Tuesday we drove through rolling fields and farmlands to the little town of Matamata about 2 hours south of Auckland. There we were transported to Middle Earth and embarked on a tour of The Shire in Hobbiton. I was grinning like a little kid the whole time. It was so much fun! The landowners made a deal with Peter Jackson et al after filming the Lord of the Rings that they would be able to keep some of the sets up and viewable. When it came time to film the Hobbit they agreed to let them film there again but this time they had to rebuild all the sets using permanent materials. Thus they are set for life! They take bus loads full of people through every day at 75 bucks a head. Ridiculous, but it was worth it!
We wandered among hobbit holes peering into windows and peeking over fences at the vegetables growing in the gardens watching smoke rise from the chimneys and imagining all the festivities taking place underneath the party tree on the green and stepping across the threshold of Bag End. We wound up our tour at the Green Dragon Inn where we had a tasty ginger beer in front of the fire before heading back to reality.
Then we were back in the car and driving an hour east to the coastal town of Taraunga. It’s the busiest port in New Zealand but the area we were in was quiet, quaint and charming. Our hotel was gorgeous, with a pool overlooking the sea (which we unfortunately didn’t use because it was a bit too cold!) And a five minute walk took us to the waterfront where we had to choose between a hundred different options for dinner. We decided on a hearty pub meal with views of the water and then went back to the hotel to watch a movie and turn in a little early in the hopes of recovering from our late night the night before.