Sunday, May 19, 2019

New Zealand Road Trip 2018 ✈ Hobbiton & Auckland

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

New Zealand 10D9N Road Trip:
Day 1: Hokitika 
Day 2: West Coast & Lake Wanaka 
Day 3: Milford Sound
Day 4: Glenorchy
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo 
Day 7: Christchurch
Day 8: Wellington
Day 9: Lake Taupo/Hobbiton
Day 10: Auckland


Dec 4 (Tues): Wellington - Lake Taupo

When we first planned the trip, we knew that 10 days was probably a lil' too short to cover both South and North Islands. However, since we've strategically booked our flights to arrive in Christchurch (South Island) and depart from Auckland (North Island), I was determined to plan out an itinerary that would allow us to see all the main sights on both islands. If you've been following our journey, you can see that we spent a lot more time on the South island and the ONE attraction on the North island we were interested in was the Hobbiton. Can't come all the way to NZ and miss the main LOTR filming site right? =P

Drove 5 hours from Wellington to Lake Taupo. As compared to the South island, the drive on the North island was relatively flat and boring. 

Made it to Huka Falls at 5.45pm. The viewing point was right next to the carpark. It was cool to see the gushing water up close, and the blue color made it look so pretty!

Had dinner at BurgerFuel with a view of Lake Taupo. Total cost for 2: NZD33 ($24).

Quick photo by the lake before driving back to the hotel.

If you're wondering how we determined our stops for this road trip, it's based on where the chain hotels are located (where I could use points). =P Booked one night at Hilton Lake Taupo for 28,000 Hilton points.

Received a complimentary upgrade to the King Junior Suite. =) Wished we were able to spend more time here because the surrounding of this hotel is pretty.

We were too lazy to swim or workout. 

No time to enjoy the facilities but we certainly have time to enjoy complimentary drinks. =P

Dec 5 (Wed): Lake Taupo - Hobbiton Movie Set - Auckland

Complimentary breakfast at the hotel before driving 2 hours to the Hobbiton!

Pre-booked the 2.30pm tour online. Total cost for the both of us was NZD168 ($116), certainly not cheap but hubby loves LOTR and this was the only time we will visit Middle-earth.

The duration of the tour was 2 hours, including transport to and from The Shire's Rest (bus pickup). This was a fully guided tour around the 12 acre set; past Hobbit Holes, the Mill and ended at the Green Dragon Inn, where we received a complimentary Hobbit Southfarthing beverage.

Lots of tourists! These tours do sell out so make sure you pre-book online.


Beginning of the tour. We had about 20-30 people in our group so we had to take photos fast before someone else stepped into the frame. 

It was interesting to learn that there are fully operational farm on this set, with dedicated gardeners to keep up with the gardening.

The original set was built in 1999 for the Lord of the Rings trilogy using temporary materials. It wasn't until 2009 when The Hobbit trilogy was filmed that the set was rebuilt in permanent materials, which left behind this beautiful movie set we see today. 

Love the lush green pastures, blue skies, and white clouds! We were expecting it to rain (spot the rain jacket) but fortunately, it didn't rain until our tour ended. =D

There are a total of 44 Hobbit Holes, and no I wasn't counting during the tour, google gave me the answer. =P

Some photos to prove we were there...haha!

One of the most famous Hobbit Holes in the movie - Bilbo Baggins's home.

Overlooking The Green Dragon Inn with lush green pastures in the background. 

The Green Dragon Inn, the last stop on our guided tour.

Enjoyed our complimentary Southfarthing beverage at the Green Dragon Inn before heading back to the Shire's Rest to conclude our tour.

We were certainly blessed with such beautiful weather during our tour. 

The Alexander farm, a 1,250 acre sheep farm with iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures, a perfect 'home' for the Hobbits. 

Drove 2.5 hours to Auckland and made a quick stop in the city. 

Continued my hunt for a taste of home at Food Alley and depleted our cash on hand for this Hainanese chicken rice. Total cost: NZD12 ($9).

Our hotel for the final night in New Zealand - Holiday Inn Auckland Airport. Used 25,000 IHG points for one free night.

