“That was the big effect Lord of the Rings had on me. It was discovering New Zealand. And even more precious were the people- not at all like the Australians.”
(aka Gandalf the Grey, The Lord of the Rings)
It is without a doubt that New Zealand tends to be among every globe trotter’s bucket list.
From the rolling fields, soft skies, and vast meadows sprinkled with flocks of sheep, New Zealand is a lovely island country that offers tourists a healthy balance of both peace and newfound adventure.
Two of the most popular attractions are Hobbiton, the enchanting movie set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, a simple cave on the outside, yet filled with magic within!
Let’s visit these places, shall we?
(At least virtually, for now. After all, we are still kinda limited with our traveling opportunities. Thanks, COVID-19…)
Hobbiton: Welcome to the Shire!
Resting along the grassy fields of New Zealand’s countryside lies the whimsical town of Hobbiton. This town was first imagined by renown author J.R.R. Tolkien. His books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings captured imaginations all over the globe and sparked the minds of director Peter Jackson and his film crew to bring this magical town to life in the beloved films by the same name.
In order to be fully immersed in this literary realm, guests must book a tour of Hobbiton. Sorry, guys. It’s the rules.
But don’t worry! No one seems to really mind having to do a mandatory tour. I mean, who is really gonna complain about getting a full Hobbiton experience and leave with more knowledge than when they first arrived? I know I wouldn’t! For two hours, it is well worth it!
You can book your tour up to a year in advance, so if you have a trip planned in the far future, you can go ahead and claim your spot early on!
When you prepare for the trip, research New Zealand’s weather and general climate. You want to be as comfortable as poosible during your tour, so be sure to pack and wear comfortable shoes and an appropriate layer of clothes. Just to be safe, pack an umbrella! The tours don’t get cancelled due to rain, so even when it’s drizzly, the show must go on!
Hydration is important, too, so be sure to have access to plenty of water (whether you use a water bottle or find a beverage station at the site).
It is always a good habit to arrive at least fifteen minutes early for any tour or expedition. This will give you time to use the restroom, check your gear, and give you a moment to breathe and mentally prepare for your next excursion. Hobbiton encourages guests to visit the Shire’s Rest upon arrival. This is the Hobbiton headquarters and houses a retail shop and a quaint cafe that is stocked with fresh menu items and warm coffee. This place is excellent to visit both before and after the Hobbiton Tour.
Still think things couldn’t get any better? Well it does! The Green Dragon Inn offers tour guests a complimentary beverage, too! The level of hospitality of the Hobbiton Movie Set rivals that of the actual Shire, it seems.
(Now, if only they served a complimentary Second Breakfast!)
Oh wait, speaking of food: Did you know that there is an option for an Evening Banquet Tour? Yep. You read that right! Not only do you get to tour one of the most iconic movie sets of our lifetime, but you get the option to relish in a banquet at the end of the day!
Just to make things even more appealing, here is the menu list directly from the Hobbiton website (careful not to drool all over your screen):
“Evening Banquet Tour Menu
- Golden roast chicken
- House smoked salmon fillet
- Beef and ale casserole
- Slow cooked lamb shanks on bubble and squeak with gravy
- Cumberland sausages with tomato relish
- Selection of roast vegetables
- Garlic and thyme roasted potatoes
- Kumara mash
- Garlic and butter braised mushrooms
- Roast pumpkin stuffed with char-grilled succotash
- Fresh green salad
- Kiwi pavlova with fresh cream and strawberry coulis
- Bakewell tarts
- Sticky Date Pudding
- Seasonal fresh fruit slices
- Baked apple crumble
- Butterscotch sauce
- Honey and cinnamon yogurt
- Vanilla custard”
If nothing else piques your interest, the food definitely will! Food is basically everyone’s love language, and the Shire speaks it fluently!
Anothr pro TIP:
IF YOU have time (and I’m sure you have) you can stop at the Owhaora falls
small waterfall not croweded – lovly place for tea or coffe.
Now that we’ve gone over Hobbit tours and luxurious feasts, lets move on to the next attraction that goes deeper into the earth itself:
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves!
Ever wonder what it’s like to get close to the stars? Well, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a magical alternative!
This 1-hour tour allows guests to visit two levels of the glowworm caves: the first level is decorative (and dry!) with various, natural formations, while the second level is home to thousands of luminescent glowworms and a few steady streams trickling throughout the caves. As we said earlier, wear comfortable shoes and proper clothing! A boat will take you to the glowworms once you reach the second level of the tour; you want to stay warm and dry!
NOTE: The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are not wheelchair accessible, but there are other caves that can be toured that are wheelchair friendly! Waitomo has two other caves to explore: Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave (both of which also have the beloved and famed glowworms!). Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair accessible, so if you need those accommodations, then that cave is the option for you! It also allows photography, so be sure to check out all the caves if possible! Capture the moments as best you can whether it be through the lens of a camera or simply captured in your mind’s eye!
Now, you may be wondering, “What’s the big deal about a buncha worms, anyway?”
Fair point. But what if I told you they weren’t really worms?
Glowworms are actually a species of beetle whose lower abdomen glow to attract mates. Pretty cool, huh? An entire tour dedicated to see numerous flashing beetle bums.
It’s still a sight to behold! Thousands of tiny lights are dotted all along the cave ceiling which make it seem like you are amongst a galaxy of stars, even though you are two levels under the earth. Cherish the moment as much as possible though; no photography is allowed in the caves. What you experience will exist only in your memories.
Too slow for ya? Worms still not your thing?
What if we told you there was black water rafting? That’s right!
Waitomo offers underground rafting tours complete with waterfalls and, you guessed it, more glowworms!
Depending on your adrenaline preferences, you have two options to choose from: The Black Labyrinth, or the Black Abyss.
The Black Labyrinth is a tubing experience through the underground tunnels. Visitors steadily float for a duration of three hours while observing the various cave formations and glowing beetles until the tour ends with a jump off of a waterfall! (Don’t worry, it’s not a scary jump, but it is exhilarating, though!)
The Black Abyss is a bit more extreme. Visitors engage in a five hour tour which includes tubing down faster paced rapids, zip-lining through dark tunnels, more tubing and flowing rapids, waterfalls, and, of course, glowworms! The Black Abyss certainly aims to please the more adventure-seeking tourist.
What makes Waitomo one of the top attractions in New Zealand is that there is something for everyone! Not only are there caves to explore, but there are nature hikes and above-ground waterfalls to marvel. The staff are proud to offer exceptional service and pass along knowledge about the Maori people to their guests. Everyone is encouraged to try something new and experience New Zealand in all of its natural glory! Guests can choose what levels of excitement they prefer and still end up with a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will no doubt become cherished memories for years to come. No matter what options are chosen, the results will always be top notch!
Even as your day comes to a close, Waitomo has an excellent selection of cabins and facilities that allow guests proper rest and revitalization. The Waitomo Homestead Cabins have everything guests need to unwind after an adrenaline-filled day.
NOTE: There is no minimum stay required, so you can choose to stay as long (or as little) as you need! The costs are fair and the facilities are well-kept! There is even an onsite restaurant, so guests don’t have to ponder about where to grab a bite to eat.
There you have it!
From the imagination-brought-to-life lands of Hobbiton to luminescent glowworms scattered above the natural rapids of Waitomo, New Zealand truly is every traveler’s dream! It may be a small island country in the Pacific, but the journey is well worth it! The natural wonders that New Zealand offers simply cannot be experienced anywhere else on this planet.