Posts Tagged With: lord of the rings

Photo of the Day: Hobbiton

Bag End

Bag End

Today’s photo comes from the amazing place that is Hobbiton! As a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films we had the most incredible time visiting the set and exploring the home of the hobbits. This photo of Bag End is one of my favourite of the day and brings back such wonderful memories. We visited Hobbiton back in May 2013 when we were exploring in New Zealand in our camper-car, the spaceship. Check out my blog post for a detailed description of the tour and our day. Hobbiton also features in my Top 10 things to do in New Zealand post.

If you are a fan you cannot leave New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton – you will remember it forever!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Hobbiton and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, North Island, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Queenstown – a town for all seasons

Beautiful Queenstown

Beautiful Queenstown

However you first cap eyes on beautiful Queenstown – whether it is arriving by plane taking in the stunning views across Lake Wakatipu as your plane touches down amidst the surrounding mountains, or by road as you get your first glimpse of the lake framed by a picture perfect mountain backdrop – it is certain to stay with you forever.

A resort town on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand and on many people’s ‘Must See’ list. Films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and TV series Top Of The Lake have also been drawn to the unique beauty of Queenstown and its surrounding area.

Well-known for its adventure activities and snow sports Queenstown is often overlooked in other seasons but has a lot to offer all-year round.


With beautiful clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 30 degrees Queenstown is a popular place to visit in summer. Queenstown can offer you a typical kiwi Christmas and New Year by having a BBQ on the beach and watching their famous firework display. For those brave enough the icy cold glacial waters of Lake Wakatipu can offer a brief refuge from the hot summer sun. Spend time by the lake enjoying a picnic on the beach, take a kayak out and explore the shores of the lake, watch the gorgeous sunset from one of the many surrounding walks, take a hike up Queenstown Hill and view the scenic panorama from the top, or brave a jet boat ride across the lake. Camping at the DOC site at nearby Moke Lake is also popular at this time of year. It offers a challenging drive to reach it but you are rewarded with serenity and incredible views to wake up to!


AutumnEnjoy the seasonal colours in Queenstown in autumn with a walk along shores of Queenstown or a cycle along the Frankton arm. You can also get out and about explore the surrounding areas which look especially beautiful at this time of year – visit the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown or enjoy Wanaka‘s vibrant colourful trees that line the shores. Taking a boat trip out on the famous T. S. S. Earnslaw steamship is another good option in the autumnal sunshine, as you take in 360 degree views across the lake. With less visitors to Queenstown at this time of year you can skip the longer queues at world-famous Fergburger and enjoy eating your legendary burger overlooking the beautiful expansive surrounding Southern Alps.



Queenstown is perhaps most famous for its snow season – with the Remarkables and Coronet Peak offering two excellent ski fields for sking and snowboarding. Other options at this time of year include taking a trip up the skyline gondola to look down over the town and across the snow-capped mountains. Whilst at the top and for the more adventurous among you take a bungy jump with AJ Hackett Bungy. For those with a bigger budget a helicopter trip up onto a nearby snow-covered mountain on a sunny day can provide some of the best and most scenic views in all of New Zealand. Once back on the ground warm up in the nearby relaxing Onsen hot pools.



Spring in Queenstown tends to be quieter and a perfect time to take a stroll through Queenstown gardens, admiring the spring flowers or perhaps taking in a game of the legendary disc golf. Visiting the Kiwi Birdlife Park off-peak means you avoid the crowds and can have more time alone with the beautiful birds and kiwis – and your entrance fee goes towards helping protect New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Or you could visit local picturesque Lake Hayes taking a circular walk or cycle around the lake – and there are excellent wineries nearby for those who wish to relax with a glass of wine. Another option nearby is to spend time in the small town of Glenorchy. The drive there alone is worth it – with incredible views along the road that hugs the side of the mountain twisting and turning alongside Lake Wakatipu. Take a Dart River Wilderness Trip (including an exhilarating jet boat ride) and explore Mount Aspiring National Park, or take a horse trek through Paradise with Dart Stables.

Queenstown really does cater for everyone and has proven itself as one of New Zealand’s best all-year-round destinations.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Queenstown and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, Food, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flashback time: Glenorchy and Dart River Jet Boat!

