My Journey through Middle Earth

For my Grammy, who’s dreamed of seeing New Zealand her whole life.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

To access my full New Zealand Photo AlbumNew Zealand 2018 Photos

Of course, like any good little LOTR nerd, I started my journey with….

HOBBITON

Now, I’ll be honest, my expectations weren’t all that high for Hobbiton. I expected it to be an underwhelming tourist trap. Riding down through the beautiful green rolling hills of New Zealand to the Alexander Farm, I was absolutely blown away. It truly looked and felt like the Shire. I’d never seen so much green and certainly never so many sheep! The amount of detail Sir Peter Jackson (yes, the New Zealanders knighted Peter Jackson for putting New Zealand on the map) put into creating this world was incredible.

RAGLAN

We made a quick stop at a conservation farm outside of Raglan, run by the sweet Jan. My highlight of the day? Getting to hug an alpaca and it subsequently spitting on me. Hysterical. Then, we enjoyed an adventure filled day of surfing, sea kayaking, and yoga in this little hippie surf town on the west coast of the North Island.

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ROTORUA

The city is famous for its geothermal activity, due to the fact that it is situated on one of Earth’s Supervolcanoes – Taupo. Everywhere in the city, you can see clouds of steam coming out of the ground from “hot spots.” Hello, natural heating during the winter! The not so pleasant result of this geothermal activity? Sulfur. The entire city unfortunately smells like rotten eggs, but believe me when I tell you that the endless activities, spectacular views, and strong Maori culture (New Zealand’s Native People) more than made up for it. My favorite part of Rotorua? The mountain biking. It’s an absolute mountain bike heaven, filled with gorgeous, dense redwood forests.

We made our way down to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, passing Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park along the way.

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Sunrise over the Cook Strait – the body of water dividing the North and South Islands

ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK

Our first destination on the South Island – Abel Tasman National Park. We stayed at Old MacDonald’s Farm… no joke. And there were llamas. HEAVEN.

We completed a misty 12km of the Abel Tasman Coast Track from Anchorage back to Marahau. Thanks to the rainy night and morning, we were lucky enough to witness some gorgeous rainbows throughout the hike.

We made our way down the “Wild West Coast” of New Zealand. An ever-rainy stretch of the country, full of dramatic scenery. Endless black rock cliffs and powerful crashing waves. It takes your breath away.

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FRANZ JOSEF

Franz Josef is a 12km Glacier situated on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. Over the course of our time here, we completed the Franz Josef lookout hike and the hike up to Robert’s Point, a 12.3km return, very technical hike.

 

QUEENSTOWN

The drive into this famed adventure capital of the world, was nothing short of stunning, with dramatic snow capped mountains and the gorgeous Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu. On the agenda: skiing.

 

FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK

After seeing the beautiful fjords of Norway, I was thrilled to check out the Fiordland National Park in New Zealand. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound was absolutely mind blowing. It’s truly other-worldly.

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 CENTRAL OTAGO

We made it to the remote region of Central Otago to complete 35km of the famous Central Otago Rail Trail.

KAIKOURA

Possibly my favorite stop in New Zealand. This stunning little town on the east coast of the South Island offers unrivaled views of the Pacific ocean and the dramatic scenery that New Zealand is known for. We had the amazing opportunity to swim with dolphins in the dead of New Zealand’s winter in their natural habitat in the Pacific Ocean. On these trips, most are lucky to see even a couple of dolphins. That day, we saw hundreds. Swimming all around us, performing all sorts of flips and tricks for us. It was nothing short of magical.

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