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Moving from Australia to New Zealand: A Little Reflection Five Months Later

Moving from Australia to New Zealand: A Little Reflection Five Months Later

Holy smokes, I can’t believe it’s been five months since we were packing our bags getting ready to start moving from Australia to New Zealand in search of a new adventure!

Moving from Australia to New Zealand has been a complete whirlwind. Somehow moving to a country just a three-hour plane ride away (we left from Brisbane in case those of you from Perth are reading and screwing your nose up at that one) is so very different. 

The last five months have kind of gone by in a blur. I want to be honest with you, it’s taken us a lot longer to get settled here in New Zealand and to think that we’re halfway through this current visa is crackers. So I decided to reflect on our last five months. The good, the bad and the windy!

On Finding Somewhere to Live in New Zealand 

The biggest struggle here in New Zealand has been finding somewhere to live! Last year in Australia we moved to 5 different houses pretty easily. We would give ourselves around 10-14 days in an Air BnB and have somewhere snapped up soon before our time was up. 

Either it just isn’t as easy in New Zealand or this girl is a lot fussier than she thinks! I think it’s possibly a mixture of both but a lot of the latter! 

If you’ve following my blog for a while then you’ll know I’ve been hustling hard at this travel blogging business. In fact, in just one short year I’ve managed to grow an Instagram community of over 3000 and somehow Alicia Overseas is gaining over 4,000 page views every month.

Not so long ago I was dreaming of travelling non-stop full time. Can you think of a better way to live? Turns out I can. 

When we first arrived in New Zealand we spent our first 4 months jumping from hostel to hostel spare room to spare room and it drained me. Emotionally, physically I couldn’t have felt more disconnected to everything that I love from travelling. 

The past 2 weeks in New Zealand have been the best so far. Dave and I are finally in a lovely house-share with a gorgeous little room. It might sound materialistic but it has honestly done wonders to my mood and relationships. 

Here’s what I’ve realised: 

  • Nothing beats being able to cook in a real kitchen 
  • Having a window that floods the room with light is life 
  • I love nothing more than sitting down with my book, a cuppa and candle burning at night 
  • Having an actual desk to work on at home is now non-negotiable  
  • Decor matters – sorry but it really does. 
  • How lucky we are to have a place to call home that we can make our little sanctuary. 

So even though it took longer than I would’ve liked to have been settled in a permanent home for the rest of our time in New Zealand, it has made me so much more grateful for it now.

On Finding a Job in New Zealand 

Luckily this was a whole lot smoother than finding somewhere to live! Dave snapped up work the first week we got to Wellington! Luckily the hospitality scene is big here and they are always needing extra staff, especially those with experience! 

For me, it was pretty easy too! New Zealand like the rest of the world is crying out for nurses and just as we arrived in Wellington a job advert in my area of nursing expertise was put out. 

Coincidence or fate? I’m not sure but it was perfect. I was lucky enough to secure the position and found myself working a few weeks after Dave. From securing a nursing position to being on the floor can take a little time as you imagine there are thousands of checks that need to be done! So this meant I got an extra month off to enjoy being in Wellington which was wonderful. 

Nursing in New Zealand is similar to Australia and the UK, of course with some cultural and practical differences but very similar which makes me happy. 

I’ve also gone back onto a permanent rostered system instead of choosing my shifts as I did in Australia. I must say I have some strong feelings about which I’ll go into a whole other post. I could talk about nursing shifts and roasters and pros and cons until the cows come home! 

All in all, finding a job gets a big thumbs up from us! It makes even more grateful that I can take nursing all over the world with me! 

On Travelling the North Island 

New Zealand is breathtaking. 

There are no other words to describe it. It’s the quietest country I’ve ever stepped foot in and in the countryside I can sense how clean the air is. 

You don’t have to be far out of the cities to be surrounded by mountainous views and lush green fields. We’ve seen the whole of the North Island so far and have just got the South Island to explore. As I’m writing this we actually go on our first trip to the South Island in 2 weeks time. I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country and I honestly don’t think we’ve seen anything yet! 

My favourite destinations on the North Island of New Zealand 

We still need to see Mount Taranaki and I can’t wait to spend a few days hiking around Egmont National Park!

Moving from Australia to New Zealand – On Feeling Homesick 

To my surprise, I’ve felt so much more homesick since moving from Australia to New Zealand. I can’t decide if its because we’ve not been home in over a year and I’m craving some time with my family and girlfriends or if it’s because New Zealand is so similar to the UK. 

If I’m honest since my mum left Australia the homesickness didn’t really leave (hi mum, please don’t start crying, I love you)! 

Homesickness is hard and completely normal whilst travelling the world. But as much as I love my home (which I’m only just realising now by the way) the experience of travel is certainly worth being away for a little while. I’ve adopted a few ways of dealing it. I’ve also had my fair share of tantrums and have been certain that I was booking the next plane home! 

But, one way I deal with it is by embracing this new country I’m in and making plenty of time to catch up with friends and family. I actually love these tips from Mollie over at Where’s Mollie too!

Time differences suck but it’s easy to keep in touch if you really make the effort. 

On the Weather 

After living in Brisbane and Sydney we arrived in New Zealand in the middle of winter and boy was it a shock!

Being from Northern England we are used to the cold but just one year Australia has turned us into complete wimps! 

I’ve only just taken off my woolly hat five months later (it made for a great accessory). I have no idea if we’ll ever be warm again after living in Australia but we did have our first beach day in New Zealand where I braved my swimsuit at 20 degrees! I’m sure when we one day get back to the UK we’ll be ramping up a huge heating bill even in the summer months but I’m it won’t take long for our bodies to re-acclimatise!

On Earthquakes 

About three months into our New Zealand adventure I experienced my first ever earthquake. 

It only lasted about 5 seconds but it isn’t an experience I’m likely to forget. I’m sure most New Zealanders probably slept through it and would be rolling their eyes reading this but coming from somewhere with zero natural disasters (although as I write this in November 2019 our home town of Sheffield is currently experiencing torrential flooding) it was so scary. 

We were living in the hostel at the time and the bed was wheels and it shook! Dave was on his way back from work and I honestly had no idea what was going on! Luckily it was fine and stopped but holy moly I had no idea how common earthquakes are in New Zealand! I certainly didn’t do enough research where that’s concerned. 

A tip for those looking to spend some time in New Zealand, research all about the earthquakes so you know the processes to follow should you ever need to. 

All in All…

So, moving from Australia to New Zealand has certainly been an epic adventure so far. Filled with highs and lows, all the ingredients to make a wonderful adventure. 

New Zealand is definitely the definition of ‘Middle Earth’ it’s so far away from anywhere else in the world but boy is it beautiful. If you’re thinking about travelling to New Zealand then I couldn’t recommend it more at this point and we haven’t even locked eyes on the South Island yet which is supposed to be even more beautiful! 