Two years ago exactly today we went on one of the best trips in the whole of our time in New Zealand during an amazing three night stay in the beautiful town of Glenorchy. We spent three wonderful days just before Christmas in Glenorchy and treated ourselves to the Dart River Wilderness Jet Safari. It really was an incredible trip which combined a coach trip through the aptly named ‘Paradise’ deep into The Lord of the Rings country, a beautiful forest walk, and a exhilarating jet boat trip – and you can read more about this experience in my blog post about it here. It also features in my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand blog post.

We first visited Glenorchy in October 2012 when we took an awesome private 4WD Lord of the Rings tour and explored locations used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Then, we returned to spend just a few days in Glenorchy back in December 2012 which was such a brilliant experience that we actually ended up living there for a whole month in February 2013. Leaving Glenorchy was really hard to do and inspired a special goodbye post. It is such a wonderful unique place – so quiet and stunningly beautiful, and definitely worth spending longer there than an afternoon or even just a few days. The scenery from every corner of this little town is breathtaking and can be enjoyed from the various surrounding walks (including one of our favourites – the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway, which features in our Top 5 walks on South island). The drive from Queenstown, that winds alongside the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu (part of my Top 5 road trips post), is absolutely amazing and worth driving simply for the scenery itself – let alone the stunning town you find at the head of Lake Wakatipu!

Often overlooked in favour of nearby and well-known Queenstown, I believe Glenorchy is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets and it will always have a special place in our heart 🙂

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thinking of Hobbiton . . .

With the release of the final The Hobbit film this week it got me thinking back to our visit to the amazing place that is Hobbiton back in May 2013. Being big fans of The LOTR trilogy and the newest The Hobbit films we were really keen to visit the land of hobbits and took our chance whilst touring both islands of New Zealand in our Spaceship for 9 weeks (during our amazing year living there).

I wrote about our wonderful day at Hobbiton right here on this blog last year.

It also featured on my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand blog post I also wrote last year.

Hobbiton really does look exactly like it does in the films! We feel really privileged that we were able to visit during our time in New Zealand. We loved every second of our time there and also felt lucky to have visited on such a wonderful sunny day.

Hobbiton really is a magical place so if you are interested in visiting take a look at the official website for tours now!

Categories: Activities, Flashback, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

An amazing day at Hobbiton!

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit . . .”

The day had arrived – we were finally going to Hobbiton!! Being big fans of both the LOTR and The Hobbit myself and John hadn’t yet visited the home of the hobbits and chose the perfect day to go. We checked the weather while staying in Rotorua, and decided to visit on a sunny and clear blue sky day which was just amazing.

We headed off early in our spaceship Draco from Rotorua towards Matamata and were there within about an hour. We parked up and went into the shop to pay. It cost us $75 each, which I know some people might find expensive, but we thought it really was worth every dollar! The area around the car park has a Welcome to Hobbiton sign which is quite cool, and The Shire’s Rest Cafe is up some stairs. There isn’t much else in this area and you need to go on the tour to see where the magic happened. A partnership between Peter Jackson (who directed LOTR and The Hobbit) and the Alexander family who own the farmland on which Hobbiton is built, has made these tours possible.

We booked onto the 10.00am tour and took a few snaps while waiting patiently for our bus to arrive. We were really excited and hopped aboard when it turned up. It was certainly a retro bus! I had read some people’s comments on Trip Advisor complaining about how old the bus was and I think if they are complaining about something as small as that they were definitely in the wrong place! We loved how quaint and old it was 🙂

Our driver was great and did well to negotiate the steep and windy gravel roads that took us to the start of the tour. The army built the road down to Hobbiton especially for the films – it had to be pretty sturdy to take the weight of hundreds of vehicles needed for filming.

We were dropped off by the bus and our guide introduced herself – apologies for forgetting her name, but I blame the excitement of the day! She was absolutely brilliant and did a fantastic job at explaining all the details fans would want to know without talking too much. She also gave us plenty of time to explore, as she led us into the centre of Hobbiton. We had time to take some photos in lots of different areas all around Hobbiton and it was great fun exploring. We saw lots of hobbit holes, including Sam and Rosie’s and Bag End. We were also able to go inside one of the hobbit holes, although it was empty (they film the hobbit hole interiors in Wellington), but still fun to see! We saw the pond, and the famous party tree. It was wonderful to be able to climb right up to Bag End and see Bilbo’s view down over Hobbiton. We also saw the bench where Bilbo and Gandalf blow smoke in the film. It was all so exciting!

