, and you’d be simply unlucky to get a really bad crossing like we had. Most of the crossing are a little rocky, but the open ocean isn’t a long part of the trip, so you’re in and out of the rocky waters quite quickly.

picton ferry 2

So is the Cook Strait Ferry worth it?

In my opinion, yes. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, you might have a rough crossing. Yes, you may throw up. But it will also be beautiful on a nice day, and if you have children then they will talk about ‘that one time we took the ferry in New Zealand’. It will be fun, and the possibility of seeing a pod of dolphins surely is enough reason.

Why Air New Zealand is the Best Airline to Fly With

Image from Air New Zealand website

When I was 18-months old, my parents decided it would be a good idea to move to Asia. Since then, I haven’t stopped travelling. While I’m no where near close to finishing my list of places to visit, I have been blessed enough to have opportunities to travel quite a bit, despite living at the bottom of the world (or is it the top? You decide). Travelling from New Zealand means the only option is flying, unless you pay for a cruise. There are no trains across borders, no busses to just hop on to pop to the neighbouring country for lunch. The only feasible option is flight.

That being the case, I’ve flown with quite a few different airlines, ranging from Qantas to Singapore Airlines, from Ryan Air to United Airlines, from Emirates to Easy Jet, and yet out of all these airlines, Air New Zealand comes out on top for me every single time. I’m not being biased – okay, perhaps a little – and I feel like I would think this even if I weren’t from NZ. If you’ve had a great experience with Air New Zealand, do let me know about it at the end of this post.

air new zealand in dunedin
Image from my personal Instagram

The Comfort

The worst thing you can have on a long distance flight is uncomfortable seats. Thankfully, Air New Zealand is top notch when it comes to comfort. They are leading the world in new innovative ways to design planes, and it definitely shows, especially in the large planes. On the 777-300 models there are now Economy Skycouch seats, which allows you to buy an extra seat, flip the bottom of all three seats, making a sleeping platform where you and your partner can actually lie down and sleep during the duration of the flight.

“The Skycouch is a trio of three Economy seats that together create a flexible space for whatever you want it to be – to relax and stretch out in, or for the kids to use as a play area.” – from the Air New Zealand website.

I’ve seen couples sleeping, children sitting together on two seats folded up, drawing and playing with toys, and one parent with two children comfortably spending time on the three seats. It is, in my opinion, an incredibly smart way of flying. If you don’t go for a Skycouch seat option, the normal economy seats are very comfortable, and have a lot of room both in width, and in depth, with a good distance between seats.

The Entertainment

In the last few years, the large long-distance planes have really upped their entertainment game. The screens in the back of the chairs are all touch screen these days, with extra fun features like Seat-Chat (talk with someone in another seat, or another part of the plane), more TV shows and movies, more games (which, again, you can play with others), and are beautifully laid out and easy to navigate.

If you have a frequent flyer or Airpoints numbers, and you’ve logged that in prior to getting on the plane, then when you sit down and turn on your screen, it says ‘Welcome Anjali!’ You can then save your preferences, save movies for your next flight, send emails to yourself, and even order food right from your seat. It’s a magical, magical world up in the air.

Image by Murray Douglas, from Stockvault
Image by Murray Douglas, from Stockvault

The Simplicity and Efficiency

Speaking of navigating easily, compared to a lot of other airlines, Air New Zealand makes everything simple. Travel shouldn’t be stressful, and if it is then something or someone isn’t doing their job very well. From booking flights, to asking questions about baggage and dietary requirements, everything is answered for you, and if you can’t for some reason find the answers you’re after then the help desk at the airport is you next go-to place. Simple, easy, uncomplicated.

As well as being incredibly simple, once you start getting into the process of booking flights, and arriving at the airport, everything is so very efficient that you’re in and out of check in and bag-drop in a matter of minutes. Everything is labelled and signed, and it’s very unlikely that you get lost or don’t know what you’re doing. The lines are often short, and if they’re not then they’re fast moving, because of the efficient turn through of people, even off the full international flights.

Air New Zealand
Image by San San on Free Images

The Service

One of the main things you notice when you’re flying is the attitude, the helpfulness and the professionalism of the air-hosts. No matter the time of day, no matter the destination, the start location, the length of flight, the amount of passengers, Air New Zealand hosts are friendly, helpful, professional. They always look like they love what they do, and they carry themselves with air (excuse the pun) of professionalism. They’re not afraid, however, to show their own personalities and to have a laugh with the passengers.

Returning home from living in England for 2 years, we flew various different airlines on the way back, but as soon as we got on our final leg of the journey, as soon as we stepped onto that Air New Zealand aircraft, it was like we were home already. It was incredible how different they were to the rest of the world’s airlines, and while I’m not complaining about the others at all (I have a few favourites out there), there’s a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain something-something about Air NZ.

Image from my personal Instagram

The Welcome Home

My favourite thing about Air New Zealand (and forgive me if your home country’s Airline does this too) is the home welcome. When you step off the plane from an international flight into the very efficient customs line to get back into the country, they make conversation. They look at where you’ve been, they ask about your trip, they stamp your passport, and then smile and say

‘Welcome home’.

And it gets me every time.

There’s something about coming home that makes even the staunchest of people feel that warm fuzzy feeling, and being welcomed home by a stranger wearing the New Zealand smile and the Kiwi can-do attitude is the best feeling, and the best thing about coming home.

Air New Zealand Team
Image from Air New Zealand

So what?

So why am I sharing this with you? Not only am I hoping that you too, one day, can experience the wonders of an Air New Zealander hospitality team in the air and on the ground, but also because I’m proud of my country and the high standard of welcome, of service, of efficiency and of warmth that they pour out into their highly-demanding jobs.

Here’s to you, Air New Zealand. Thank you for being an incredible company that does it’s country proud. Thank you for being one of the great things that puts our country on the map.

 

Disclaimer: Air New Zealand did not ask me to write this post, nor do they endorse it. It is simply a post about my favourite airline and their great service.

The Hamilton Gardens | New Zealand

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, says Shakespeare. I would take it further, dear William, and say that a Garden by any other name would smell as sweet. At least the Hamilton Gardens would.

On the main highway that travels around the New Zealand city of Hamilton lies the most fantastically beautiful botanical garden. ‘What’s so special about this garden?’ I hear you say. Well, let me tell you. As you wander around its well organised grounds, you will be transported away from Hamilton to far off lands beyond the horizon. I’m nearly being literal.

Hamilton Gardens 2

Hamtilon Gardens 1

Tucked away into their own separate sections lie gardens from different parts of this spectacular world. You might find yourself in the neatly-raked gardens of Japan, or stand in awe at the colours in India. You may stop and smell the orange trees in Italy, or take a stroll through the modern garden.

hamtilon gardens 3

Along with the amazing country-based gardens, there’s a herb garden, where you can smell the aromas before being reaching it. There’s a vegetable garden, and a various sculpture you can view along the way.

It started out as an old rubbish dump back in the 60s, and now, over 40 years later, it is a thieving garden full of visitors every day. There are some amazing historical images on their website, and it really shows just how far they’ve come.

hamtilon gardens 4

What I love about the Hamilton Gardens (other than the beautiful flowers and features), is that they have such a great sustainability plan, and their extremely environmentally conscious. They’re big on recycling, they buy local products both for the gardens and for the café, and much more. You can read their full list here.

If you haven’t been to the Hamilton Gardens, I highly suggest it. Even it means going slightly out of your way as your drive past, do it.


Cost: Free

Opening Hours: 7:30am till 7:30pm in the summer. Check out their full times here.