New Zealand … Like Lord of the Rings
February 19, 2019 9:52 AM   Subscribe

An unexpected opportunity to go to New Zealand just fell in my lap, and I am thrilled. I'll have a little over a week or so to explore! Flying into and out of Wellington (although I know there'll be at least one stop in between, and don't know very much about what it's like getting around NZ in general). What should I know, and what should I do?

I'll be there in early June, and I've heard it'll be a windy and a little chilly. Seems like it makes more sense to generally stick to the Wellington area, but I'm not sure how easy it is to get around.

Currently seeing if I can get my dad to fly out at the same time. We bonded hugely over LOTR when I was a kid, and we are both really excited about the idea of checking out the Hobbiton tour at the very least. Any other accessible LOTR stuff would be amazing (also definitely planning on checking out a WETA tour if I can).

We're hoping to have a relatively relaxed time seeing sights and drinking good drinks/eating good food. Anything super physically demanding might be out for this trip, but if there are any moderate hikes in the area that would also be of interest.

Thanks y'all!
posted by caitcadieux to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (6 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oh man. I went to NZ last March and loved it. With just a week, you're probably best off sticking to the North Island, which luckily has plenty to keep you occupied.

-- The Hobbiton tour (in Matamata) and the WETA workshop tour (in Wellington) are both worth it. Complementary experiences; gave me a whole new appreciation for all the work that went into LOTR and world-building in film.
-- Tongariro Crossing was spectacular.
-- the Te Papa museum in Wellington was great, especially for someone (like me) with little knowledge of NZ history
-- Hamilton has this enormous outdoor themed garden park, with sections like Elizabethan Garden and Alice in Wonderland Garden.... I don't know if the weather in June will hold up for you but it is definitely worth checking out if you can
-- In Auckland, you can walk to the top of Mt Eden for a spectacular 360 view of the city

Eat lots of hand pies!
posted by basalganglia at 10:17 AM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are several web sites that will tell you the shooting locations for LOTR. New Zealand's own national parks department even has a list of the specific locations where they filmed in the parks department, giving the exact GPS coordinates and a description of the scene in question. Compare that to the map on the main page, and you can find your landmarks. (It looks like the LOTR list is organized by region; just stick to the regions on the list that are on the North Island on the map.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2019

Agree - If you only have 10 days I'd tend to stay in one island, even mainly one region (apart from your Matamata) - NZ is slow to get around in 'cause it's so hilly\mountainous, and landscape and scenery-wise.

I imagine you'll be driving? - We have a main highway thru NZ from top to bottom - SH1 - things get much more interesting if you get off it - so please try and go thru the central area and visit Lake Taupo - and marvel when you realise it's a series of volcanic craters! Lots of big mountain views, natural thermal pools, and desert-like country too.

Finally IDK what the North Island's roads are like - in the South we have many, many road works from years of deferred maintenance by the last terrible govt; these are now being addressed but there's lot of road works - 'Expect Delays' and enjoy the scenery.
posted by unearthed at 11:26 AM on February 19, 2019

Assuming you stay on the North Island (which, given your interests and timeline, is probably a good idea) then Wellington, Matamata, and some points in between (Taupō and/or Rotorua) are totally achievable. The main centres (Wellington and Auckland) have the best dining and drinking scenes.

SH1 is drivable, but for much of its length it is one lane in either direction so queues are inevitable. The roads here tend to be quite bendy, so I would use a travel time calculator rather than estimating from raw distances. This link is a good overview of what it's like driving in NZ. Flights between Auckland and Wellington are cheap and plentiful, but you miss out on all the interesting bits in between.

All of New Zealand has more scenic walks than you can throw a stick at, but the weather will definitely be a factor here. June is the start of winter, so expect a lot of rain and some cold. Temperatures around Wellington in June, for example, sit at about 48F.
posted by Paragon at 11:49 AM on February 19, 2019

Best answer: Just in case you didn't know, Matamata (where the Hobbiton Tour is) and Wellington are quite far away from each other. Not to put you off of course, but if you want to do the tour you'll need to go well north of Wellington. Given you don't have a tonne of time, you might want to consider flying Wellington to Hamilton, then getting to Hobbiton from there. Hamilton Gardens are pretty amazing if you end up needing something to do there.

For Wellington, highly recommend the Weta Workshop tour that you mentioned, it's small but very interesting. Te Papa is a good way to kill an afternoon. I can also recommend Zealandia, which is a small nature reserve in the centre-ish of Wellington. The Beehive, our Parliament building, is in the Wellington CBD so you can go frolic on the lawn there if you want. Don't try and climb on the statues though, you will get severely told off. Wellington has trains to other smaller towns on the outskirts, and buses and uber for getting around within the city. I've always thought their public transport was pretty good, but locals say otherwise. Wellington has an abundance of craft beer breweries if that is something you are interested in.

If you had the time, you could get a ferry from Wellington to Picton (top of South Island) and back. The Marlborough Sounds are lovely, though the boat ride might be a bit rocky at that time of year. Admittedly, there isn't much to do in Picton except walk around, but it is a beautiful town. They have the Queen Charlotte Walkway but that might be a bit ambitious given the time restraints.

Things to know - things cost a lot of money here, so be prepared for that. Tipping isn't a thing though, and tax is automatically included in whatever you buy so whatever the price ticket says is what it costs. Apparently our roads can be quite intense to drive on if you are from somewhere else.
posted by BeeJiddy at 3:56 AM on February 20, 2019

Te Papa and the Weta tour both +++, we were in Wellington in December. If you like walking, Wellington CBD is very walkable, try to hit Cuba St. for a few meals.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2019

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