(photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn)
New Zealand: Beyond the Hobbit
Ah, The Hobbit; I read it… well, okay, I admit it, I just saw the movie! Still, this literary masterpiece turned into a mega-Hollywood production has brought about a new interest in New Zealand as a travel destination for the many fans who want to see where the epic was filmed. While this is fantastic for the country’s tourism, I have to admit that it breaks my heart when I hear of travelers only heading to this beautiful land to take a Hobbit tour. There is so much more of this country to see besides where a movie was filmed. In fact, many argue that New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world! So let’s go beyond The Hobbit and see why this country has so much more to offer.
The Great Outdoors
Okay, I’m fessing up now and saying that this is going to be the only section in this post. Why? Because all that makes this amazing land what it is, including the hotbed of mega-production filming, is its outdoors. This country besieges the eyes with natural wonder that… oh, heck! Just keep reading!
- Franz Josef Glacier: Part of what makes New Zealand such a natural paradise is you literally find every natural wonder here. From beaches to mountains to, yep, glaciers, this amazing place really does have it all. Franz Josef Glacier is (currently) nearly 7.5 miles in size, and you’ll find this icy wonder within Westland Tai Poutini National Park. This ice-ice-baby moves fast! In fact, its claim to fame is being one of the fastest-flowing glaciers the world knows. It extends from mountaintops to the rainforest, and you can trek the icy landscape and tunnels with a qualified guide.
- Maruia Springs: You’re going to be in this neck of the woods anyway, as Franz Josef Glacier begins in the Southern Alps, so take a load off after your glacier hike at Maruia Springs. A glacier trek is, well, COLD! You’ll need to thaw out your feet (and everything else), and what could be better than sinking into a natural thermal mineral pool? The minerals in the water are great for your skin, and the warm waters are sure to soothe your tired trekking muscles. If you fall in love with this natural spring, which you will, you can camp here and enjoy it for a little longer!
- Milford Sound: Speaking of books and authors, this sea entrance, which you’ll find in Fiordland National Park, was described by literary great Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world.” Those are some pretty serious claims there, Mr. Kipling, and… he’s right! Pristine seas are the least of the wonders you’ll see when you helicopter in to Milford Sound. This area is home to some awe-inspiring sheer cliffs that reach nearly 4,000 feet to the sky, a rainforest complete with glorious waterfalls, and some of the most adorable sea life one can watch. Dolphins and penguins and seals, oh my!
- Raglan’s Manu Bay: You went to Milford Sound, watched those seals frolicking in the waters, and decided it was time to surf. It’s a good thing you’re in NZ! Another famous movie filmed in this wonderful part of the world is the iconic Endless Summer, a classic 1966 surfing flick. “Why didn’t they film it on Oahu’s North Shore, Theresa?” you ask. Because Raglan’s Manu Bay has the longest left-hand break in the world… surfers know what I’m talking about! What does that mean in non-surfing-lingo? You can ride a wave for about 1.25 miles! DUDE! GNARLY!
- Tongariro National Park: This is (you knew I’d get to one eventually) a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lays claim to being NZ’s very first national park. Three of the country’s largest mountains are found here, and they are Tongariro (of course), Ngauruhoe, and Ruapeha. So if you’re into hiking, this is your perfect spot! I said that this country has it all when it comes to natural wonder, and here is where you’ll find volcanoes. Yes, some of them are still active, so pay attention to the ground rumblings!
We don’t need no stinking film sites to enjoy all of the natural beauty this amazing little island offers. When you travel to this glorious neighbor to Australia, plan to be actively amazed! Fewer places on earth are more breathtaking, much less filled with friendlier people. When I visit New Zealand, I seriously want to stay… forever! Trust me, you will too!