If you have any questions about New Zealand, moving here or about life here then let me know but here are a few facts about the country we’ve discovered so far: 

  • Earthquakes happen every day 
  • It’s normal not to see anyone else in the countryside all-day 
  • Wellington is the windiest place on earth (not statically true but I’m rolling with it) 
  • New Zealand has a teeny tiny population of just 5 million! 
  • The worlds first commercial bungee jump was launched in Queenstown 
  • Half the population own a car – literally! It’s hard to navigate without one!
  • Rugby is HUGE. 

We’ve got plenty more of this country to enjoy and I’m excited to experience more of it! Here’s to our next set of adventures down South! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia 

How to Spend One Day in Wellington and See Everything!

How to Spend One Day in Wellington and See Everything!

New Zealand is famous for its mountainous landscape, aqua blue lakes and endless awe-inspiring hikes. What New Zealand isn’t famous for is its cities. Of course, we’ve all heard of Wellington and Christchurch but that’s not really why we visit New Zealand. That said it doesn’t mean that the cities aren’t worth checking out and just one day in Wellington is plenty of time to enjoy most of what this city has to offer. If you can spare 48 hours for Wellington in your north island itinerary then even better!

After living in Wellington for some time we’ve got to know this quirky little capital and some even describe it as the ‘San Francisco’ of New Zealand. Having indulged myself in San Francisco on a few occasions I’m sure I quite agree but it’s certainly has a chic urban character to it, so I get where the association has been made. Exploring this city is fun and involves a lot of food, coffee and picture-perfect harbour views. I could happily give you a one-week itinerary for Wellington but for now, let’s dig into how you should spend just one day in Wellington. 

How to Spend One Day in Wellington 

Most travellers glide through Wellington on their way south. The ferries that connect the north island to the south depart from Wellington, so some come for an afternoon beforehand and some literally just drive through. I recommend coming to Wellington at least the day before heading south, it is the capital city after-all. 

Arrive in Wellington Early Morning 

Freedom Campers – Park Up in Evans Bay Marina 

In this post, I’m going to assume that you have a campervan, like the majority of travellers in New Zealand, and no that’s not a presumption it’s a fact. Arrive in Wellington early morning that way you get to really make the most of the one day you have in this city. There’s are a couple of places you can freedom in Wellington but since this itinerary is covering just one day in Wellington, I recommend Evans Bay Marina. Evans Bay Marina is a great freedom camping spot to camp for the night with clean water and pretty clean toilets. The only downside is that it gets busy really quickly. If you arrive after 2 pm then you’ve probably missed your chance at getting a spot. 

Head straight to the campsite when you arrive and helpfully some early risers have already left to catch the ferry south. Park up at. Evans Bay Marina and expect to enjoy the rest of the day on feet if you’re able to. If not there are buses that frequently run from Evans Bay Marina into the city.  The bus stop is literally just across the street. 

Mount Victoria 

First thing on the list is Mount Victoria lookout. Mount Victoria lookout boats some of the best views of the harbour and city in Wellington. I say some of because my favourite has to be Mount Kaukau but it would be a real challenge trying to fit that hike in with only one day in Wellington. Mount Victoria looks over the harbour is just idyllic especially on a clear day. 

Leave Evans Bay Marina and walk through the village of Hataitai until you reach a small strip of shops. There’s a zebra crossing (black and white pedestrian crossing for anyone whose not familiar with that term) cross over to the left-hand side of the road and walk towards the public toilets. Here you’ll find the track that leads to Mount Victoria. 

The hike up to the lookout is steep in parts and will take around 30-40 minutes depending on how fast you walk/in my case, how many times I stop for photographs. Be sure to keep looking back because the view over Evans Bay is wonderful. Keep following the track until you start seeing the purple pillars in the ground which then direct you via ‘lookout walkway’ or just follow the crowd. See walking directions from Evans Bay to Mount Victoria below!

Once you’re on the viewing platform any sweat will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views. The panoramic views of the city below are wonderful. In the distance, you can usually see the Tararua Mountain Range. There are two viewpoints from Mount Victoria so be sure to visit both and both offer a different perspective of the city.  This is a pretty touristy area of Wellington but 100% worth a visit. 

If you’re unable to walk then you can drive right to the top and park the car. There’s also a bus that runs from the city and Hataitai. From Hataitai its bus number 2 towards Karori and the city it’s bus number 2 towards Seatourn Park. My best advice when it comes to getting around Wellington is to use Google Maps – its the easiest way to see which direction to walk and which buses you need to catch and where from! Unless you’re still handing with a paper map – which I am not! 

Tip – Mount Victoria is gorgeous at both sunset and sunrise so it’s up to you whether you go in the morning or evening. Either way, just make sure you climb it!

Walk Down the Other Side into the city via Oriental Bay 

After getting a fix of fantastic views from Mount Victoria head into the City. Take the southern walkway from the top and follow it back down to Oriental Bay. Oriental Bay is where you’ll find a gorgeous, one of the most popular summer spots in Wellington. On a day when the sun shines bright, the ocean glistening aqua blue and it’s simply gorgeous. I recommend spending little time taking in the beachfront if the weather is on your side! 

oriental bay the perfect place for a walk during one day in Wellington
Oriental Bay Beach

Brunch at Coene’s 

After all that walking you’re probably hungry so why not pop into Coene’s bar and eatery for some brunch! It opens at 11 am and serves up one of the best brunches you’ll get in the city. It’s not just me who thinks so either – The trips advisors of the world also voted Coene’s the best breakfast/brunch spot in Wellingtons. But it’s not the only great spot. 

Some other places for a great brunch are Victoria Street Cafe, they do 241 pancakes on a Monday and Tuesday! The Hangar on Dixon Street is also a great option serving up the best coffee in town! If you’ve followed Alicia Overseas here and on Instagram then you’ll know I’m not really a coffee drinker but at The Hangar, I will drink a coffee because it’s just gorgeous – so creamy! 

Te Papa Museum 

After enjoying a brunch I highly recommend visiting Te Papa Museum. Te Papa is the national history museum of New Zealand and you can learn so much about New Zealand history. Go back in time to when Moas roamed the land here in New Zealand in the wildlife exhibit or revel in war history. The war exhibition is well worth going to as well. This exhibition tells the story of New Zealand’s battles in the first world war and has some pretty impressive lifelike models that fill the whole room! Check out the official website before going to see what other exhibitions are taking place during your visit to Wellington. 

Te Papa Museum is completely free to enter but you do have to pay for some of the temporary exhibitions on occasions. You’ll find everything you need like toilets and water inside. You could seriously walk around Te Papa Museum all day so scheduling a short amount of time during a short one day in Wellington will be tricky but just be disciplined with your time!

Walk Along the Harbour Front 

Once you’ve spent some time in Te Papa its time to explore the Wellington waterfront. Walk around the harbour taking it all in. You’ll find old abandoned ships, the Solace in the Wind Statue, a love-lock bridge and plenty of culture along the waterfront. It’s a favourite with locals and visitors alike. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants along the waterfront to pop into as well. 

