The dream to step on New Zealand soil has been brewing since 2014. I never knew I could make it there, much less make it there with Mary (I haven’t met her yet at the time).
The country is dreamy from the outside, so I wanted in. If you’d ever wish to come by New Zealand as a tourist, our visa guide for online application can help. But what I would have wanted, if I had the guts to do it much, much sooner, was the Working Holiday Visa. It would allow you to work and tour at the same time for a specific amount of time, but sadly, it had an age limit I was past of when I heard of the opportunity.
I wanted to go to more places down south in New Zealand – Milford Sound, Christchurch and Queenstown. We went on a snow-less winter month and we didn’t get to see snow-capped mountains from afar. Auckland is highly urbanized, though they have a winery island in Waiheke. It was full of buildings and concrete.
Auckland for first timers
If you happened to have toured a lot of major cities in the world, or at least Australia, you would miss the free admission museums in Auckland. Not that they didn’t have one, but they ONLY had one notable museum free of charge to foreigners. It was a drawback because it was already expensive to get to New Zealand from anywhere, save for Australia.
In Sydney alone, there are tons of museums anyone could enter for free within a 5-minute walk away from each other. Here though was different. So no museum-hopping for us, which is one of our favorite things to do when visiting a place the first time.
Auckland CBD is also very walk-able. At the time of our visit, Katy Perry is having a concert and Mary got very tempted to book (it was sold out though). The view from the Marina is not to be missed. I planned a lot of things for Auckland, but because our inbound flight from Melbourne got cancelled (see my rant here), we missed a day in Auckland which cut the trip much shorter than it already was.
We went in August, a winter month, but it wasn’t very cold in the day. A sweater and a jacket will do. But when you go to MataMata (Hobbiton), it’s a different story.
We booked via booking.com, right at the heart of Auckland CBD – it’s a block away from the InterCITY bus terminal going to MataMata, 15 minutes walk from the Marina, two blocks from groceries, also standing beside a local liquor shop where we bought the wine for Mary’s “salubong” birthday celebration.
The couch was a favorite, but the washer with dryer was a plus because I got to wash our heat tech under garments and other light clothes.
It is so centrally located we never spent anything on transportation except to and from the airport and Hobbiton. We spent 13,000 PhP for 3 nights here. A lot more expensive than the backpacker hostels we chose in Australia, only because this was the birthday leg of the trip.
The actual tour is only 2 hours but you can also head on to Rotorua if you have more time. That was the plan originally. But Jetstar had other plans for us **sigh**
We pre-purchased the Hobbiton tickets direct from their website, with a pick-up at MataMata i-SITE instead of The Shire because we were commuting and the InterCITY bus only dropped off at MataMata. The price was almost the same as Klook only their entrance is in The Shire.
The guided tour will only make a few stops in famous parts of the film location and you have to be quick in posing for the gram or be a point-and-shoot photographer. Add to that the rain that made it more difficult for us to take pictures anytime.
Along the way, BTS stories are told by the guide, so while we listened, we also clicked away. It’s amazing how Peter Jackson obsessed with making the Hobbiton come to life from the books. Like how James Cameron made sure Titanic was given justice in his film.
The trip from Auckland to MataMata (3 hours per way) was actually longer than the tour itself, but it was worth doing that on Mary’s birthday. This what she wanted to do, and we made sure we made that happen, Jetstar cancellation notwithstanding. From the pick-up point, it was a 20-minute ride to The Shire, and a little recap was shown on the bus, as the driver gave us some history of the small town before and after Hobbit.
At the end of the tour, the sun decided to shine and as we sipped our free ginger ale from The Green Dragon Inn, we saw the vast land, the greenness that will both drown the gloomy weather anytime, and that serves as a backdrop to all the colorful Hobbit hole doors. The tree where Bilbo Baggins made his speech on his birthday and disappeared, the same tree that made Peter Jackson decide to make this farm the film location, stood there in the middle of it all. Proud but welcoming.
There are a lot of stores and shops outside the i-SITE, we even had the chance to eat rice (which we terribly missed) in one of the shops. Souvenirs are also available but they’re just too expensive. So for pasalubong, we bought Whittakers chocolates from the grocery instead, which were about 100 PhP ($2) there but triple the price here in Manila.
Aside from New Zealand’s dairy products, and eating at an American restaurant (Denny’s), we didn’t get to explore more of New Zealand’s food. We didn’t even have the chance to taste Pavlova! Arghh. Next time though, we’ll be sure to try it.
How to get to Auckland from Manila
We took Cebu Pacific from Manila to Melbourne and Jetstar to Auckland. But here are other options, take note that even if it’s a connecting flight, you’re only in Sydney for an hour. Good deal, if you ask me.
From Auckland to Hobbiton
We booked the bus ride to MataMata at InterCITY but now when I chose a random date I luckily found a $1 fare where it used to be $15-18.
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Coming back this year, for sure!
New Zealand, we’re coming back at the end of this year and this time, we hope to spend more time there, and explore some of the South Islands that my friends have raved about.
Hope you found this article helpful for your future Middle Earth travel goals!