For those who do not know much about New Zealand are still probably aware that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. Many scenes from the movies were captured in different parts of New Zealand. Notably, the Hobbiton set was built in Matamata in North Island. It was genius of the owner of the land to request to preserve the movie set and now it has transformed into a major tourist attraction in the country. With a steep entrance fee of over $100 NZD, we decided to go anyway. While none of us were overly LOTR-obsessed, we have enough appreciation and curiosity in the franchise to give it a go.
The surrounding area from the Hobbiton set is beautiful as well. Initially Sir Peter Jackson and crew had already signed a contract to create the Middle Earth set elsewhere, but that changed when they discovered the gorgeous rolling hills in Matamata. We picked the only sunny day within the week to visit so that guaranteed crowds of tourists all around. We thought we would bet the crowds by booking an earlier tour, but it was just as busy. The tour itself was around 1.5 to 2 hours visiting the different Hobbit holes and the community. Because there were so many tourists, it was hard to capture pictures of the set without other people photo bombing. Even though the tour felt rushed, it was nonetheless a nice visit.
Another popular tour people go on in North Island is to the Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms and go on black water rafting adventures. We later learn black water rafting means going in the cave and floating down a stream on a floatie. We found a discounted tour off Bookme.co.nz and decided to give it a go. Since we already saw glowworms at the Waipu Caves, we were mostly looking forward to the adventure aspects of abseiling and navigating the caves.
The tour started with the initial drop abseiling down to the cave and then regroup to tread through the water. The current can be strong at times so it can be tiring and you have to be careful not to trip over the rocks in the water or slip. The tour guides would instruct for us to sit on our floaties and float downstream in the dark. There were many narrow parts of the cave where our tour guides had us go through for picture purposes. At some point it became obsessive to pose at all these tight spaces just so we can share (or “brag”) to our friends about this tour. Towards the end of the tour, we turned off our headlights to enjoy a hot drink and observe the the glowworms. We learned about the behavior of glowworms, but the wow factor in seeing glowworms was gone since we saw them at Waipu. The tour ended with the last challenge to climb the rocky wall to reach the top. Tightly secured with the gear, everyone breezed through the climb.
In total the tour lasted roughly 5 hours. It was unfortunate for anyone who needed to pee in the interim because it would be awful to try to urinate in your wet suit or try to take it off to pee in the water. Overall, I had fun with the tour, but it was awfully pricey for what it is.