Destinations, New Zealand, North Island, Oceania, Rotorua 30

Visiting Hobbiton, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Glow worm Caves

We went a on two day whirlwind trip around North Island to visit Hobbiton, Rotorua (to see thermal springs) and Waitamo glow worm caves. Normally we like to spend a few days in one area before moving on but my sister and family were visiting from America and here for only here ten days.  We had spent the first half of the time visiting the stunning beaches of Tutukaka coast in the Northland region and city sightseeing around central Auckland, so we had to squeeze in all three attractions in 2 days.

Some useful travel information for anyone travelling in Auckland for just a few days and wish to see these three attractions, two of which are frequently featured on the likes of 19 Surreal places you won’t believe are natural!’


Bilbo Baggin’s House

We first drove to Hobbiton – 2 hours from Auckland. You cannot visit The Shire on your own. You have to take a tour which costs a hefty $75. The tour itself takes 3 hours to do from the point they pick you up, take you to the set and drops you back. I will have to save another blog post for this one as my camera died within a few minutes after we started the tour. I will write the post once Ashique and the kids get a chance to visit. On this trip it was just my sister’s family and myself. My opinion for now would be that it was really lovely but I think the only way prices can be that high is due to lack of competition. As opposed to several lovely beaches, hot springs and glow worm caves in New Zealand, there are not any other Shires around!

From there it is a short 1 hour drive down to Rotorua where we based ourselves for the night. We stayed at the lovely Cleveland Motel, very centrally located near Lake Rotorua and town central. The owners were super friendly and helpful. Our two bedroom suite was very spacious and clean, it had a small kitchen area, large living area with two extra beds. Total 8 people can sleep here. There was a play area outside with two large trampolenes. The best part of staying here were the mineral pools and the outdoor heated pool. It was just divine 🙂

After a quick dip into the mineral pools at 7am (water was 38 degrees!) we had breakfast and headed for Wai-o-tapu which was 20 minutes drive away. We got to Wai-o-tapu just before 10am as we had read that Lady Knox Geyser bursts exactly at 10:15 am.  We were a bit skeptical about the authenticity of a natural geyser bursting so punctually. As it turns out this ‘explosion’ is aided with a bit of organic surfactant but the story behind it is quite amusing. The first open prison was established in Waiotapu in 1900 and some prisoners were trying to wash their clothes at this spring. They were shocked to see their clothes shoot up in the sky when the geyser burst from addition of soap. 100 years onwards they make the explosion happen the same way with some natural surfactant.


Once we were done seeing the bursting geyser, we headed inside the park where you can do 3 circular walks around the many hot springs, volcanic craters and boiling water lakes. It cost $32 per person, kids under 5 were free. Throughout the whole experience you have to deal with the smell of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide), but once you can get over that – just don’t breathe in at times when it gets too much – the rest of the experience was fantastic!


Information about the walks and prices

Hot springs

Hot springs


Bubbling mud! The sounds coming out from here was something else, too bad I can’t post videos yet here on the blog


Dubious about the smell! He fared better than his 2 year old sister 🙂

The geology and chemistry of this place was fascinating to experience. Bubbling mud pools, waters above 100 degree celcius, vibrant colours everywhere from all the different minerals that have seeped through the rocks due to the high temperatures.



In the 2nd walk there were more ups and downs and we had to carry the stroller on some parts of the paths. Everything was well sign posted and the entire walk was about 3km long. This geothermal sightseeing attraction was really  unique, nothing I have ever experienced anywhere in the world.


Sulfphur Cave



Devil’s Bath..gotta love these names 🙂


It was easy enough for our 5 year old to walk through and to push (and carry) the stroller with the 2 year old for the first two walks. The third circuit had some parts you had to get off the paths and was a bit more challenging. 20150506_110340


We had lunch at their cafe which had decent food. We then headed to Waitamo Caves which was 2 hours drive from here. We passed through several other hot springs in the area. Lovely scenic route but we went through some parts where we went off-road and went through several windy curves. We had to pause at one point to let cows pass.


We got to Waitamo Caves just in time for their end of the day tour into the caves. You are not allowed to take pictures once inside but it was truly amazing. The kids were great with the darkness and silent boat ride, just looking up at the thousands of glow worms! There were different types of tours you can do. We chose the shortest (45 minutes) and least strenuous one. There are ones where you can do black water rafting. Something for next time!


Waitamo Caves Entrance Area

I am glad we are heading back here in a weeks time (end May) just in the Rotorua area so we can explore this region more.  There is plenty of things to do here – from white water rafting, zorbing, hiking, several lakes to explore, plenty of cultural activities and my favourite in this area – soaking in the many natural hot water springs 🙂

Linked to #WeeklyPostcard hosted by Travel Notes and Beyond,  Our World Tuesday One Word Photo Challenge: Hot#Weekendwanderlust #wkendtravelinspiration and Wednesday WanderlustWanderlust-Hong-Kong-300x300Weekend-Travel-Inspiration



Our World Tuesday

You Might Also Like

  • beckymarkovitz says: May 20, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    I can’t believe you were able to fit that into 2 days! We spent 2 whole weeks on the north island! There’s just so much to see!

    • samselim says: May 20, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      we are travelling nz for a year 🙂 and I can totally see us doing north and south island the whole year, so much to enjoy here! these two days were just packed in for my sister and family as they won’t be coming back to nz again. It was more of a taster enjoyment but so worth it 🙂

  • Stephanie Robinson says: May 20, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Hobbiton looks great – even for non-Hobbits 🙂 #ourworldtuesday

  • Mikayla says: May 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Nice post 🙂 You should check out mine about Hobbiton!