One Day in Wellington – Afternoon

Visit the Parliament Buildings 

Once reaching the end of the waterfront cross over the road at the New Zealand gallery and follow the signs for Parliament houses. The houses of Parliament in Wellington is architectural brilliance and definitely worth swinging by even if you’re not really bothered about politics. The Beehive is my favourite building in the city. It’s unique and full of life. If politics is your thing then you can take a tour inside for free. 

Wellington Cable Car and Botanical Gardens 

After visiting the Parliament  Buildings walk down Lambton Quay which takes through the heart of the shopping district in Wellington. As you walk down the busiest street in Wellington remember to look up to see some gorgeous buildings. The Old Bank where you’ll now find shops and coffee is wonderful. 

wellington in winter
The view from the top of the Cable Car!

Walk until you get to Cable Car lane where you can catch the cable car up to the Botanical Gardens for some more epic views of the city and gorgeous gardens. I’ll admit that the cable car is a little pricey at $9 return but it’s a great way to get up to Botanical Gardens quickly otherwise it’s going o take about 30 minutes to walk from the city. If you have time then that’s great but probably unlikely with just one day in Wellington. 

The Botanical Gardens are huge so have a look at the. Maps and enjoy whichever section you like the sound of best before getting the cable car back down to the city. 

Visit Cuba Street

Cuba Street is where it’s all going on in the city. Imagine a street lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, shops Cuba Street is where it all goes on. You can simply take a walk down the street taking it all in or hop in and out of a few bars/cafes on your way. There are some great bookshops on Cuba Street one of my favourites being Pegasus Books as well as the iconic water fountain to enjoy just try not to get drenched as you walk past! After enjoying Cuba Street it’s probably going to be late afternoon, almost evening.

Evening in Wellington 

There’s plenty to do on an evening in Wellington but mainly it consists of eating and drinking. Wellington is known for the foodie scene and people spend most weekends making their way around the newest eatery or checking out the beer in some of the breweries. Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink in Wellington: 

  • Pizza from Tommy Millions on Courtnay Place $5 a slice! 
  • KC Cafe – Chinese on Courtnay Place, doesn’t look much from the outside but the food is to die for! 
  • Sweet Mama’s – American food that’s extra tasty! –  Courtnay Place
  • Apache – Vietnamese and Paris rolled into one! Located on Wakefield Street.
  • Lulu’s for great cocktails and a more upmarket meal – Courtnay Place 
  • The Library –  another great spot for cocktails on Courtnay Place
  • ABV – Rooftop bar!
  • Dirty Little Secret – another rooftop bar on Dixon Street. 
  • MACS Brewery on the harbour front – more a relaxed laid back vibe! 

And there you have it! A one day in Wellington itinerary that gives you a chance to explore most of what this city has to offer. Of course, if you have the time there are plenty more places to explore inside and just outside of Wellington. There are so many suburbs worth visiting so if you can like I said before try and get at least 2 days in the capital city! 

I hope that you enjoyed this post and if you did I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! Have you been to Wellington before? Let me know how you found the capital city of New Zealand in the comments below! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia! 

Things to Do at Castlepoint in New Zealand

Things to Do at Castlepoint in New Zealand

When I first arrived in Wellington it’s safe to say it felt slightly anti-climatic. I’d just lived in the vibrant city of Sydney for six months and Wellington certainly felt like everything Sydney wasn’t. I also noted the sudden pang of homesicknesses. As I continually observed Wellington I soon realised it wasn’t that I wanted to go home at all. It was that Wellington reminded me of my home city Sheffield, a LOT! Over time I’ve come to believe that it isn’t just the city that makes Wellington a wonderful place to live, it’s everything around it. I’ve come to love taking day trips from Wellington to some beautiful destinations like Castlepoint. Castlepoint is a locally treasured spot on the east coast of the North Island and is truly awe-inspiring. Home to a working Lighthouse and stunning rugged coastline, here are some of the wonderful things to do at Castlepoint! 

the view of Castlepoint lighthouse from the viewing platform
Gorgeous views of this impressive landscape from the top of the viewpoint!

Where is Castlepoint?

Located on the edge of the Wairarapa coast Castlepoint is a much-loved spot in New Zealand. I’m yet to meet a Kiwi who hasn’t recommended that I check this place out. So as part of our bid to explore as much of New Zealand as possible during our Working Holiday Visa one gorgeous Thursday afternoon, we jumped in the car and headed for the coast! Before we went to Castlepoint I didn’t particularly know what there was to do in the area except visit the lighthouse but there is so much to explore around this gorgeous landscape. 

If you’re road-tripping the North Island then you have to squeeze Castlepoint into your itinerary along with all of these spots too! But if you’re based in Wellington then a trip to Castlepoint makes for the perfect day out. From Wellington the drive is so easy, you’re literally following State Highway 2 from the city all the way to Masterton. From there it’s only another hour until you reach this perfect seaside town. I’ve left a driving map with instructions on how to get to Castlepoint from Wellington by car. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any public transport linking Castlepoint to Wellington. 

Things to Do at Castlepoint, New Zealand 

Visit the Lighthouse

When you arrive at Castlepoint the first thing that’ll catch your eye is, of course, the lighthouse. It’s definitely the main attraction on this rugged peninsula! Parking is available on the beach right next to lighthouse. As you drive into Castlepoint you’ll see a car park next to the public toilets. You can park here and walk along the beach to the lighthouse or keep driving until you meet the other carpark. Don’t worry about taking a wrong turn because the road comes to an end at the carpark. 

Me at Casltepoint lighthouse
The walk is super easy to get to the top!

Lighthouse Walk

Once you arrive on the beach take the very obvious path that leads you to the lighthouse. This lighthouse walk is super easy and only a 30-minute return. There are some stairs and the track can be exposed to high winds but other than that it’s a gorgeous walk that isn’t too strenuous. The views back over the town of Castlepoint are stunning as is the lighthouse stood before you.

The Castle Point lighthouse first shone its light in 1913 and still beams every night to this day. The light beams for  3 times every 30 seconds and is one of the two-beam lighthouses still functioning in New Zealand today. The lighthouse is fully automated and has been since 1988. I love lighthouses and think they have such a special purpose still to this day! Whilst you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of this lighthouse there is no public access inside. The lighthouse will and should be at the top of your list of things to do at Castlepoint! 

Photograph the Views from the Lighthouse

As well as exploring the lighthouse you’re going to want to take your camera. Castlepoint is every photographer’s dream, I honestly could’ve sat there all day snapping away. The landscape is gorgeous from every angle. The cliff edges have been carved by the ocean over the years creating an irregular rocky coastline – it’s perfect for those leading lines!  As you look back on the lighthouse you’ll also see Castlepoint Rock in the distance making for more great photography and a wonderful hike which I’ll mention further down! 

me and Dave overlooking the view of Castlepoint
Castlepoint is also super quiet in the springtime – it was just us plus a few other tourists!

