Honeymoon pt 4: New Zealand – North Island

Before the trip even began we knew that this wasn’t going to be enough time. Our initial plan for a couple of weeks in New Zealand was almost up and we hadn’t even got to the North Island yet. We were having too much fun driving around in the van. But with just a quick email to our travel agent and a phone call to Wilderness camper vans, our flight and van rentals were extended by a week and, with it, our New Zealand trip.

When we first picked up the camper van, the Wilderness representative sold us on the idea of upgrading to the VIP lounge for our ferry ride between the islands because it was the highlight for a lot of visitors. There would be a buffet included with great sushi, open bar and free wifi internet. We decided to splurge. After a few weeks roughing it in the van, we were excited when they put VIP wristbands on us at the terminal in Picton. It turned out to be a disappointment though.

Not only was there no sushi at the buffet, but there wasn’t much of anything really. All that was served was a big pot of chili, some samosas and mini croissants. The internet also didn’t work. At least the chili was good and there was an open bar. So we loaded up on what was available to get our money’s worth. Our bags were packed full of samosas, croissants, and every type of condiment available. Sophie even snuck in a couple of unopened beers for me to find later — that’s why I married her. The 3-hour trip out into the sea was rather relaxing though. The lovely sights of the inlet and fjords gave us something nice to look at, as we were making the most out of our VIP lounge.

Shortly after landing on the North Island, we were welcomed by the strong winds of Wellington. Our first stop in the city was the Te Papa Tongarewa New Zealand Museum, which was completely worth the free price of admission. We saw exhibits on the Maori, the art and history of the people of New Zealand, an earthquake simulation room, and a lesson in the nature and wildlife of New Zealand. It was quite enjoyable and informative. Afterwards, we hung out at the museum parking lot to take advantage of the free wifi and catch up on our emails and work. Besides, it was nicely sheltered from the furious winds blowing through the city. These were so strong that we decided not to stay at the only campsite in the city, near the harbour. Instead we opted for two nights at a campsite 20 minutes out in the town of Lower Hutt.

During our time in the capital, we explored the city center, drove around the peninsula and continued our search for Lord of the Rings film locations. We even visited the Weta Cave studios, where they had a mini museum of film props and designs, a gift shop and a small viewing room where they showed a short film of the studio. There was a figure of Gandolf that greeted us upon entry and Gollum waving goodbye to us. Since the studio was in Wellington, a lot of the film locations were near by. But again, there wasn’t much in these locations that resembled a movie set or even the location in the film itself. Nevertheless, they were exciting to visit and, at the very least, gave us a direction while we drive aimlessly through this country.

The journey continued North into the mountains until we reached the ski town of Ohakune. This was our first glimpse of snow for the year. We drive up to the peaks of Tongariro National Park, where there was just enough snow for a few skiers to enjoy. On our descend we saw Mount Ngauruhoe, or Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings, in the distance. Going around Lake Taupo, we made our way to Rotorua to see the geothermal mud pools. The weather was not the best and and the rain was heavy, but there was a German beer festival nearby in Okere Falls to keep us dry. At the campsite that night, we hung out in the common area with locals to watch the All Blacks play the Wallabies in rugby. Sophie was curious about the war dance at the beginning and they delivered. The match ended in a draw in dramatic fashion and ended the All Blacks’ 16 match winning streak. That is incredible in any sport.

From here, we ventured on to what Sophie had been looking forward to since deciding on New Zealand as the destination. We headed to Mata Mata for the location of Hobbiton, where we finally got to see a location that actually looked like it’s from the movie. Part of the agreement for the film studio was to restore all the film locations to their original state. But when they came to take Hobbiton apart, the weather didn’t cooperate and the long delay in deconstruction gave time for the owners to decide on allowing the site to become a visitors spot. And luckily for us, the filming of the new Hobbit movie had just finished, so the location was redone properly. You must book a guided tour in order to access the location and we were definitely not the only ones interested.

The tour brought us onto the farm where where the hobbit holes were built. There were dozens of them carved into the grassy hill sitting next to a couple of familiar looking trees from the movie. All of the holes were only functional from the outside except for one, which we were able to pop our heads into. There wasn’t anything in that one either, though, as all the inside scenes were filmed in the studio. Sophie and I took many photos and pretended we were in the movie. Near the end of the tour, the guide informed us that if were to come back the following week, the newly-built Green Dragon pub would be open for business. But we weren’t about to extend our trip again. Satisfied with our visit, we headed to Auckland for the evening.

In Auckland, we pulled into our final campsite of the trip. And like most of the others we stayed in the larger cities, this was nowhere near anything and more like a parking lot with some facilities. But we loved it. We had even developed a routine entering our homes for the night. As soon as the engine stopped, without a word said, I would immediately go outside to plug the van into the electrical outlet and turn on the gas while Sophie would put up the blinds on the windows and install the table. This was never agreed upon or planned out. It just happened everytime we retired for the night.

We made a our final spaghetti bolognese meal and used up all the remaining food in our mini fridge. We drank all of the remaining beer and cider and reminisced about the great time we had in a great country. Maybe we could come back again in the future to stay even longer. The van and the lifestyle on the road was more than what we had hoped for. New Zealand was the ideal place for us to visit. We felt free and not dependent on anything. It was the perfect way to spend our honeymoon because it was us. Thank you New Zealand for the memories.

The next morning we returned the van to Wilderness and were dropped off at the airport to continue our honeymoon at the next destination: Australia.

Continue to the next honeymoon post Honeymoon pt 5 Australia >>


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