Posts Tagged With: LOTR

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.

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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

Gollum’s waterfall and a night in the rain

Tawhai Falls

Tawhai Falls

Day 48: Tawhai Falls and Mangahuia DOC Camping Ground

Today we took the long drive on the next step of our Spaceships adventure from Napier, past Taupo, towards Tongariro National Park. Last time we were in New Zealand for our honeymoon back in 2010 we spent time in this area hoping to spot the spectacular Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom LOTR fans!) but were unlucky with the weather back then. Unfortunately we were unlucky again with the weather and didn’t manage to spot the elusive Mount Doom! Despite the poor weather we wanted to go back to one of our favourite NZ waterfalls – Tawhai falls – which is Gollum’s waterfall from LOTR. We parked up and headed down to see the waterfall which was just as lovely as we remembered.

At our DOC campsite

At our DOC campsite

Next stop was the Whakapapa visitor centre to get warm, where we spent time looking at their fantastic displays about the area. I was particularly interested in the natural disasters information – especially about the recent eruptions in the area. We also used the ‘flushing loo’ for the last time before heading off to our campsite. We arrived at the Mangahuia DOC camping ground, paid our fees ($6 each) chose our spot – in a nice little corner by the river and close enough to the loo. We liked this campsite, as all the pitches for campervans were separate and had trees and vegetation separating them, so you felt cosy and private. One thing we didn’t like was the smelly toilet! As with many of the DOC campsites it was a long drop, but this was definitely the smelliest we had come across! It might have been because despite being quite remote this camp ground was quite popular so lots of people were using it. By this point the heavy rain started and didn’t give up and was torrential all night!! We had chosen quite a sheltered spot for our spaceship and were glad of this, because the rain was so heavy it was pouring through the trees and making a really loud noise on our roof and this would have been even louder without some shelter! We were also glad to be near the loos, as we still got soaked dashing to the toilet in our waterproofs but watched as people got soaked right through coming from sites further away. Oh the joys of camping! So it was quite a sleepless night, with the loud rain on Draco’s roof – but a real adventure nonetheless 🙂 For more info on our lovely spaceship check out the Spaceships website and the Beta 2 Berth model which we hired. When we awoke in the morning there was flooding all around our spaceship, so we took a quick trip to the now unbearably smelly toilet, brushed our teeth and were on the road again heading to Taupo, Unfortunately due to the heavy rain Mount Doom eluded us yet again, but this is just one more reason we will have to return in future!

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 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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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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South Island Highlights – Top 5 things to do on South Island, New Zealand

So next in my Top 5 series reflecting on our amazing 5 week holiday around the South island of New Zealand is ‘Top 5 trips/activities’. As with my Top 5 places post I found this incredibly difficult to choose only 5 as we did such great things. I have cheated a little and included those that just missed out at the bottom 🙂

Top 5 things to do:

1. Mount Cook: Glacier Explorers boat trip

A must-do activity for anyone visiting the Mount Cook area is the Glacier Explorers lagoon boat trip. Having also been to Iceland’s famous and striking Jokulsarlon lagoon we weren’t sure how this would measure up but it was a really fantastic experience! The surrounding landscape of the Tasman Glacier is striking, with amazing views of Mount Cook itself whilst out on the lagoon. The photo opportunities are endless and we really loved our trip we took back in October. We were also very lucky with having such perfect weather for the trip. The weather at Mount Cook is very temperamental and changeable, and so we had to postone our trip from the day before but it was certainly worth it! The whole package provided by Glacier Explorers involves a short coach ride of about 15 minutes along a windy gravel road, followed by a brisk walk along a flat path through beautiful terrain. This brings you to the Tasman Glacier Lake. The really great thing about this trip is the size of boats (ours held about 10 people) and that you can get really close to the icebergs. We spent about 45 mins to an hour out on the lake and travelled around the lake exploring, as well as getting as close to the Tasman glacier as was safe to. We were also able to hold parts of the icebergs as well as having time to take in the stunning scenery.


Cost: NZD $145 pp.

Times: Up to 7 trips daily (seasonal)

Total activity time: 2 hours 30 (1 hour on the lake)

2. Marlborough Sounds boat trip

This was a truly memorable experience for us, as we had booked this trip to coincide with my husband’s celebration of his 30th birthday and it certainly was a birthday never to forget! Certainly not a cheap activity, but for a special occasion it is really worth its value. There are lots of boat trip options leaving from the Picton area around the sounds, but on this special day we didn’t want to be on board a big board full of tourists, we wanted to chose where we went and what we experienced on board our own privately chartered boat  – the Stormdancer. After much research we chose Queen Charlotte Boat Cruises and was in email contact with Sybil (who along with her husband Ian, own the company). Communication was very easy and we set up the arrangements for the trip. As the day arrived we were greeted by Sybil and welcomed into their home while Ian fuelled the boat ready for our trip. We boarded the boat and were briefed on safety procedures and soon set off on our half day cruise. The trip was really fantastic and we enjoyed travelling all around the sounds. Ian and Sybil had the perfect balance of chatting to us at times and giving us info about the area, but also leaving us to enjoy the time together, just us. We explored the sounds, stopping at little private coves and stopped at one for tea and delicious birthday cake (baked by Sybil!). We also saw different wildlife along the journey including a seal and the real highlight came when a pod of dolphins appeared and started following the boat. They jumped out of the waves behind the boat as we drove around and it really was an amazing sight to see them. All in all, it was a truly perfect trip and comes highly recommended.


Cost: NZD $450 for half day private charter of boat and you can choose your departure time.

Total activity time: Approx 3 hours.