Watch for Marine Life 

As you reach the Castlepoint Lighthouse you need to keep your eyes peeled. There is so much marine life hanging around nearby. Look out into the ocean and see if you can spot some whales, they get both Humpback and Orcas in this area of New Zealand! You might also be lucky enough to see a pod of Dolphins or some fur seals! 

We saw 10 fur seals during our day trip to Castlepoint! The seals tend to hang out near rocks so as you start the walk up to lighthouse make sure to keep having a look off to the left beside you. There’s a collection of rocks from where the ocean has battered away against the land and that’s where the seals will most likely be hanging out! We watched a little seal head back into the ocean from the beach and it was so beautiful to watch it’s moments like that that remind me how lucky I am to be in such an amazing country! If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll have probably seen the video, make sure you are following along so you don’t miss any more of my travel moments!

Whilst searching for marine life with the naked eye can be fun but if you really want to spot some of those whales then pack a pair of binoculars! 

Walk the Deliverance Cove Track 

The Deliverance Cove Track is one of the best things to do in Castlepoint. The lighthouse may be the star but this walk offers breathtaking views of the lighthouse and beaches that line the coast. This walk is a 1.5-hour return and really easy. As you leave the carpark, follow the track into the forest, through the pine trees and onto a track high above the beach. Follow the weaving footpath through the grassland whilst taking in the views! This walk shows off the lighthouse and beach from a different angle and takes you right up to the foot of Castle Rock!

The views of Deliverance Cove from the track
The views of Deliverance Cove from the track

The walk has 2 route options. You can walk to the bottom of Castle Rock and turn around following the same track back to the carpark. Or follow the track down onto the beach walking along the sand and back to the carpark. There’s then the option to climb Castle Rock even though I personally do not think it’s wise nor do I think it’s necessary. 

Climbing Castle Rock

Castle Rock is that flat looking hill you can see in all the photographs of Castlepoint. It certainly makes up a part of this unique landscape and there is an option to climb it at your own risk! I only recommend it if you have climbing experience. By that, I mean experience with steep climbing and scrabbling. The hill is extremely steep and the footpath that you see leading to the top isn’t maintained by the Department of Conservation. There’s a warning sign at the foot of the rock so if you do carry on it’s at your own risk. 

We personally didn’t climb the rock even as avid rock climbers. New Zealand is windy and I did not fancy being flung off the hill. The track is poor and you can see just by looking that there is really no grip nor is there any kind of ledge. You are fully exposed. I personally don’t think you need to climb Castle Rock because the view is going to be the same as at the foot just slightly more elevated! I thought it was worth a mention because in the distance there looks like there’s a clear path to the top. Whilst there is a track the conditions are poor. 

Stroll on the Beach 

Castlepoint beach has been voted by New Zealanders as one of the top 10 beaches in the country and I can see why. The landscape is incredible and so different at every angle! You’ve got the rocks creating the barrier between land and sea. The lush green hills in the distance and golden sand lined with sand dunes! I can imagine this beach really coming to life in the summertime. We visited Castlepoint in Spring but there was already plenty of fishermen, locals walking on the beach and visitors taking it all in. You can stroll down the beach from the main carpark in Castlepoint. 

Fishing 

No matter what time of year you visit Castlepoint you’ll soon see that fishing is amongst the local’s favourite things to do in Castlepoint. We saw fishermen on every section of the beach trying out their luck in catching their supper! 

Best Time of Year to Visit Castlepoint 

Any time of the year! Honestly, Castlepoint will be beautiful in summer and winter. We visited in Spring and it was perfect. The sun was shining so we made the most of every minute exploring the area. In summer I imagine this spot will get very busy so spring is a great shout if you like to avoid the crowds! The only thing I’d say is to try to get a clear/dry day at least! There isn’t much else to do in Castlepoint except explore the outdoors so if it rains it could turn into a miserable day out! 

Freedom Camping at Castlepoint

What I love about New Zealand is the freedom camping culture. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world that allows freedom camping and there’s a designated spot at Castlepoint for it! Located in the carpark nearest to the lighthouse is the freedom camping carpark. There are toilets but the water isn’t to be drunk unless boiled first! The views onto the beach will be incredible from the back of your van, as will the sunrise at Castlepoint in the morning – I’ve heard that it’s simply spectacular! Of course, like all the freedom camping spots in New Zealand, make sure you leave no trace. There are rubbish bins in the town so use them. We are so lucky to be able to freedom in New Zealand so respect it and look after our beautiful shores. 

I hope that this post has given you a little insight into some of the things you can do at Castlepoint New Zealand. It’s a beautiful day trip from Wellington and a must-see for your North Island itinerary! If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends – I would be so grateful! Where’s your next adventure? Let me know in the comments below! If you want a monthly dose of wanderlust straight into your inbox then subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar!

Happy Travels, 

Alicia 

13 Lessons I Learnt About Myself After Living in a Campervan!

13 Lessons I Learnt About Myself After Living in a Campervan!

When I think back to how I ‘holidayed’ a few years ago I can’t quite believe that now I’d rather pitch up a tent or spend a month in a campervan! I used to be quite the ‘all-inclusive resort’ kind of girl. But since jetting off to Australia I’ve found a love for being in the backcountry and that really began after our first campervan road trip! It’s coming up to a year since we rented our first house on wheels from Camperman Australia so to reminisce I thought I’d put together some of the lessons I learnt about myself after living in a campervan.

During our time in Australia, we hired two campervans both for around six weeks each.  We then hired one when we touched down in New Zealand for a month too! So all in all, though it might not have been consecutive, David and I have lived in a camper for three months. Living in a campervan is such an experience. It’s out with all the materialistic things in life, which we really don’t need, and into the wild.

Literally, your neighbours are likely to become mosquito’s and breakfast is served outside come rain, shine, wind or frost! 

I honestly had no idea how I’d cope with living in a van! I’m a lover of hot showers and nights curled up watching Netflix. I love a full fridge and having my own space to read, create and blog! Put all these things together and throw a campervan into the mix and you get, a tiny bar fridge, a living area, bedroom and toilet all in one and absolutely ZERO personal space! I had no idea whether it was going to be for me! 

Campervan in Australia showing one of the lessons I learnt about myself whilst living in a campervan
Another big lesson I learnt about myself whilst living in a campervan? I’m pretty good at improvising!

If I ask myself when I’ve been the happiest in my entire life, it’s those months in the campervan. 

Falling in Love with Life Outside 

Lucky for me I took to van life like the country girl I am at heart. I bloody well loved it! For the first time in my life, I felt freedom. Waking up in the mornings and feeling the cool air on my skin before doing anything else. Cooking breakfast on the hob and sitting outside with a book and a cup of tea.

Honestly, those campervan mornings were when I learnt the most about myself. It felt like we had all the time in the world probably because we were waking up with the sun. Waking up at 5 am honestly takes your day to a whole new level! Who knew there were so many hours in the day when you aren’t lazing around in bed until noon? 

