Welcome back. We are currently sitting in a nice old AirBnb in Waitomo in the North-West part of the island. It has been a big, but excellent day.
We woke up at 6am for a bright and early start. Firstly we drove to a little seaside town called Ha hei which was about a 15 minute drive and parked at the Ha hei village carpark. We were going to Cathedral Cove this morning. Cathedral Cove is a stunning beach with picturesque limestone pillars in the water and a giant archway next to the ocean. This is where they filmed the opening scene of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian where the kids arrive on the beach which was a cool fact and if it is cool enough to be in Narnia, it’s cool enough for us!
Cathedral Cove most certainly lved up to the hype. It is stunning and just too beautiful. The only problem with it is the parking situation. There is a perfectly good carpark at the top of the cliff that precedes the pathway down to the cove but for some unexplained reason it is off-limits and big fines apply if you park there. We suspect that this is likely due to congestion and difficulties for the residents. Some of the residents capitalise on this by charging people to park in their driveways. It’s sneaky. The other option is a free car park located in Ha Hei village. We decided to take the latter option. This turned out to be quite a trek. We arrived at about 6:15am hoping to avoid crowds and get the cove to ourselves. Then we planned to undertake our leisurely stroll to the beach…uh not so much. It turned out to be about an hour and a half trek up very steep and long hills…while wearing thongs. It was not pleasant, but the payoff was worth it.
We spent some time taking pictures and lounging around at the Cathedral Cove which was lovely and then embarked on the long walk back to the car. By this point we were starving so we stopped by a little cafe for breakfast and loaded up on some NZ snacks for the upcoming drive. Green powerade and Pineapple Hunks. Delicious! We were going on a roughly two hour drive to a tiny little town called Matamata that is the home of a very special and iconic attraction. The roads in New Zealand are very windy and in poorer conditions would probably be pretty treacherous. Especially in more rural areas there are a lot of one-lane bridges which create many awkward encounters with oncoming traffic.
After this morning the drive to Matamata was tiring, but the reward was great. We had arrived for Bilbo Baggins’ one hundred and eleventh birthday. Today we were touring Hobbiton, located in the Shire.
We are massive Lord Of The Rings fans so this was a must-do bucket list item for us. We arrived at the guest-centre a few hours early. There was a LoTR themed Cafe and gift shop. We bought a fridge magnet with Gandalf on it and then sat down at the cafe for lunch. All of the meals are themed. Lorant got the “Elevensies” and Ronnie got “second breakfast”. Good food and even better names.
We then jumped on the bus to take us through the Shire and into Hobbiton. The bus had a cool on-board introduction video with some LoTR music and information which helped set the scene. We stepped off a bus and into a magical land. Walking around Hobbiton was amazing.
It felt like we were in Lord of the Rings. Everything was meticulously themed. Our guide gave us information as we explored and talked about the actors and the filming as well as cool little facts. Peter Jackson has an incredible eye for detail. Did you know that the thousands of leaves on top of the massive tree that sits on top of Bilbo’s house is made of fiberglass and its leaves are made from silk and were imported from Taiwan. The leaves were attached to the tree one-by-one and whenever they faded in the sun, someone was paid to repaint each one by hand. Incredible!
We explored it all. All the little hobbit holes, Bag End, the gardens, the park where Bilbo had his eleventy first birthday and then finally down to the green dragon where we shared some laughs and stories over a few ales then played quoits in the garden outside. Truly an amazing, magical experience and one that we will never, ever forget.
We had to sadly leave and start our drive to our next overnight destination which was about 1.5 hours to the west called Waitomo. Waitomo is another rural town with a very small population. We were just resting here tonight. It is our first time staying in an AirBnB. It is a large old house that is in a really nice quiet street across the road from a restaurant and down the street from our destination (but more on that tomorrow).
We were pretty tuckered out from the day so we did some relaxing and moseyed over to the restaurant across the road which was called “Huhu”. It was a nice quiet restaurant with a weird pyramid type structure in front of it.
The food was great. We had pumpkin and arancini balls for entree, pork and apple salad for the main and a butterscotch sundae for dessert. Absolutely exquisite! This restaurant was a great find, but not that we had much choice because it may be the only one in town. We are not sure. After this we walked back over to our AirBnb for a nice hot shower and relax before another massive day ahead of us tomorrow.
Ronnie & Aimee.