We rewatched all the Hobbiton parts of LOTR when we got back and saw so many different parts that we walked right through as the actors did – we really were right in the heart of so many places they used in the films.

A real highlight of the tour was still left and we had been really looking forward to going to The Green Dragon pub after it had recently opened. We were so happy to be walking across the famous bridge – as seen in the films, to be faced with The Green Dragon. On entering we were offered a complimentary beverage – we chose ginger ale, which was delicious! We sat right by a wonderfully warm open fire (it was a pretty cold day!) and enjoyed our drinks. We also spent time exploring inside, looking at the fantastic attention to detail (the interior shots in the film were filmed at a studio in Wellington, but they have recreated the interior exactly here), and the area outside around the Green Dragon, which had also been beautifully and thoughtfully decorated. We had around 20 minutes here and really didn’t want to leave! It was unfortunately all too soon time for our tour to finish, so we left The Green Dragon and walked back to be picked up by our bus. We did get the opportunity for some more awesome photos looking across to Hobbiton as we left.

It really was an incredible tour – we loved every single second and it was a true highlight of our year over here in New Zealand on our amazing adventure.

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Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Glenorchy – living in Lord of the Rings country for a month

Tuesday 5th February – Friday 1st March: Glenorchy

Lake Wakatipu

Welcome to GlenorchyGlenorchy is certainly unique! We first came here for a day trip back in October – read all about our Glenorchy lagoon walkway walk and amazing LOTR 4WD tour with Glenorchy Journeys on my previous blog post. We then returned in December for a lovely 3 day Christmas break, where we did the amazing Dart River Jet boat Wilderness Safari. We were lucky enough to stay in a gorgeous house with a hot tub! We then popped back on numerous occasions whilst we were staying in Queenstown for a month – as well as stopping off at the lovely places along the drive (Wilsons Bay, Closeburn etc.).

Our lovely cottageSo, it seemed like a great idea when we decided to rent a holiday house for a month and live here after our time in Queenstown. We hired a car from trusty locals Queenstown Car Hire and arrived here on Tuesday 5th February. Our house – Mountainview Cottage – was just perfect! It had lovely open space all around, with all the right amenities inside just right for our stay. It also had air con – which we never thought we would use so much (it has been really hot!!). There are mountain views from every window which are just amazing. The living room is nice and cosy and it has a huge fireplace (never going to use it!). It also has a good work area for us both to work from home. We know we are really lucky to have work from home jobs (John doing his software development, and me working on my own start up travel consultancy – Blue Penguin Travel). We have been really busy with work so far, but have really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of living in this area. We really are surrounded by paradise (and actually, the place called ‘Paradise’ is about 20kms up the road!).

GlenorchyWithin a 5 minute walk we are on the Glenorchy jetty right on Lake Wakatipu, with stunning views all around. The Glenorchy lagoon walkway starts from there, which is just a wonderful walk. Being close to Queenstown is great, as we can pop into there for food shopping and to eat out (as we did on Valentine’s Day at Winnies).

There are some quite quirky things about living in Glenorchy too. it does feel pretty remote. It is about a 45 minute drive along a very windy (but scenic) road as it winds itself around the side of the mountain. There is no police here, only a volunteer fire service. It has two shops – one is tiny and part of the hotel and pub and visitor centre (it is all one – Basil Fawlty anyone?!) and the other is also small and is based by the campsite and anything it does sell is pretty basic with a high premium. It has two cafes, a tiny petrol pump and post shop and not a lot else! But we like it 🙂 Next door neigh-bours!It does also have some lovely horses who were our next door neighbours for a while. And it has quite a few random dogs wandering around (some cute – the little three legged one who likes to run alongside us, and some others not so much – there are some big scary dogs that every now and again get off their chains!). There is also one house that likes to play crazily loud music every now and then. There are lots of houses around it, and we are a few hundred metres away yet can still hear it. It is crazy actually that we are in the middle of paradise in such a small town, and still have people making noise like that! It proves that nowhere is perfect really (and that this can happen anywhere)! I guess they can get away with it because it is not like you can call the police!

Still, it is a real experience living here and one we won’t forget. We leave for Waiheke one week on Friday so will make sure we enjoy every minute we have left!

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Dart River Jet Safari in Glenorchy = awesome!!

