Adventuring in New Zealand | Auckland, Hobbiton, Rotorua and Lake Taupo

Our very good friends, Jason & Josh, came to AU for two weeks in early July. We wanted to make the most of the time, so we hopped on a plane and spent a long weekend in New Zealand AKA Oz’s ‘backyard’! We drank with the gays in Auckland, pretended we were Hobbits in Hobbiton, bathed in sulfuric waters in Rotorua and enjoyed the natural beauty of Lake Taupo. What an incredible weekend exploring the North Island! Here’s what went down:

Friday 1 July:
The boys had just landed the prior morning but we had adventuring to do! We boarded a flight out of Sydney direct to Auckland, drove the painfully local roads from the airport to the harbour, checked in to the gorgeous Hilton Auckland and immediately hit the town for dinner & drinks.

Auckland Waitemata Harbour
The view from our rooms at the Hilton Auckland gave us vantages of the city and Waitemata Harbour i.e. amazing.

occidental belgian beer cafe auckland
Impossible to capture accurately in a photo but the size of the beers they served us at Occidental Belgian Beer Cafe were extraordinary.

occidental belgian beer cafe auckland
These are blue-lipped mussels and not only are they well-named they are also extremely large. Long story short, if you want to feel Hobbit-size, the Occidental will serve you beer and food that makes your hands look small.

occidental belgian beer cafe auckland
The beers were huge. The mussels were huge. But the laughs were even huger-er.

eagle bar auckland nz
After dinner, we decided to check out the local gay bars on Karangahape Road (“K Road”). First up was The Eagle Bar, which is very unlike a typical Eagle as evidenced in this photo. Just a bunch of joyful LGBTF peeps dancing and smiling!

family bar auckland dance room
We stayed at Eagle Bar for one drink and then hopped across the road to Family Bar, which is truly awesome. It’s about 6 or 7 bars all linked together and each room is a unique theme. In this room, you could dance to EDM. Also, I may have captured a photo of a ghost.

celebrating with shots family bar auckland
Because we’re all old now (SIGH), making it out past midnight is always a feat. But we collectively endured so we could celebrate Jason’s birthday right at the stroke of 12:00am on 2 July! It took the bartender several tries to get the shots rights as he was determined to light them on fire…but they just. couldn’t. even.

jason kissing family bar art
Now, because it was Jason’s birthday we didn’t judge but…when he was so drunk he tried to make out with some artwork, it was time to call it a night. Kidding! Love you, Jas! 😉
Saturday 2 July
We were now officially in Jason’s birthday mode and had one heck of an awesome day planned. We woke early in Auckland, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and then hit the road for a 2+ hour drive south to Matamata and the Hobbiton movie set.

Sunrise over Waitemata Harbour.
Sunrise over Waitemata Harbour.

hilton auckland lobby renovation sunshine
It was too bad our stay in Auckland was so brief! And the newly renovated Hilton Auckland was truly an incredible place to stay. Not plugging my company here…the truth is the truth!

matamata nz green fields
The periphery of the Hobbiton movie set is stunningly beautiful. It’s why Peter Jackson picked this as the site to place The Shire. Rolling hills, so much green…and just peaceful and easygoing. Spot-on!

happy hobbit birthday
A Happy Hobbit Birthday, Jason!

hobbiton movie set tour
Waiting to board the bus over to Hobbiton. I was trying my best at this point not to reveal exactly how much the nerd in me was TOTALLY FREAKING OUT WITH EXCITEMENT. But I kept it together. #hairflip

hobbit hole the shire hobbiton
A typical hobbit hole on the movie set tour. They explained to us that each hobbit hole revealed the occupation of the hobbit living there, just to make the visuals even richer. We found a potter, fishmonger, baker…love the eye for detail!

shire selfie nz
A Shire Selfie! ‘Nuff said.

exploring the shire hobbiton
Awwww a Hobbiton love story. Jason & Josh are the cutest!

Bag end hobbiton the shire
This is it! Bag End in Hobbiton-across-the-water Westfarthing of The Shire! Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ home. Nope, not a nerd at all.

me in front of hobbit hole hobbiton nz
The hobbit holes are all sized differently to make sure the perspective was appropriate for who was standing in front (human or hobbit) as well as for various filming shots. Peter Jackson is truly a brilliant filmmaker – and probably a bit OCD.

green dragon inn hobbiton lake
The Green Dragon Inn sits up next to the lake, and we were lucky to have a brisk, blue sky day to enjoy it all.

fireplace green dragon inn hobbiton
Not gonna lie – it was pretty chilly out during our NZ visit, so sitting in front of the crackling fireplace in The Green Dragon was a welcome moment. As part of the tour, you also get a free beer or cider they make just for Hobbiton visitors.
After we wrapped up at The Green Dragon, it was time to continue our North Island adventure another hour southeast to Rotorua, NZ. The area is known for its geo-thermal activity which gives way to geysers, mud pools and – most importantly for our visit – geo-thermal mineral baths to soak in! We arrived at the Polynesian Spa in the mid-afternoon and wasted no time plunging in (daintily, of course) to the various pools. We each started off with our own couple’s private pool and then all met back up in the large adult pool area where you venture around trying different temperatures of water. By and large, it was a super relaxing experience if you can get over the sulfur smell (which you do, very quickly). The only area I would give as a warning/heads-up is that the water is naturally fed so there’s a lot of particles floating about all around you. Just try to tell yourself it’s NOT rubbed off human skin and you’ll be ok.

