It was a big unreal dream for me to go to New Zealand: home to kiwi, breathtaking nature and Tolkien Movies. So, one day I thought: why to wait? Let’s go there! I combined my trip with a stop in Australia first. It was just a short flight from Melbourne to Auckland.

I started with the New Year 2019 celebration, while my family was just waking up preparing for the New Year Eve. It’s like time travelling

North Island

The most popular way to travel in New Zealand, is to start in Auckland, a large city located in the North Island, and drive all the way down the South Island. Thus, car rental is a great way to do it. But I wasn’t ready to begin such a long journey. I wanted to rest and, while I was here, to make a few hiking trips.

Here are some highlights of the North Island and sights from Lord of the Rings:

Auckland – Waiheke IslandWaitomo Glowworm CavesHobbiton movie set

Rotorua – Redwood TreewalkWai-o-Tapu Geothermal Valley

Taupo – Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Mount Doom)

Wellington – Weta WorkshopPutangirua Pinnacles

In Auckland I stayed in a very cute, colonial style hostel: Verandahs Backpackers Lodge. Spacious room, with high ceilings, and a green lawn in the back of the house 

An apartment I stayed in

One day, for exploring Auckland, was enough for me, so the next day I decided to visit the Waiheke Island. The easiest way to get there is to take a Sealink ferry, that leaves from the Auckland City Ferry Terminal and 40-60 minutes later arrives to the island.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is famous for wineries, beautiful beaches, and hiking trails. There is a big trail along the shore around the whole island with picturesque views. After a hike, I made a stop at Mudbrick winery and I can say that New Zealander’s wine is one of the best!

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The next day I took an excursion to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. You can get there either on your own, by renting a car, or by bus with a group. I went with Intercity* (Intercity – is a great way to travel around New Zealand, if you don’t have a car. The buses go between big towns and prices can be surprisingly cheap: for the ride from Auckland to Rotorua (3,5 hours!) I paid only 1 NZD)) Albeit the buses, sometimes, may arrive late, the drivers have an awesome sense of humor and lots of stories to share)

As for me, the most exciting part of the cave experience was the boat ride at the end of our tour. It was so amazing to see in the absolute darkness, above our heads, strings of eerie green worms. Very beautiful and definitely worth going to. 

Redwood Treewalk

There are a lot of different activities around Rotorua. One of them is Redwood Treewalk: 28 swinging, wooden bridges, stretching 700 meters between trees high above the ground. Day tickets include a complementary option to come after dark for the nightly light show.

Wooden lanterns at Redwoods Treewalk

Wai-o-tapu (geothermal valley)

A Geothermal valley is a must-see stop. There are several of them around Rotorua, I chose Wai-o-tapu, which means the Devil’s Kitchen! All these boiling water over 100°C, acid, fumes, and amazingly bright colors. Beautiful and unreal, here you see the power of Earth. The park includes a geyser (runs only once a day in the morning), colorful springs, pools, mud lakes.

The popular Champagne Pool got its name because of bubbles, caused by the carbon dioxide that effervesce like an eponymous drink. The temperature on the surface has ~75°C while on the depth it reaches 260°C! Some of the minerals contained in the water include gold, silver, mercury, sulfur, arsenic, thallium, and antimony.

waiotapu

Champagne Pool at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

Artist’s palette: it contains mineral deposits that streak its surface, and which are distributed by the direction of the wind.