Dave eating breakfast outside our campervan
A gourmet breakfast outside..

Of course, it isn’t just breakfast that’s ate outside. It’s every single meal, just sitting with Dave outside at the table chatting about the day, our travel plans, our life plans, it slaps a huge smile on my face just thinking about these moments! Our first trip in our campervan was actually the trip that really got me thinking about pursuing this blog as a career. I think it was because as I mentioned earlier I just felt completely free. My creativity was at an all-time high and I would love to be able to take regular campervan trips!  

Some Things I Didn’t Like About Living in a Campervan!

But like everything in life living in a campervan isn’t always plain sailing. I hated going to the toilet in the middle of the night! At age 25 I’m always up in the night and if I somehow manage to hold it in I am literally bursting at the seams come the morning. God help me when I have kids right?

The amount of dirt that gets inside the bed is also pretty gross. No matter how hard we tried bits of the ground, leaves, soil, dirt, bark always found their way inside! Storage space is also a little limited, especially for food! When we return to the UK and hopefully, buy our own campervan, storage space will be a biggie! 

I could honestly write separate posts on the pros and cons of living in a campervan. In fact, I think I’ll add those to the never-ending ‘blog post lists’ to write! But for now, I want to talk about the lessons I’ve learnt about myself whilst living in a campervan. I had some real home truths come to light whilst living in the van and also some real ‘this is me’ moments. That probably makes no sense but just keep reading to find out the lessons I learnt about myself, things I may have never discovered if we hadn’t taken these minimalist van life trips! 

13 Lessons I Learnt About Myself After Living in a Campervan 

I Can Be a Morning Person

Ask anybody close to me and they’ll tell you I’m not a morning person.  My mum still doesn’t speak to me until I’ve had my first cuppa of the day. Back in Sheffield, I used to sleep in until 11 am on my days off work. Even when we first got to Australia I was still enjoying lazing around until 10ish and then wondering why I ‘had no time to blog’. But after living in a campervan and being woken up by the sun every morning, it proved that I could get up early and actually enjoy it. In fact, on our trip getting up and having a brew outside first thing in the morning was my favourite part of the day. 

The Sun is the Best Alarm Clock

Continuing from my previous point, the sun is the best and only alarm clock we should ever need. It’s not natural for our bodies to be startled awake by a painful jingle harrowing into our eardrums. It’s no wonder so many of us feel like getting up after we’ve been brutally disturbed from our beauty sleep by such a noise! Waking up naturally because of the light allowed my body to feel like it had woken itself up and was ready to conquer the day.  

sunset view from the back of the campervan
Sunsets from the van are pretty great too…

I Don’t Need as Much Personal Space as I think!

I love my own space. Until this trip, I was certain that I needed my space to stop myself becoming anxious and a little crazy. Of course, I still love having space and time to myself but I realised on this trip that I wasn’t craving it as much as I thought I would. Maybe it’s because I love my partner dearly and we can happily spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week together. My idea of personal space changed from needing hours by myself to having a cup of tea by myself before Dave got up. Or taking a short walk to the local coffee shop to return with coffee and a pastry. Perhaps it was just because spending so much time outside did wonders for my mental health and I was in a clearer headspace. 

I Can Live Without Netflix 

I’ve always been more of a reader than a television watcher but when I start a series on Netflix I find it so hard to switch off! I’m often late to bed and tired the following day after watching way too many episodes of Gossip Girl! Living in a van forced me to open those books on a night because I didn’t have Netflix as a distraction. 

Mornings Outside Are the Best Way for Me to Start the Day 

Being outside first thing in the morning allowed me to be in such much more relaxed/mindful headspace. I took time to reflect on the past few days, think about the day ahead and other aspects of my life. Spending so much time outside in the early AM prepared me for a much more productive day. I try and adopt these practices whilst not living in a van but I must admit it’s hard with day to day life, living in the city with no outside space. 

One of my favourite sunrises from a freedom camping spot in New Zealand
One of my favourite sunrises from a freedom camping spot in New Zealand

Note to Self: I must try and get out early for morning walks more. 

TMI Alert – I Love David So Much

Prepare for some mega cheese right here! I knew this already but as a couple, I was so interested to see what living in a campervan would be like! There is literally no space to get away from each other and no matter how much you love someone that can be a lot! But for Dave and I, life was no different. We didn’t argue, we didn’t get sick of each other, we agreed on most things. Being so close to one another at all times had no negative impact on our relationship. We’ve always lived in each other’s pockets since we met but being such a tiny space together was something new for us! It just made realise how lucky I am to have met someone and have that kind of relationship!

If you want to test your relationship then van lie could be a great way – if you can live in a van together you can do ANYTHING!

Things Don’t Buy Happiness

Whilst travelling around the world for the last 15 months we haven’t really had all the material things that we had back home but we still bought things we didn’t need. Campervan life is so stripped back and proved to me that I don’t need all that aesthetic and materialistic stuff. Google home? I can live without you. TV? Yep, I can live without you too! I realised that a lot of the time we buy things to distract ourselves from other things going on in our minds and sometimes we just buy shit because we can! Money is so much more valuable when spent on experiences, not things! 

I Could Go Vegetarian 

I’m not a veggie and I’ve never considered it. Not because I can’t live without meat I’d just not ever mindfully thought about it. But if someone asked me I think I’d always say ‘I could never go veggie’ but I definitely could. During our campervan life we hardly ever ate meat. Our meals never consist of much meat, mainly because of our backpacker budget and meat costs a fortune in Australia.  It certainly got me thinking about continuing to reduce how much meat we eat in the future. 

I can be SO Lazy!

Confession time, sometimes I can be a lazy sod! The number of times I was sat in the van holding my bladder because it was cold outside or not showering because it was too far from the van. After a week I started cutting it out because I was. Recognising that I was just being lazy and I  hate lazy people! 

Campervan parked up
Just another campervan shot…

Things I can’t Live Without

Living in a campervan definitely gives you an idea of what you can’t live without in life. Here I’m talking about things rather than people. The things I learnt that I can’t live without whilst living in a van are:

  • Books – I already knew this but it just made it more apparent. I can live without TV but not my books. They help me escape to a fictional reality and just relax.
  • Tea – I’m a typical Brit and I could not live with TEA EVER! 
  • A Dressing Gown – I love being warm and if I could live in my dressing gown I would. I got rid of it before our campervan trip and it’s safe to say I don’t think I’ll be parting with it again! 
  • Pen and Paper – We rely on technology so much these days but when the WIFI is crap and signal non-existent a good old fashioned pad and papers brings such joy. From playing games to writing life lists I’ve always got paper and pens with me wherever I go!
Making a cup of tea in our campervan
Just give us tea and we are happy people!

I Don’t Need a Shower Everyday…

Showering kind of goes out of the window especially when you’re freedom camping in New Zealand! Freedom camping is when you don’t pay for campsites you just camp in public places. It’s great because it saves so money but it can be pretty gross! I think the total days we went without showering was maybe four or five – I’m cringing just writing this out but it’s the truth! 

