Featuring the Lord of the Forest, the Coromandel Loop and the Highest waterfalls in New Zealand’s north island. Not to mention Hobbiton and a trip to the Green Dragon pub!

21st July

We continued our route down the west coast, stopping for a mid morning bite in Opononi along the west coast which had gorgeous views from the i-SITE café deck and cafe across the Hokianga Harbour.

Then we carried on a little further down the road, to the kauri forests. There we saw Tane Mahuta, the ‘Lord of the Forest’ – both of which sound like they should be names from the Lion King…

Tane Mahuta is one of the largest trees in the world, not because of its height (51.5m) but the circumference of it is massive – 13.8m – definitely earns the ‘Lord of the Forest’ title.
And again, the Maori story of Tane Mahuta is interesting (as the plaque at the bottom said):
“Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tane tore his parents apart, breaking their primal embrace, to bring light, space and air and allowing life to flourish.”

The sheer scale of the trees is astounding, especially when all around are signs warning of how delicate the root structures are, and how easily humans have almost destroyed/depleted the kauri forests completely.

After lunch, we continued to see more of the kauri forest. After the precautions coming through customs at the airport for outdoor equipment, it was really good to see the conservation efforts in effect in the national parks.

We stopped overnight back in our first camp ground at Port Albert.

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Pictures:
The top of Tane Mahuta
Yakas and I… see the scale of the trees compared to someone vertically challenged (at 12.29m circumference, and 43.9m total height, Yakas isn’t even the largest!)


22nd July

We made it down and past Auckland to be able to get to the (start of the) Coromandel Loop for lunch. We took a bit of a walk around the Kuranui Bay Reserve, meeting a very cute husky puppy – Eno – on the way, before heading into the town of Thames to sort our food for the next few days, and mobile coverage for Desi.

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Picture – The old dock seen along the coastal path around Kuranui Bay, heading towards Thames


23rd July

After such a lot of driving the previous day, we decided to stop mid morning just north of Whitianga, and check in to a paid campsite, taking advantage of their hot showers and laundry facilities, and having a generally quite lazy day.


24th July

We headed around to Cathedral Cove, and the walk also took us via Gemstone Bay and Stingray Cove so a nice wander in all – especially as the day warmed up, from being very cold in the morning to being really bright and sunny (although still with a chilly wind) – and apparently good for snorkeling in summer, so something to keep in mind for some future trips…

Cathedral Cove is stunning during the daytime, but I think I’d love to try to visit for sunrise…

Then for the late afternoon, we headed further around the loop, to Hot Water Beach, to wait for the next low tide around 18.45, so that the girls could dig their hot pool in the sand. By this time, I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t fancy waiting in my swim stuff until after dusk, so I gave it a miss – maybe something else I can do in summer…

We stayed just outside of a small town called Tairua and as we were all pretty cold and none of us fancied cooking, treated ourselves at the local fish and chip shop. If anyone ever visits Tairua, I would recommend stopping in at ‘Surf and Sand’, and grab yourself a surfer burger, but only for those with large appetites, as it has pretty much everything on it*!
*not even kidding… it has your normal beef pattie, topped with steak, bacon, ham, cheese, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, pineapple, carrot… I think that was it, I didn’t really need the chips I ordered with it! Sadly I devoured it before photo evidence was taken.

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Pictures:
Cathedral Cove, second beach seen through the cliff
On the second beach at Cathedral Cove (yes, those are my footprints)
Panoramic of the Cove
Gemstone Bay


25th July

In the morning we drove inland to Matamata, so that we could join the afternoon tour of Hobbiton!

I always find it so fascinating seeing how much work goes into things on film, especially when – in this case – some bits are used for so little screen time, so it was really interesting to see the work that was done for both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films. I suppose it helps that I love the stories. It’s not as in-depth as something like Harry Potter world in Watford, but for seeing and hearing about the work and craftsmanship that it took for the sets, it’s still really impressive.

It also helps that they have a fully functional Green Dragon pub on the premises… with a free glass of (your choice) ginger beer, pale ale, stout or cider!

I think the next step, and one of my future visits (planning it already) is to go for the evening tour, where you can have a full meal at the Green Dragon, then tour around Hobbiton come nightfall!

And who would ever have thought that some of the countryside elements were imported for the movies… like the sheep?!? I hadn’t been able to put my finger on the difference of NZ sheep until the tour guide pointed it out to us – they’re white all over, body, legs and feet and faces – which apparently was “too clean” looking for the movies, so sheep with black legs, feet, and faces were imported from England to star instead!

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Pictures:
Keeping the magic alive, floating around the entrance sign to Hobbiton
Not sure I’d get lost, but map on hand…
The stunning craftsmanship that went into each of the hobbit-holes
Which part of the Shire shall I head to?
An overview of more of the hobbit-holes, and their living-style, including top-left a peek at Bag End!
Another of the hobbit-holes, with me thrown in for scale again!
The hobbit clothes, the extra holes leading up the hill to Bag End, with the single tree perched atop…
Bag End, just in time for Bilbo’s 111th birthday party!
The pretty garden on this hobbit-hole
Where to head now, but the pub!
I know a few people who might need one of these…each!
The Green Dragon, with it’s door open to visitors
And fully functioning bar too!


26 July

We headed out of Matamata mid morning, via the Wairere Falls – the highest waterfalls on the North Island.

It was a little challenging walking through the bush, as for the most part it was quite muddy. Also, in some areas it was a relief that stairways had been built up – but the view from the top, and the sense of achievement was well worth the sweat! It was a bit too cloudy to look very far from the top, but even with what there was visible, it was great to see.

Then we carried on around to Rotorua, wandered the town there a little before heading to the only camper van place we could find in the area – the car park of the local hostel. This did mean that we had a chance to take advantage of their showers, kitchen and electricity (recharging all of our phones was a daily juggle – prioritised by whose battery was lowest, whose charged fastest, and whose was being used to find the next camp ground…).

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Pictures:
One of the staircases, leading up to the Wairere Falls
Mini-waterfall along the route
Just past mid-way point up the track, with the great view of the Falls
View across the top of Wairere Falls