Friday 21st December: Dart River Jet Safari Adventure!
Dart River Jet Safari

Us on Scenery on the Dart River Jet SafariWe enjoyed an amazing 3 night stay in Glenorchy before Christmas – which I will post more about when I have time, but wanted to write separately about the Dart River Jet Wilderness Safari. It really is one of the best things we have ever done in New Zealand – and definitely up there with our heli hike on Franz Josef Glacier back in 2006. It is certainly the best thing we have done in NZ since then. The whole trip was amazing from start to finish! We undertook a 45 minute bus ride from Glenorchy, after we self-drove there as were staying in a lovely holiday house. The bus took us up towards Paradise and was a really enjoyable ride – with beautiful views and great commentary by the driver. We were told about various TV commercial and film locations in the area – including Lord of the Rings, Wolverine and Narnia. Me on jet boatAs we arrived at our spot beside the Dart River we took a 20 minute walk into the forest, again lead by our wonderful guide (apologies for forgetting his name!) and enjoyed learning about the native flora and fauna. As we headed back to the bus we took a short drive down close to the river, where we boarded our jet boat. The total time spent in the jet boat was around an hour and a half – so much longer than all other local jet boat companies. It was an absolutely thrilling ride! We realy loved every second of it! Our driver – Simon – was so careful negotiating the Dart River, ensuring the safety of passengers at all times. We did have to hang on tight, as were travelling at about 80 kmph at times – the wind blowing in our hair (note the windswept look below!) and we got bumped up and down a little, but never felt unsafe. We headed up to the head of the river, weaving in and out as we went, and stopping at various times for awesome 360 degree turns (yes you get a bit wet!) and to take some photos of the wonderful scenery. We headed back down the river, taking a quick stop at Kinloch to drop off and pick up a passenger before heading back to the jetty at Glenorchy. The trip had just flown by and was over all too soon – but completely worth every penny and we would return again to do it in an instant!

Windswept news

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The road to Mount Cook and exploring in the rain

Wednesday 17th October: Oamaru to Mount Cook

Leaving Oamaru and the lovely little blue penguins behind we headed towards Mount Cook. We made a stop at a remote place called Elephant Rocks – definitely worth a look if you are in the area! It was this amazing collection of unusually shaped big rocks – some that looked like elephants. It was also cool because this was used as the filming location for Aslan’s camp in the Narnia film. We had fun taking some photos here (see gallery below). We then got back on the road and took the road along Lake Aviemore which passed over Benmore Dam – which was quite a sight. Food in Omarama was next on our stopping list as we headed for Mount Cook. We took a short detour at Twizel up into the more remote parts to hunt for the Plains of Rohan (a filming location for Lord of the Rings) – after some hunting (and going down a few private roads!) and gorgeous scenery we found the right spot! It was great to see 🙂 Back on the road we drove on the road straight up to Mount Cook – via the unbelievably gorgeous Lake Pukaki – definitely my favourite lake in New Zealand! We passed it back on our 2006 trip to NZ and a picture I took then forms the main pic for this website. The turquoise colour was so bright! We did notice that the weather in the direction of Mount Cook wasn’t so great so braced ourselves as we headed on the road up there. The weather did turn and wind and rain hit. We were happy to arrive at our hotel (The Hermitage Hotel) which was comfortable and if we had better weather the view of Mount Cook from our room would have been great. Unfortunately we had ridiculously noisy neighbours who decided to have a crazy shouting match for ages (and people appeared to be piling into the room for some kind of gathering) – so we asked reception to move us along the corridor to a different room away from them and were pleasantly surprised when they upgraded us to a superior room and a higher floor with an even better view. Good service by the Hermitage! We enjoyed watching a thunder and lightning storm from our balcony that evening.

Thursday 18th October: Mount Cook

We awake to yet more heavy rain here at Mount Cook and on contacting the activities desk about our planned Glacier Explorers boat trip on the Tasman Lake to see the Tasman glacier we discovered our planned trip at 11am wasn’t going ahead and with the forecast poor for this afternoon we re-booked it for tomorrow morning in the hope the weather will improve – fingers crossed! We didn’t let the weather deter us though and headed out into the crazy rain for a couple of walks (Bowen Bush Walk and Governor’s Bush Walk) which were enjoyable despite the weather! We saw some native birds and trees and enjoyed watching the rushing waterfalls and river. Lunch at the Old Mountaineer’s Cafe beckoned while we plan a little further exploration later today. Hopefully the rain and mist will lift overnight and we will have fine weather for our trip tomorrow as we are really looking forward to it.

Categories: Accommodation, Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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