I’m a lot better in traffic! 

Some, David, may not agree with this but sometimes whilst living and travelling in campervan timing doesn’t work out. Some days you need to stop more, sometimes the traffic is horrendous and there ain’t nothing you can do about it! I’m learning to be a lot more realistic and just embrace it when our plans and schedule go a little off course. 

I CAN drive something bigger than a Fiat 500 

When we took our first road trip in a camper from Cairns to Sydney I was bricking it. As the only driver between us, it was up to me to get us from A to B in a huge home on wheels! Before moving to Australia I owned and drove a Fiat 500, one of the smallest cars around. I adored it,  I could whip into just about any parking space and squeeze down many a cramped side street! But I was terrified about driving this long, tall and narrow-hunk of metal around. Turned out driving is the same in any car its spacial awareness that’s different but so far I’ve driven 3 of these beasts with zero issues. GO ME. 

I can also drive and automatic and now I believe that manual cars no longer need to exist. 

Sharing is Caring

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into the lessons I’ve learnt about myself whilst living in a campervan! Living in a vehicle is a great way to discover what you really want and need from life.  Whenever I’m curating life goals I’m always taken back to our trips on the road. They are my happiest times and I honestly believe it’s got a lot to do with, minimalism, being outside, cooking outside and being forced (due to ropey phone signal) to spend time offline. Don’t get me wrong I know I couldn’t live in a campervan full time but it’s my favourite way to travel for an extended trip. I reckon three months in a campervan right now would be my limit. 

I hope you enjoyed this post, I know it’s a little different from my usual posts but I honestly love writing more about my thoughts and opinions. I’m going to start writing more of these posts on my blog. So please, if you did enjoy this post please let me know by leaving a comment, DM on Instagram, or email! I would also love to know if you didn’t enjoy it too but please be kind! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia 

Mount Kaukau Summit Hike: Wellingtons Highest Visible Point!

Mount Kaukau Summit Hike: Wellingtons Highest Visible Point!

Wellington is surrounded by breathtaking countryside. I think it’s one of the many reasons why I find myself falling for New Zealand more and more each day. The rolling green hills reminds me of the Yorkshire countryside where I grew up. Of course, at the time I didn’t appreciate it anywhere near as much as I would now. Mount Kaukau showcases the best views of Wellington! Okay,  the city might look like a small spec from the summit but the panoramic views of the Wellington Region are sensational! In this post, I’m giving you all the information you need about hiking the Mount Kaukau Summit in Wellington!

Facts about the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike 

  • Elevation: 445 metres above sea level 
  • Distance: Variable but the Khandallah Park Loop via the Northern Walkway is 4.5 kilometres (I’ll go into further details about other trails you can take to Mount Kaukau further down in the post!) 
  • Difficulty: Medium – Moderate hiking experience not essential but beneficial as the hike is uphill the majority of the way. 
  • Advisories: A lot of stairs and inclines. Track not suitable for wheelchair users or strollers. 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables and benches on the summit. No toilets or fresh water on the track. 

Top Tip: Download the Welly Walks App before you go to assist with directions!

The view of Wellington from the Mount Kaukau Summit
The views from the summit..

How Tall is Mount Kaukau? 

The height of Mount Kaukau as a mountain is 1,411 feet so definitely not the biggest that New Zealand has on offer but one of the easiest to climb!

Where is Mount Kaukau?

Technically speaking, Mount Kaukau is in Wellington. But it’s definitely not in the city centre region which is always good to know especially if you only have a short amount of time. Khandallah is a suburb, a very nice and some would even posh, 20 minutes drive out of the city. If I could choose to live somewhere in Wellington if money were no exception it would be here!

Getting to Mount Kaukau on Public Transport 

You can easily reach Khandallah by car, bus or train. To get to Khandallah via train catch the JVL, blue line, from Wellington Station towards Johnsonville. Then the stop you want to get off of at is Box Hill. As you depart the station walk north on Box Hill Road and then turn left across the street to Clark Street. Continue following Clark Street for about 10 minutes, pass the school and playground. Don’t turn off anywhere just keep going straight and you’ll eventually meet the base of Mount Kaukau and entrance to Khandallah Park. The train journey takes only 15 minutes and is super scenic too which always makes up for being on the train!

To catch the bus from Wellington get the number 24 from the station towards Johnsonville. The bus takes a little longer at 41 minutes because it does indeed go around the houses and back! But that said, the houses in this neck of the woods are incredible, yes I’m totally the girl peering into your house trying to get a look at your decor! Depart the bus at the Khandallah shops and walk down Box Hill then left across the road to Clark Street as above. 

Walking from the City 

If you’re feeling wild like I did was when completed this hike then you can always from the city! It is a long walk taking just over 3 hours one way to the Mount Kaukau summit! That said it was perfect weather for it and rather enjoyed myself. I actually did this hike solo on a day when Dave was working and listened to a few podcasts during the boring parts of the walk (along Hutt Road). You can then opt to get there bus number 24 back from Khandallah shops or walk back! I walked back and knocked up over 30,000 steps and earned the whole pizza I stuffed when I got home! 

Hiking to the Mount Kaukau Summit 

There are various ways you can reach the Mount Kaukau Summit. The easiest way to enjoy this hike in a single day is via the Northern Walkway from Khandallah Park. Mount Kaukau is also part of the Skyline Walk in Wellington so you can come from the opposite side too. I’ve split this section into three different parts giving details on each of the trails that all lead to the Mount Kaukau Summit.

  • Trail One – Northern Walkway from Khandallah Park: Clark Street Entrance
  • Two – Northern Walkway Simla Crescent Loop 
  • Trail Three – Skyline Walkway from Johnsonville via The Old Coach Road
Me looking out at view of Wellington from Mount Kaukau
If you do this hike solo don’t forget to take your tripod for those great shots of yourself! Just think about shadows unlike I did here!

Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail One via the Northern Walkway Clark Street

Once you arrive at Khandallah Park, see screenshots of Google Maps and walking directions above. I suggest taking the Northern Walkway to reach the Mount Kaukau Summit. The hike is strenuous as it does require you to climb uphill all the way! But I guess that’s a given when you read the words ‘mount’ and ‘summit hike’ right? So I’m hoping that part isn’t too much of a shock as you read this next section!

The northern walkway track is well marked all the way so its pretty much impossible to get lost. There are also some stairs on some of the track which makes the climb a little easier. Explore the woodland of the park as you climb not forgetting to stop and turn around once you start getting open patches of the sky again! 

Be vigilant if you do tackle this hike on a day that’s wet or if it’s been raining the days prior as it can get muddy. The incline does get very steep in parts as we are going a couple of hundred metres above sea level – this is where the experienced hiker is lucky! But there were plenty of people, of all abilities walking the track on the same day as me. And while I am fit I’m certainly not at my prime level of fitness currently!