private pools polynesian spa rotorua
The private pools at the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, NZ are really nice but to be honest…the large adult pool area is more indicative of the true experience! I’d say skip the private pool and go enjoy the other area with the incredible lake views.
Somehow, with waning energy and extremely relaxed from all the sulfuric soaking, we loaded back in the car for the final ride of the day: Rotorua to Taupo, NZ where we would be staying at the Hilton Lake Taupo. It was just an hour away but with the setting sun and the early start time that day, we were all very ready to check-in. Daniel managed to stay awake and get us there safely. We had just enough time to freshen up and head down to Bistro Lago right there in the hotel to have some pre-dinner drinks with some of my fantastic colleagues before tucking in to a delicious meal.

bistro lago birthday dinner
And a final Happy Birthday to Jas! We had an incredible celebration meal at Bistro Lago in the Hilton Lake Taupo. They took extremely good care of us and surprised the birthday boy with an adorable cake – candles & all.
Sunday 3 July
After packing so much in to the prior day, we had all agreed in advance that we would just kind of ‘wing it’ for Sunday in Lake Taupo, and that ended up being the perfect decision.

huka falls nz bridge shadow
I took a lot of pictures of Huka Falls and I’m not sure any accurately captured how beautifully blue the Waikato River water is! You expect this type of blue in the Caribbean, not a river cutting through New Zealand.

huka falls bridge
Obviously an incredibly popular tourist attraction – as evidenced by the quantity of people on the bridge. But really, Huka Falls is a must-see.

aratiatia rapids dam opening viewpoint
A short drive from the Huka Falls and you can watch the Aratiatia Rapids get created multiple times a day when they open the dam. We did the short 10-minute walk from the parking lot to this viewing point and were amazed to watch a fairly empty canyon fill-up entirely with raging water. Add it to your list!

lava glass nz
After the falls and dam opening, we traveled to nearby Lava Glass where we walked through a glass wonderland and watched glass blowing take place. Pretty incredibly artistry here!

lava glass rainbow group photo
We gays simply can’t resist a group photo in front of a glass rainbow. Nor should we. The risk? Being stripped of all our princess points. Tsk tsk.

glass blowing at lava glass in nz
The artisan would evolve this into a gorgeous red glass bowl by the time we left. The glass blowing process definitely requires a type of patience and proximity to molten glass that would never work for me.

lake taupo nz
After enjoying the glass blowing, we journeyed back to the town of Taupo and had a nice (late) lunch and beers at the Rose On Roberts pub. Then we meandered down to the actual Lake Taupo to take in the view.

mount ngauruhoe lake taupo nz
Lake Taupo is enormous (apparently the size of Singapore!) but it’s the rare view of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom for the LOTR fans) that really make it special. It takes a very clear day to see it and, man, was I thankful we had one.

relaxing at lake taupo
Lake Taupo smiles. And a ginger photobomb.

wine time in lake taupo nz
After all of the day’s adventuring, it was officially Wine O’Clock for me. I am entirely unafraid to drink alone.

wine oclock lake taupo nz
I find my wine always tastes better when it’s beautifully photographed.
We decided to take it easy for dinner this night, (admittedly) ordered Domino’s pizza while (shamelessly) watching Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring together. I mean ‘when in New Zealand’ right??

Monday 4 July
How weird to wake up on the 4th of July in New Zealand and not be surrounded by red, white and blue…first time in my entire life and a good reminder to think globally.

Today would mostly be a travel day for us all but we would sadly be going in different directions. Daniel and I were driving north back to Auckland for our return flight to Sydney, and the boys would be heading south to Wellington for their flight to Melbourne. We said our goodbyes in the AM and went our separate ways (and bravo to Josh for bravely taking the wheel on the ‘right’ side of his car! He got them safely to Wellington and survived all the round-a-bouts along the way woo hoo!).

Daniel and I took a different path back up to Auckland, which brought us through the interesting little roadside town of Tirau, NZ. Kind of artsy, kind of kitschy, kind of bizarre…it was the perfect spot to stretch our legs and have a quick little looksie.

metal dog tirau nz
A giant metal dog next to a giant metal sheep in Tirau, NZ because yea.

bugger cafe tirau nz
The Bugger Cafe in Tirau, NZ was the perfect place to stop for a bite. The name makes sense once you see the decor and get their humor!
We made it along to Auckland airport and a few hours later were safely back in Sydney. The NZ adventure with the boys was a spectacular weekend, full stop. No dramz, beautiful weather, incredible landscapes, lovely food…I simply cannot wait to get back to New Zealand and explore more of the North Island as well as the South Island in its entirety.

Come back soon, kittens, as I’ll be posting about the following long weekend with the boys where we explored Cairns together. Bye for now! XOXO -JW





  • Hi My names Chonny I’m kiwi looking to move to The Gold Coast or Sydney in Ozzie.
    Did you enjoy your time here in nz?
    How did the scenery, food, cities, wine compare to oz?
    A lot of people think nz is ozzies lacking cousin


    • Hi Chonny!
      I am a huge fan of NZ. I love the food, the culture, the outdoors. So for me, you will hear nothing but praise for New Zealand. I also love the wines and it’s the first time I’ve ever grown a taste for Pinot noir thanks to NZ and the central Otago. In terms of cities, i enjoy Auckland (although have only been there for 24 hours) and absolutely adore Queenstown. I have also spent time on business in Christchurch which was nice, although it was eye opening to see how much work is still needed after the earthquake. In terms of Australia, I’m biased in that I would pick Sydney over the Gold Coast. Just my personal opinion, of course. 🙂



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