Explore a trio of the North Island’s best attractions. This road-trip itinerary trails above and below Middle-earth for a weekend of culture and adventure like no other.
With Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Rotorua’s Te Puia and Hobbiton combining forces to create Experience the Trilogy, it’s the perfect excuse to check out all three show-stoppers in one epic hit. The trio fuse natural wonders, Maori culture and stunning film references for a guaranteed crowd-pleasing combo. Whether you’re a Lord Of The Rings buff or the Middle-earth oblivious, get the chariot rolling with our three day itinerary. Set off at a leisurely paced and make the most of the hidden-gems along the route. If time is a little tighter, two days will get you around all three stops, for an action-packed adventure Bilbo himself would be envious of.
Day 1 - Waitomo’s Underground Exploration
A Sparkling Start at Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Heading south from Auckland, arrive at
Waitomo Glowworm Caves for a mesmerising start to the Trilogy. Echoing silence, lofty underground chambers and a cosmos of sparkling glowworms make a magically Middle-earth tinged tour. Descend into one of the country’s most renowned caves to see the ‘Cathedral’ chamber for yourself, its cavernous heights matched by equally impressive limestone formations. The tour saves the best for last with a boat ride under the Glowworm Grotto, a sparkling display to rival that of the Milky Way.
Ruakuri Cave’s Spectacular Silence
Next stop in Waitomo’s subterranean showcase is
Ruakuri Cave, New Zealand’s longest underground walking tour. The cave combines cutting-edge engineering and natural features to create an experience that’s not only incredibly varied but also entirely accessible for wheelchairs and prams. Above narrow chasms and underground waterways, get up close with the delicate stalactites. If you’re looking out for the Lord Of The Rings related link, immerse yourself in the Gollum-esque tone of certain cave corners. Andy Serkis spent quality time in this cave to get into character as Gollum. The cave’s inky depths and silence interrupted only by faint dripping also made the cut for the Trilogy’s sound effects, a number of which were recorded here.
Adrenalin Thrills with Black Water Rafting
For those keen to amp up the adventure levels and explore Ruakuri cave even further,
Black Water Rafting is for you. Opt for the adrenaline fuelled version of the Trilogy package,
Experience the Trilogy - Supercharged to swap the walking tours for the
Black Labyrinth . Taking you into Ruakuri Cave armed with a wetsuit and inner tube (and some very experienced guides!), tubing, climbing waterfalls and close-up glowworm viewing are all part of the deal. Come out on the other side and you’ll understand why this is billed as the most fun you can have in the dark.
Waitomo Accommodation & Restaurants
Once you’ve been thoroughly enchanted by this under-earth world, it’s time to bunker down in Waitomo for the night. For centrally located accommodation,
Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park is right in the town’s village, with options for those who want their luxury comforts or budgeteers looking for a good deal. Depending on energy and hunger levels, the
Ruakuri Walk is after-dark stroll worth venturing out for. Glowworms line the track near the main bridge of this easy walk, bring a torch and keep your eyes peeled for the gentle shimmering glow. Reward your efforts with Waitomo’s acclaimed bistro dining option,
Huhu Cafe. Or if pub grub is in order,
The Tomo Bar does a solid job of the classics.
Day 2 - Burst into Te Puia’s Living-Earth
Hit the road bright and early, it’s direction Rotorua for geothermal wonderland
Te Puia . Wind your way out of Waitomo’s rolling hills with a quick stop off at the
Waitomo Homestead to get your morning coffee fix. Once caffeinated, allow about two hours to get to Rotorua.
A Steaming Summary
In a town renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori cultural experiences, it doesn’t get much better than Te Puia. Home to
Southern Hemisphere’s largest geyser and over 500 geothermal wonders, it also houses the
New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and the Kiwi House, sanctuary to our famous bird.
Te Puia’s Morning Marvels
If you’re opted for the
Supercharged package, spend the morning taking in all this incredible site has to offer. Alongside the impressive 30 metre Pohutu Geyser, the entire 60 hectare site is dotted with an amazing diversity of geothermal activity. Expanses of gloopy bubbling mud follow brilliantly coloured mineral pools and geysers that burst out ribbons of steam. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time for a traditional
steambox lunch, cooked in the Nga Wha Puapua steam vent. You get to choose the ingredients for your mini-hangi, before tucking with fantastic views over the Pohutu Geyser.
Maori Culture & Cuisine, Geothermal Goes Grand
For those sticking with the
original package, get ready for a sumptuous Maori hangi feast, combined with an
evening of cultural and geothermal festivities. Arriving late afternoon, explore spectacular terrain before the sun sets, then get settled in for a powhiri and captivating cultural performance. Afterwards it’s time to follow the delicious smells wafting from the hangi. Maori cuisine at its tastiest, the Te Puia team cook up all the steamed meat, vege and traditional Maori sides you could possibly want, complete with a decadent dessert selection. Wind up the evening in style, jump aboard their motorised ‘waka’ to check out the moonlit wonders and watch the Pohutu Geyser erupt under the star-studded sky.
When it’s time to call it a night, accommodation options are plentiful in Te Puia’s vicinity. Take your pick of
Rotorua's motels nearby, many with their own thermal spa pools. If you’re after a budget-friendly option the
Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park is one of the closest holiday parks to town, framed by it’s stunning namesake lake.
A Peaceful Pause at Kerosene Creek
For those that have a few hours to fill pre or post Te Puia, a soak in the
Kerosene Creek hot spring tops the list of idyllic (and free) natural attractions in the area. Shrouded by lush native forest, perfectly heated pools are formed by the hot spring which bubbles into the cooler waters of the creek. It’s a 30 minute drive south of Rotorua, well worth is for the swim, soak and your own living-earth bliss.
Day 3 - The Middle-earth Expedition
Bidding haere ra to Rotorua’s geothermal wonderland, it’s Middle-earth’s one and only
Hobbiton that awaits a two hour drive north for a final day treat.
Amongst the Hills, There Lived a Hobbit
Transforming a 1,250 acre Waikato sheep farm into one of the country’s top tourist attractions, Peter Jackson’s vision of the Shire is as alive and picturesque as ever. Amongst the idyllic green hills of Middle-earth’s Hobbit village are 37 brightly coloured Hobbit Holes and the rustic Green Dragon Pub. Take a closer look at the incredible level of detail that Jackson and Co. put into recreating J. R R. Tolkien’s richly detailed world. The guides here are walking-encyclopedias of Hobbiton knowledge and will let you in on the secrets that make this place so special. While LOTR fans will be half expecting Bilbo and Frodo to pop out at any moment, the uninitiated need not worry about getting bored. Over 1/3 of visitors haven’t actually seen the film, such is the captivating beauty of this spot!
The Shire’s Watering Hole
Once you’ve snapped your way through this picture-perfect hotspot, retire to the cosy surrounds of the
Green Dragon Inn. A complementary Southfarthing beverage is included in the package, Hobbiton brew up their own Amber Ale and ginger beer on site. Pop your feet up and absorb the fantastically authentic vibe they’ve created, before it’s time to pull mind and body back to the 21st century. Wrapping up the road-trip, it’s only a two hour drive back up to Auckland but will feel a whole world away from the charms of Middle-earth and its sparkling, bubbling natural counterparts.
Lock in that weekend you’ve been meaning to and make Middle-earth your own reality. Grab three of North Island’s most unique attractions with a touch of Tolkien magic for the ultimate weekend getaway.
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