One thing I will say is not to forget your water bottle or camel pack! I actually both a reusable water bottle and a camel pack on hiking days. I get out of breath easily on incline hikes and need a lot of water. You can never have too much right?

The Views are Stunning!

The views back of the city are incredible and the ranges that surround Wellington are visible for miles on a clear day! There are signposts every couple of miles to give you pointers when there are forks in the track. You’ll find plenty of resting points on the track so you can stop and catch your breath, which I  did a fair few times but the hike was certainly worth it! 

I honestly can’t say much more about this track as the highlight is reaching the summit! The majority of the northern walkway is covered by trees so until you almost reach the top its all bout just climbing on up!

Reaching the Summit of Mount Kaukau Trail 

As you reach the summit of Mount KauKau prepares to be blown away by the views of Wellington! But not before you’ve climbed over one final stile – the wooden gate like apparatus you climb over in fields, what do you call them where you’re from?! And up one more incline! Once you’re over the stile don’t look back!! Wait until you reach the very top for the epic views! Although it’s so hard I can guarantee you’ll look as soon as you’re over! 

The summit of KauKau gives panoramic views of Wellington. You can see the city in the distance and South Island behind you! If you look carefully over towards the city you can see the Red and White mast which is Mount Victoria in the city. If you’ve climbed to the Mount Victoria Lookout then you probably thought that was high but not once you’re way up on Mt KauKau! 

The views from the summit make the entire hike worthwhile. Once on top make sure you climb up into the decked area where you’ll find a compass point. It shows you which direction other places in New Zealand are and how far away they are.  

The view of wellington from above
Fill Your Soul with Adventures!

Turn your back towards the city for views of the South Island on a clear day. You can see hundreds of wind turbines right in front of you! 

There are plenty of picnic benches on the summit of Mount Kaukau so take lunch and enjoy it with a view! Or go for the sunset and take a cheeky red wine in the bag with some cheese?  – I think that’s exactly what I’ll take next time I hike Mount Kaukau with Dave! 

Accessibility on the Northern Walkway – Who is this trail for?  

This first trail is fairly easy and short. It will take around 1 hour – 1.5 hours to reach the Mount Kaukau depending on how fast you walk. There is a lot of inclines and steep gradients but plenty of places to take a break too. If you’re an experienced hiker or walker then I’m sure you’ll find this short trail from Khandallah park a breeze! If you’re new to backcountry walking or ‘tramping’ as they like to call it here in the Southern Hemisphere then just leave plenty of time, hike slowly, take extra food, water and enjoy! This trail is a good one for those looking to up their fitness through walking or train for some bigger walks like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail Two Simla Crescent Loop

Find a map for this loop here!

This track is very similar to the one above but you can create a loop walk instead of straight up and down. To reach Simla Crescent from Box Hill station depart on Cockayne Road then right onto Khandallah road then right again onto Simla Crescent. You’ll see the entrance for Khandallah reserve which you walk straight through.

Follow the northern walkway to the summit which is the same track I mentioned above. But instead of coming back the way you went up to join onto the skyline walkway which will you loop around offering more epic scenery of the Wellington Harbour before bringing you back down into Khandallah!

Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail Three via The Old Coach Road from Johnsonville OR part of the Skyline Walk

The second option to reach the Mount Kaukau summit is to come from Johnsonville on the Skyline walkway – One of Wellington’s most epic hikes which we are yet to complete end to end! The skyline walkway starts in Johnsonville, a large suburb verging on town in northern Wellington, and stretches to 12 kilometres one way. The skyline walkway isn’t intended to be done in a loop but more of a traverse. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island! I’ll definitely write a more in-depth post on the Skyline Walkway once we’ve completed it! 

The easiest way to get to Johnsonville from Wellington is to either drive which will take around 30 minutes or catch the train. The train you’ll need is the blue line towards Johnsonville getting off at Johnsonville. Train fare one way is $5, September 2019. If you have a car and are just walking this section of the skyline walkway there’s a car park at the entrance to Johnsonville Park.

the other side of Mount Kaukau looking over the south island
The views over the other side!

Once you reach the station depart taking a left and walk down Moorefield road until reaching Broderick Road where you’ll turn right and then just keep following that road. The road then turns into Truscott Avenue where you’ll find the entrance to Johnsonville Park and The Old Coach Road. 

Follow The Old Coach Road for just under 2 kilometres before reaching the Mount Kaukau summit. Again the walk is mainly uphill so it might take a little longer depending on fitness and pace. 

Accessibility – Who is this hiking trail for? 

If you plan on hiking the full skyline walkway then you will need hiking experience and be of good fitness. The weather in Wellington can be very unpredictable and very windy most of the time! The ridges along the skyline walkway are exposed are often subject to high gusts. Make sure you check the weather forecast but setting off! 

However, if you plan to hike to Mount Kaukau from Johnsonville only then it’s a little like the trail above. You don’t need to be able to hike mountains but some experience is advantageous. If you don’t have much experience then just take it slow and take plenty of breaks keeping well hydrated at all time! A camel pack was especially helpful to me when we first started hiking as I could just swing it on my back and not have to think about constantly getting my water bottle in and out of my bag – which let’s face it can be a pain in the ass!

The Descent Down Mount Kaukau 

Luckily, no matter which trail you take the descent is far easier than the ascent wahoooo! Enjoy a slow pace back down Mount Kaukau still taking in the gorgeous scenery. Hiking back down the mountains took me about 20-25 minutes!

Best Time of Day to Enjoy the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike

It doesn’t matter too much what time of day you do the hike. It depends on how much of a photograph wiz you are! I planned this hike so I’d be on the summit of Kaukau around an hour before sunset to take some killer shots! The sun will set behind Wellington so the sun drops behind you which is great for that golden hour sky! If you really want to take it up a level then arrive for and watch the sunset over the wind turbines. 

I didn’t stay until sunset because I want to save that for when Dave and I hike to the summit together! But I did notice that as I walked down the mountain there were a lot more people going up which makes me think it’s probably a very busy time on the peak at sunset – just something to bear in mind if you don’t want lots of others in your shots or just around! 

Best Time of Year to Enjoy Mount Kaukau

Again, because this is a safe hike that’s open all year round you really can visit whenever. In New Zealand, the winters are windy and can be rainy whereas the summers get as hot as 28 degrees some days. So, it depends on which season you prefer! It was spring when I hiked Mount Kaukau which I think was a brilliant time to do so because it wasn’t too hot but the sun catching my face and back was beautiful! 

One recommendation I do have is if you have the luxury of time then plan ahead for when the forecast looks clear! The views stretch for miles and miles from the summit on a clear day and you do not want to miss these views! 

The view over Johnsonville from Mount Kaukau
Sick of these views yet???

A Few Final FAQ’s/Thoughts

Are Dogs Allowed on the Tracks? Yes, you can take your dog but they must remain on the lead/leash. 

How Long in Total for the Hike? I recommend setting at least a whole afternoon aside. Hell, a full day if you’ve got time! But if not you can definitely park at one of the entrance points I mentioned and be up and back down again in a couple of hours if time really isn’t on your side! 

