Mount Maunganui

After exploring Hobbiton and driving around Tauranga’s city centre, Mount Maunganui was next for us to explore, as we were staying in a bach close by on Ocean Beach Road.

It doesn't look as high from the bottomMount Maunganui is a major residential, commercial and industrial suburb of Tauranga, located on a peninsula to the north-east of Tauranga’s city centre. Mount Maunganui is also the name of the large lava dome that was formed by the upwelling of rhyolite lava about two to three million years ago. Its Māori name is Mauao, but is also colloquially known in New Zealand simply as The Mount.

First, we did the gentle walk around the base of The Mount and then the next day, we attempted the climb to the summit. I’m not going to lie, it’s quite a climb and there are some really steep sections that make your legs feel like they’re on fire! (It probably didn’t help that we ended up walking up the 4×4 track and didn’t take the other route which may have been better).

Anyway, we finally made it to the summit and the spectacular views of the harbour, Bay of Plenty and Tauranga were well worth all the effort put in to get there. We could see for miles!

The view from the top of Mt MaunganuiThe view of the harbour from the top of Mt MaunganuiThe view of the harbour from the top of Mt MaunganuiThe view from the other side of Mt Maunganui (Mt Maunganui main beach below)It's a long way up!At the summitimg_8091

We finished off our day with a nice, relaxing soak in the hot pools at the base of Mount Maunganui. It’s a great way to soothe those aching muscles.

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Hobbiton

We stayed in Tauranga for a week in October 2016 and did a day-trip to Hobbiton. The Hobbiton Movie Set is situated in Hinuera (just outside Matamata), in the heart of the Waikato, and is where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed.

The 12-acre film set is built on a section of the Alexanders’ spectacular sheep and beef farm and the following is off the brochure that we were given when booking our tickets.

“In September 1998, Sir Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema ‘discovered’ the Alexander farm during an aerial search for suitable film sites. Site construction started in March 1999. Initially this involved heavy earthmoving machinery provided by the New Zealand Army who built a 1.5km road into the site and undertook initial set development.

Thirty-nine Hobbit Holes were created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata. Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree. The Mill and double arch bridge were built out of scaffolding, ply and polystyrene. Thatch for the roofs of The Green Dragon Inn and The Mill were cut from rushes around the Alexander farm.

When they were rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy in 2009, these structures were built out of permanent materials including and artificial tree which was made out of steel and silicon. This entire reconstruction process took two years. Today the set is maintained to keep the magic of The Shire alive.

Filming for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy commenced in December 1999 and continued for three months. Filming for The Hobbit Trilogy began in October 2011 and took only 12 days. At its peak 400 people were on site, including at various times Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Sean Astin (Sam), Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins) and Martin Freeman (young Bilbo Baggins).”

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We didn’t pre-book our tickets and just took our chances, arriving at 501 Buckland Road and booking our tickets when we got there. We chose to skip the next bus that was leaving and get on the following one, so that we could have a quick lunch at The Shire’s Rest Cafe first.

We expected the Cafe to be expensive, as this is a tourist destination, but we were pleasantly surprised. The food portions were reasonably large and very well priced compared to other cafes. As they’re usually quite busy, any food ordered from the kitchen (like toasted sandwiches) and not out of the display cases can take up to 20 minutes to prepare. We were happy to wait and I ordered a toasted sandwich, which was very tasty.

To kill the last few minutes before our bus was due to arrive, we spent some time the The Shire Store, a delightful little gift shop that has all sorts of Hobbiton Movie Set trinkets and memorabilia, like t-shirts, fridge magnets, jewellery, board games, puzzles, posters, mugs and even the Southfarthing beverages that are served in the Green Dragon Inn.

hobbiton-mapOur guided tour left from outside the gift store, where we were transported by bus to the movie set. En route, our tour guide introduced himself and a video was played in the bus with a little of the history of the movie set. Once we arrived, we departed the bus and were briefed by our tour guide as to what we could expect during the 2 hour walk. And off we went, beginning in Gandalf’s Cutting…

We passed The Garden

Went up the hill to the Frog Pond (there’s a story behind the name, but I’m not going to spoil everything, you need to go see it and hear the stories and anecdotes for yourself!)

"Frog Pond"Past Sackville’s Apple Orchard,

around and up the hill

 

to see the steel and silicone tree

img_7966before arriving at Bag End!

Bag End

Then it was down the hill to the crossroads

around past the Party Field

and The Party Tree (this was where Bilbo had his eleventy-first birthday party)

The Party Tree

before winding around to Bagshot Row

and along the Merry Meander

passed The Old Mill

to The Green Dragon for a much needed complimentary drink.

IMG_8043.jpgThe drinks served are from Hobbiton’s Southfarthing range and includes a choice from two traditional ales, an apple cider or non-alcoholic ginger beer, all of which are handcrafted and exclusive to Hobbiton.

The inside of The Green Dragon Inn was fully reconstructed (inside and out) and truly is spectacular with all it’s carved wooden detail, intricate windows and cosy atmosphere.

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After the refreshment stop, we headed off past the Bywater Beer Garden, around past East Farthing, through The Garden, taking a short cut through the Pine Grove back to the bus waiting in the car park.

The two-hour guided walk is done at a moderate pace, so that there is no backlog or traffic jam caused with other tour groups and our tour guide constantly provided us with relevant information, little anecdotes, was happy to answer any questions or ponderings and there was enough time to take photos without feeling rushed.

Our bus dropped us off back at The Shire’s Rest Cafe and gift shop, so if you don’t get to eat or go souvenir shopping before your tour, you can always do it afterwards (or go back and buy something else).

If you’re planning a day-trip to Hobbiton, I recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes, taking a bottle of water, a rain jacket, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, as it is an outdoor walking tour and the weather in New Zealand can be very unpredictable but it’s definitely something worth doing.

For more information about the Hobbiton Movie Set, tour times, prices, etc. visit www.hobbitontours.com