    • samselim says: May 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Very nice! Enjoyed reading several of your family new Zealand travel posts 🙂

  • eckids says: May 21, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    This looks like a fun trip. Geysers are so amazing too and I would love to see glow worms.

  • Jennifer Nichole Wells says: May 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    These are so great. It looks like you had a wonderful time seeing all these amazing sites!

  • galanda23 says: May 22, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Oh, how cool is that! My son would have LOVED to see Hobbiton and I would have loved to see the caves. They are absolutely spectacular!

  • The Adventure Ahead says: May 22, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Oh my goodness – we would LOVE to go to Hobbiton! Looks like an amazing adventure!

  • ladyfi says: May 23, 2015 at 5:39 am

    What a wonderful place!

  • Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields says: May 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed Wai-o-tapu. We loved it when we were there. We didn’t get to the glow worm caves but you make them sound so great I’m putting them on the agenda for our next visit.

    • samselim says: May 24, 2015 at 9:47 am

      The glow worm caves were lovely! I would do the combined tour if had more time. The other cave tours are a bit more adventurous, you can even do black water rafting in one of them!

  • Constance - Foreign Sanctuary says: May 24, 2015 at 2:56 am

    I am loving all your NZ posts! The geyser looks like such an awesome experience and I would totally love to roam around Hobbiton and check out those little colorful structures!!

    • samselim says: May 24, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Thanks Constance 🙂 We are loving it here! We are headed back to this region for some more thermal springs and geysers next week as Ashique and the kids haven’t been yet. Hobbiton was really nice too!

  • Upasna | Life On My Plate says: May 24, 2015 at 4:25 am

    Looks like you a had a great action-packed couple of days! I would love to visit Hobbiton some day 🙂

  • Vlad says: May 24, 2015 at 8:41 am

    I would absolutely love to visit New Zealand, it’s such a diverse and fascinating country! Now I’ll go check how much the plane tickets are, haha.

    • samselim says: May 24, 2015 at 9:45 am

      I hope you do get a chance to visit Vlad! It’s absolutely stunning 🙂 Try come in the summer nov-feb, even nicer then!

  • David Stock says: May 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    For us Hobbiton was a huge disappointment. What we did not like is being herded around like cows or sheep. You have to stick with your group and there’s a next group pushing up right behind. It’s a magical place but not when people are pushing from behind to get in front of you when they are not even in your group. Overall we loved New Zealand and we will be back!

    • samselim says: May 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      I hear you David…I felt the same way at times..but luckily because we went on a weekday and not during any holidays, there were not many other tours and we didn’t feel rushed to move to the next location. Having said that, I am not keen on such herded tours either and would much prefer to exlore Hobbitown at our own pace, but you can imagine how much effort it would take to keep people from not trampling onto parts they are not supposed to or touch the ‘set props’ I found the price too expensive as well. But it is such a pretty magical place none the less! I am glad you enjoyed other parts of New Zealand 🙂

  • Jessica van Dop (@DiningTraveler) says: May 24, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Loving your New Zealand posts! It’s been one of my dream destinations for a long time. This must be an amazing experience for your kids. My inner child is jealous!

    • samselim says: May 24, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      I hope you get a chance to visit Jessica, it really is such a beautiful country!

  • contentedtraveller says: May 24, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Loved reading about Hobbiton, a place that I haven’t been to. Great photos of a busy time.

  • cvail says: May 25, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Samiya, I have wanted to go all of this, the exact same things, for years now. I never have even been to the North Island….I’ve gotta go!
    Thanks for linking up with us at #wkendtravelinspiration!

  • Rhonda Albom says: May 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Busy two days. Glad you are enjoying New Zealand. I have a young teen that really wants to go to Hobbiton, but I just can’t see spending that much money when I live here. Funny, I would probably do it if I were a tourist.

    • samselim says: May 26, 2015 at 4:06 am

      That’s really funny Rhonda because we said the same thing – we would not have gone if we didn’t have guests/tourists (my sister and family) who really wanted to go! But both my kids want to go as they didnt get to this time but we told them have to wait for next round of visitors! it is too expensive..and haven’t found any discounts anywhere either!

  • malaysianmeanders says: May 26, 2015 at 4:57 am

    That Glow Worm cave is something I truly want to see. I didn’t realize that Hobbiton and that geothermal wonderland were relatively close to it. I’ve never watched any of the LOTR movies, so I’m not sure if I’d be willing to pay that much to see the shire. Too bad because it looks like such a scenic and cute place, even if it weren’t related to the movies. I’d love to see Bubbling Mud, but my boy’s ultra-sensitive nose may have a different opinion.

  • The Vagabond Baker says: June 2, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I loved all of these places when I was in NZ in 2008/9, although Hobbiton was a little grown-over after LOTR had finished, there were no doors or pretty flowers, it was very much a bare shell.
    We did the Black Water Rafting in the Glow Worm Caves and it was the absolute highlight of my whole time in NZ! Incredible!

  • Malinda (@MBPaperPackages) says: June 4, 2015 at 10:37 am

    NZ is a pretty amazing place to explore. I went caving in Waitomo and loved it!
    Thanks for joining in #WednesdayWanderlust

  • Sianna says: August 2, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Ah, this would be a dream come true! The first photo is stunning!

  • %d bloggers like this: