Heading to the central part of the North Island… The vast types of scenery in such a small area of the country was incredible. These areas are filled with rolling green hills, thermal activity, volcanic scenery, lakes, and forests! Basically, what more is there?? I fell in love with these cities, probably due to the fact that I was able to visit Hobbiton. Though, there is plenty more to do if the Lord of the Rings isn’t your jam. Check out New Zealand’s North Island Attractions in Rotorua, Tongariro, Taupo, and Matamata.
Top 5 Attractions in the Central North Island
Can I possibly describe how much of a nerd fest was going on the day I entered the glorious Hobbiton!! I’m pretty sure that Aud wanted to kill me… But alas, I did not care as it was probably the biggest touristy thing that I wanted to do in this lovely country.
I mean, just look at it!!
First off, Matamata is a breathtaking area of New Zealand. You haven’t seen rolling green hills until you have entered this part of the country. Moreover, the drive there was through farmlands with these trees that perfectly line the roads. It almost doesn’t look real.
Then, you arrive at Hobbiton…
Suddenly, the movies and books become real to you! It is odd being surrounded by the tiny homes and to be told the stories from the set. I felt as if I was apart of it. If I am being honest, I wished that they made another movie. Therefore, I could audition. I mean, I could be a hobbit… right?
I am pretty short. Anywho, we were shown short clips from the set when filming occurred and drank ale in the Green Dragon. We saw Bilbo’s house as well as other hobbit homes. One fun fact, there are two types of hobbit houses in Hobbiton, the large ones where the hobbits are filmed by, and then there are miniature ones that Gandolf is filmed next to. It makes the hobbits look smaller and Gandolf look bigger! Interesting, eh?
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing…
Now I did not do this walk during my original visit to the area with Audrey. Therefore, Ellen and I returned to the Tongariro area to conquer the beast that is the Alpine Crossing. Like Hobbiton, words cannot describe what this experience was like. I felt as if I was transported to Mars or some other planet for the day. This casual 19.4km hike traverses volcanic fields along with clear blue waters and grassland fields. This is a MUST DO day hike while you are traveling in the area.
As the Alpine Crossing begins and ends in two different places. Therefore, in order to complete this, one
must coordinate transportation from one end to the other. Ellen and I decided on a roundtrip bus from our hostel. This was $40 and the bus took us to the start of the hike and picked us up at the end. It worked well.
The hike gave us access to the most gorgeous views of the area including Mount Doom, the Emerald Lakes as well as other volcanic scenery.
The whole experience was incredible. Though it was rather exhausting, it wouldn’t be a New Zealand hike without some sort of extreme difficulty, like rather steep inclined mountain faces and 50 mph winds. What can I say though… Just makes life interesting, I guess. Either way, we made that mountain our bitch! And by our bitch I mean it took us like 8 hours to complete it, but we managed to make it to the end and not miss our bus.
Rotorua is known for its thermal activity… and let me tell you, once you cross into the boundary lines, there is no hiding the smell. It is an odd thing to see the unusual beauty of the thermal parks, paralleled with the rotten egg smell that accompanies it. If only the computer screen was a scratch and sniff sticker and the following pictures would give off that putrid odor that I was blessed with.
First off, when visiting Wai-O-Tapu, one must arrive in the morning to watch Lady Knox Geyser shoot off. Every day at approximately 10:15am, the lovely staff at Wai-O-Tapu set off the geyser by dropping soap into it. Apparently, this geyser was accidentally discovered when someone was washing clothes in a local “hot spring” when it basically exploded from the soap was used to wash the clothes.
After the geyser, one should explore the thermal park Wai-O-Tapu. The small entrance fee was completely worth it. Though there are many free thermal parks, this was truly an experience not to be missed.
4. Lake Taupo…
Lake Taupo… Again fricken gorgeous. Lake Taupo offers a myriad of activities from kayaking to parasailing to all manner of things. Unfortunately, it was still rather chilly while we were there, therefore, activities involving water were less than appealing. We did, however, explore the city itself. There are many shops and restaurants around the city, most with the spectacular view of the lake.
While in the area, one must see Huka Falls. It is possible to white water raft down the falls, but Aud and I decided to just view it from the viewing platforms. This activity is free, and you see, we are rather fond of free things.
5. Redwoods – Rotorua…
Lastly, and probably the most unexpected part of our journey was the Redwood Forest. I, being ignorant of all the different wonders in New Zealand, was not aware that redwoods grew outside of America. But wow was I wrong. Audrey and I went on a short 2-hour hike around these colorful giants. It was delightful.
Other Items of note:
Other things to do in these areas are as follows…
- Urchin Track to Waipakihi River: Lovely view, steep inclines, but worth it!
- Huka Falls
- Craters of the Moon
- Rotorua Night Market
- Kuirau Park
- Government Gardens
- Rainbow Mountain Summit Hike
Also, some places to stay that we quite liked: (Find on Campermate)
- Brock’s Place: Private campsite in Matamata, $8 per person ($2 hot showers)
- Waikioko Campsite: Free campsite near Tongariro
- Great Lake Taupo Holiday Park: $20 per person holiday park in Taupo. (5-minute hot showers)
- Reid’s Farm: Free campsite in Taupo
- Holdens Bay Holiday Park: Holiday park near Rotorua, $15 per person (unlimited hot showers)
- Rerewhakaaitu, Brett Road Campsite: DOC $8 per person campsite.
With that being said… Thanks for reading ladies and gents. As always, feel free to reach out with questions, comments, concerns.. you know the drill.