3. Hanmer Springs thermal pools

Visiting the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools was the first main place we visited upon arrival in New Zealand back in September. We really enjoyed the time we spent relaxing here and the facilities are fantastic! There are so many different pools – twelve! – to choose from including adult only aqua therapy ones (with lovely relaxing massage jets), rock pools (with minerals) and super hot (and smelly!) sulphur ones. The thermal pools are set amongst the beautiful backdrop of the mountains and are a wonderful place to relax.

Details: Price: NZD$18 for single entry or $30 for 2 day pass, plus locker and towel hire.

Times: The pools are open from 10am to 9pm and you can spend as long as you like there!

4. Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Read more about our incredible expereince visiting the Oamaru Blue Pengiun Colony. Whether you feel you are a lover of penguins or not you will be by the end of this – believe me! This visit allows you to see the world’s smallest penguins, the blue penguins – only 40 cms high in their natural environment, coming in on shore and heading to nest. When we visited we were incredibly lucky to see a total of about 200 penguins come ashore. We also took a short walk just outside of the main area and saw some penguins crossing the road that had just come ashore. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t able to take photos (the above is copyright of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony) and just seeing them is amazing! Set up with a strong conservation focus this company are helping to save and breed these lovely little creatures and it is a must-do trip if you find yourselves in the Dunedin/Oamaru area.

Details: Price: NZD$12/$18 day tour (unguided/guided); $25/$35 for evening tour (general/premium seating).

Times: 17.30-21.00 (depending on season).

5. Whale Watching in Kaikoura

We took a boat trip with Whale Watch back in September and had a great time out on the boat. We were lucky to see two sperm whales on our trip and had perfect weather conditions. Seeing these beautiful creatures in the water and spending time alongside them in the boat is a truly unforgettable experience  Some reviews of the trip refer to sea sickness being a problem but we took our tablets and had no issues, so it isn’t something to be worried about.

Details: Price: NZD$145 pp.

Times: Up to 7 trips a day (seasonal)

Total activity time: 3 hours 30 (2 hours 30 out on the boat)

Trips that nearly made the list were:

  • Glenorchy Journeys Half Day LOTR 4WD tour – an amazing guide and great fun! You explore Glenorchy’s stunning scenery and set the film locations from LOTR and The Hobbit. Read about our experience here. Cost = NZD$145 per person for 2+ people.
  • The Kiwi birdlife park in Queenstown – your entrance fee helps towards conservation here and it is a fantastic place to visit, with well-cared-for kiwis, many other native birds and plants, and an excellently run live conservation show. Cost = NZD$38 per person.
  • Heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier – this was only left off the list because we did this back in 2006 and it was so memorable (and a little pricey!) we did not replicate it on our 2012. Involving an amazing helicopter ride up on the glacier and short hike, this is a real all-time highlight of our various trips to NZ. Cost = NZD$395 per person.
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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.

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Glenorchy: home of Lord of the Rings

Tuesday 9th October

What a day! We loved the day we spent in Glenorchy and we think it probably has some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen in all of New Zealand! We didn’t manage to visit when we came to New Zealand back in 2006 and it was a high priority this time round – and didn’t disappoint! Despite the weather being a little overcast to start with we felt it was ‘moody’ and created just the right atmosphere for us to be heading into Lord of the Rings country. We left Queenstown early in the morning and drove up along the lake to Glenorchy. The drive was spectacular and was probably the drive with the best views we have seen in NZ. We stopped at a few lookouts along the way to take it all in. We stopped at Wilson lake on the way – a filming location for LOTR where they filmed the Ithilien camp scenes. Arriving in Glenorchy – it was pretty much deserted! It only has a population of approx 500 people, but we only saw a couple of other cars around at that time.

We headed to the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway and took a nice 1 hour 20 min walk around the lagoon – walking a lot of the way of a new boardwalk that we were informed was only finished last week and was built by the community. It was a great walk and is highly recommended! Coming back into Glenorchy it was a little busier now with a few people wandering around. We spent time down at the lake and exploring the Glenorchy shed/info hut. It was demolished back in 1999 when there was a big flood and the LOTR crew helped rebuild this after this happened. We went to Foxy’s Cafe for a nice basket of chips for lunch.

Then … the moment had finally arrived – for our Lord of the Rings (LOTR) tour! John is a massive fan of both the books and films (I would go as far as to say he is a LOTR geek!), and I have also read the books and watched the films multiple times. Anyone not a fan on LOTR may not want to read on as the names/locations will mean nothing to you! However any LOTR fans reading will know all of the reference points and locations. Pictures are below – in my gallery – with labels too! Firstly – our tour guide was AMAZING! He was from Glenorchy Journeys and was called Alan and was a local and true Kiwi and had such insight and knowledge about the area and the films. He also talked about how he was lucky enough to have recently worked on the new Hobbit film assisting at their location sites in Glenorchy and had all sorts of stories about cast and crew! He picked us up in his 4WD vehicle and we went off-roading around the Glenorchy area as he pointed out various filming locations for LOTR and The Hobbit (and the Wolverine film and also Narnia). We looked across to the filming location for Isengard (obviously minus Sauron’s CGI tower!), went to the forest where they filmed Boromir’s death (very exciting!) and scenes of Lothlorien. We also saw the trees that inspired Peter Jackson to film the Ent scenes here, and looked across to the snowy mountains where they filmed the Misty Mountains scenes. We travelled past the new filming location for hobbiton for the new Hobbit film, and also entered a forest they used to film a scene in the new film. Visiting the landscape used for the opening to the Two Towers was also spectacular – as we looked out over the land where Gandalf rides Shadowfax. Alan was a fantastics guide and we throughly enjoyed the day and were sad to leave Glenorchy – they home of the Lord of the Rings, but can’t wait for the new Hobbit film and to spot all the places we have been.

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