Dec 6 (Thurs): Auckland - Huntsville

One last round of shopping at Countdown for souvenirs before dropping our rental car at Jucy's office and getting dropped off at Auckland airport. Drove a total of 715kms from Wellington to Auckland, and spent NZD18 ($13) on gas, thanks to the free tank of fuel.

Our flight back to the US was on American Airlines. Auckland - LA - Dallas - Huntsville. Total cost for the both of us was $91 and 76,000 AA miles.

Had a very bumpy 12-hours flight to LA. Re-watched Crazy Rich Asians. =) 

Getting through immigration in LA took awhile, but at least the transit was long enough for us to grab some snacks at the United Club in LA.


That's a wrap for our 10D9N road trip in New Zealand! A road trip is no doubt the best way to see all that New Zealand has to offer. Thank you NZ for the breathtaking scenery, beautiful weather, and nice people! 

If you're curious how much we spent on our Fiji & New Zealand trip, check out the following posts: 
New Zealand & Fiji - Trip Expenses
Travel to New Zealand & Fiji for $600 - Cost Breakdown

As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map and itinerary to help you plan for your New Zealand adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.




Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Zealand Road Trip 2018 ✈ Wellington

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

New Zealand 10D9N Road Trip:
Day 1: Hokitika 
Day 2: West Coast & Lake Wanaka 
Day 3: Milford Sound
Day 4: Glenorchy
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo 
Day 7: Christchurch
Day 8: Wellington
Day 9: Lake Taupo/Hobbiton
Day 10: Auckland


Dec 3 (Mon): Christchurch - Wellington

After spending a night in Christchurch and dropping off our rental car at the airport, it's time to bid goodbye to the South island and continue our journey to the North. While we could have possibly gotten a relocation deal to drive from Christchurch to Wellington, we decided to fly to avoid 'wasting' another day of driving. Besides, a lot of relocation deals don't include ferry cost between Picton and Wellington, which costs approximately NZD273 ($186) for 2 person and a car. Flying turned out to be the most cost and time-efficient option as it costs a total of NZD71 ($48) for the both of us, including 20kg checked baggage, and the flight was only an hour.

Landed at Wellington airport at 5.30pm. We originally planned to pick up the rental car upon arriving at the airport but after considering the time and additional cost (NZD 40) to park at the hotel, we decided to pick it up the next morning instead.

Instead of taking the Airport Flyer (bus 91) directly from the airport to the city for NZD12, we chose to be 'local' and walked 900m to another nearby bus station to catch the normal bus (bus 2) from Hobart Street to Lambton Quay at Cable Car Lane. The bus ride took about half an hour and cost NZD5/pax ($3.50), we paid cash.

Our hotel for the night - Intercontinental Wellington for 35,000 IHG points. Thanks for the anniversary welcome gift! =)

Walked 15 min to Little Penang on the Terrace for a taste of home. =) I ordered Koay Teow Th'ng while hubby ordered claypot chicken rice. The food was decent and reasonable. Total cost for the both of us was NZD32 ($22).

Dec 4 (Tues): Wellington - Lake Taupo

Took the bus (NZD5) from the hotel to the bus stop closest to Jucy's office near the airport. The bus driver was super nice and helped us figure out which bus stop to get off. 

Picked up our rental car (Hyundai i30) for 3 days at Jucy's office.

This was another relocation deal I found on Jucy's website, to drive from Wellington to Auckland for NZD1/day with one free tank of fuel included. Our total rental cost for 3 days was NZD3 ($2)...what a steal! =D

Our one and only sightseeing stop in Wellington was Weta Cave. Hubby is a huge Lord of the Rings fan and Weta workshop was the creator of majority of the movie props. Who would've known that this unassuming workshop located in the middle of a small neighborhood had all these creative talents to create such a great movie! 

We took the 45 min guided tour for NZD28/pax ($20). Unfortunately, no photos allowed during the tour. 

Exhibits and merchandise for sale at the workshop.

That's all for our short time in Wellington. Stay tuned for the next post! As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map and itinerary to help you plan for your New Zealand adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.