The boat is silent as it slides through the water, the only sounds being our quiet breaths. And above us, the night sky so vast and endless, so beautiful and bright. Then suddenly a noise somewhere far away, and one by one the stars extinguish, snuffing out until we’re left in utter darkness. Until slowly, so slowly, the lights switch on again – and we’re once more sourrunded by a sea of stars.
On our last full day we got up with the sun, quickly packed up our things and were on the road again. We made our way to the Waitomo Caves and went on a tour to see the glowworms. The tickets were $50 and the place was flooded with ‘standard tourists’, but since we really wanted to visit Waitomo we put up with it. The tour guide led us through the cave and pointed out stalactites and stalacmites, until we finally got to the boats that would take us over the underground lake which homes a large population of glowworms. The sight was definitely spectacular and I’d recommend going if you have some money to spare, but otherwise skip this one. Another downside is that you’re not allowed to take any photos or video footage in the cave.
Afterwards we kept driving on the same road until we reached the Mangapohue Natural Bridge track, which follows a boardwalk through an impressive limestone gorge that brings you underneath a natural bridge. The 17m high limestone arch, which spans the Mangapohue Stream, is all that remains of an ancient cave system. The track passes under the bridge and gives an excellent view of the ceiling studded with stalactite-like formations.
We made our way back and kept driving until we reached Matamata, the home of Hobbiton. As massive Lord of the Rings fans we had been eagerly awaiting the tour though the movie set. The tickets were $79 which I would happily spend again. There were plenty of photo opportunities during the tour and it was well paced, although I could have easily spent more time in Hobbiton. The price also includes a drink at the Green Dragon, an adorable little pub. The movie set was built with more detail than I could have ever imagined and I can only recommend going there, no matter if you’ve seen the movies or not.
After completing the tour we dove to Hamilton for dinner at Banh Mi Caphe, a hip Vietnamese restaurant with vegan options. I got the Vietnamese mint and cabbage salad with tofu and mushrooms which was delicious! Once we finished our meals we drove down to Raglan and spent the night at the Te Kopua Whanau Camping Ground just outside of town. The fee is $10 per person which is reasonable, especially because the site has shower and toilet facilities.
Before we had to head back to Auckland to return our car we spent the morning in Raglan, which is a super cute surfer town. It has a similar vibe to Byron Bay and is full with beachy looking cafes and hip restaurants. We had breakfast at The Shack, which serves amazing coffee and even better food. If you have the time check out Ngarunui Beach as well!
New Zealand is a magical place, and quite possibly my favorite destination in the world. I really hope my travel tips have inspired you to travel there in the future or will help you get the most out of your trip! X