Be Careful of the Temperature: Wellington is known for its blustery winds and whilst the sun is up it keeps a great job of keeping Wellington warm! But once the sun goes down the hills start to get very cold very quickly! So, if you do decide to hike Mount Kaukau at sunset then make sure you take plenty of extra layers to keep the cold out! 

My Hiking Essentials 

Now even though hiking is different in every country there are a few things I just don’t go camping without! Now luckily in New Zealand, I don’t have to be so crazy with the snake bandages like in Australia – honestly, it’s so nice to be able to hike and not watch my step every 3 seconds – only for mud, not animals looking kill you compared to Australia! 

For me, a good pair of hiking shoes, hiking socks, a first aid kit, reusable water bottle/camel pack, my canon 1500D, GoPro Hero 5 and first aid kit are all I need! Below I’ve linked these goodies so you can take a closer look! 

Sharing is Caring

I hope you enjoyed this post on the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike in Wellington New Zealand it really is worth checking out if you’re ever in Wellington! I find that Wellington gets overlooked with travellers as a lot as they use the city as a ‘means’ to reach the South Island but there are a lot of outdoor adventures to have in Wellington! If you did enjoy it then I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! 

If you’re looking for more hikes to enjoy in the North Island of New Zealand then take a look at my guide to Cathedral Cove and The Paekakariki Escarpment Track, also in Wellington!

Happy Travels, 

Alicia 

Is the Hobbiton Entrance Fee Worth It?

Is the Hobbiton Entrance Fee Worth It?

Photograph of the Hobbit Holes at Hobbiton
The rolling hills made the perfect scene for the Hobbit holes don’t you think?

As we arrived in New Zealand one of the places to visit that found its way to the top of Dave’s bucket list was the Hobbiton Movie Set. We started our adventure in New Zealand by travelling the North Island and seeing all there between the two main cities, Auckland and Wellington. As a die-hard Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fan, there was no way he was letting us miss it. I, however, don’t share the ‘die-hard fan’ title so when I saw the Hobbiton entrance fee to see the Hobbiton movie set I was a little spectacle.

As a budget traveller, it was certainly above our daily budget per person let alone for two tickets. But of course, there was no way I wasn’t letting Dave visit the movie set so we sucked up and spent the big bucks. So was the Hobbiton entrance fee worth it? I’ll be revealing all in this post as well as some of the photography from the day. 

The Hobbiton Entrance Fee: Ticket Price 

Let’s not beat around the bush here and get straight into the nitty-gritty here. The tickets to tour the Hobbiton Movie Set aren’t cheap. As one of the biggest tourist attractions on the North Island of New Zealand, you expect to pay. But as a budget traveller with tight daily costs to stick to it can be tricky to decide what’s worth the hard-earned and what’s not. So how much do the tickets actually cost to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set? It depends on the tick you buy. There are a variety of tickets available some including extras, VIP tours, private tours, it’s all available. But the cost for a standard tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set will set you back $84 per person/42 Great British Pounds. 

You can see why as someone who isn’t crazy about LOTR why I was a little hesitant. 

What’s included in the standard Hobbiton Movie Set tour? 

I personally expect a great day out when I’m paying $84 per person which for us as a couple was even more. And I have a few pros and cons when it came to what was included in the movie set tour. For this ticket price the tour looks like this: 

  • 2 Hour Guided Tour or the Hobbiton Movie Set 
  • Coach to and from The Shires Rest (the location from where the tour departs)
  • One alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage in The Green Dragon Inn 
  • Photograph opportunities throughout the tour 

First of all, I won’t make you read the whole thing. In a word, the tour was brilliant! Yes, the cost was steep but it was definitely worth it. Of course, there were some things that I thought could be improved due to the cost but I can totally see why they run it how they do. The two things that I thought were a little underwhelming was the two-hour time limit and the short amount of time given to drink up in the Inn. I also think that there should be a little exploration time to take extra photographs on the way around. More on that as I go into details of how the tour works below. 

Do You Need a Guide for the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Yes. There is no other way to see the movie set than by guided tour. Which I know can be annoying but after visiting I can see why. It would probably get ruined if people were allowed free roam and it is built on someone’s farmland too!

How the Tour Works after paying the Hobbiton Entrance Fee 

Driving to the Set

As you arrive at The Shires Rest you need to exchange your online ticket for a physical one in the ticket office so be sure to arrive with plenty of time before your tour departure time. Once it’s time for your allocated tour you’ll drive through the hills via coach for about 10 minutes. As you drive enjoy the scenery of the misty mountains and rolling hills that line the horizon. It’s instantly obvious why they chose this area of New Zealand for the Hobbiton Movie Set.

As well as enjoying the view make sure you pay attention to the film playing to the coach. Listen as Sir Peter Jacksons explains exactly how and why this location was chosen by the location scouts. You’ll also be introduced to Russell Alexander the owner of the farm where ‘the shire’ came to life. The short film is super interesting and you’ll learn a lot about the making, and destroying, of the Hobbiton movie set. 

The Walking Tour

Once you arrive at the Hobbiton Movie Set the coach departs and the rest of the tour is done on foot. You have two hours in total from when the coach sets off so I think we spent around 1 hour 5 hours in the outdoor set. Though this was plenty of time to see everything on the Hobbiton set I would’ve liked more time. I think that’s got a lot to do with taking photographs. The Shire has been built was beautifully and oozes with creativity and fantasy. It’s a land where make-believe comes to life and I could’ve spent all day taking it in and photographing it all. 1.5 hours may be perfectly fine for others not too bothered about spending 10 minted trying to create the perfect scene through their lens, sorry not sorry. 

Wander Past the Different Hobbit Holes..

The tour guide will guide you up and down through the hills and past the different Hobbit holes. Any questions about the making of the films will be answered by your tour guide as these guys are definitely mega fans! They know everything there is to know about the films and the creation that it Hobbiton. There are a few rules when exploring the set like staying with your tour at all times, not speeding ahead into other tour groups, not hogging the hobbit holes to take 100 photographs and not stepping on the grass. And these guys mean business. If you’re caught on that grass you will be told! This is completely understandable as the preservation of the set is key to keeping ‘the shire’ looking as it has done for all these years following the film releases.

Drinking in The Green Dragon Inn

One of the best things about the tour was enjoying the beverage inside The Green Dragon Inn! It feels just as magical inside as it looks outside. Roaring fires and thick oak furniture it’s delightful. The beer available inside the inn is brewed especially for Hobbiton and nowhere else which is pretty cool. But 10 minutes isn’t enough time. I would’ve like to have had longer to enjoy the inn and savour my beverage. As would I have enjoyed having some more time to explore around the outside of the inn and take a few final photos. That said as you can see I managed to get plenty of photographs anyway! 

Inside the Green Dragon Inn
The roaring fire inside The Green Dragon Inn

As you depart the Hobbiton Movie Set hop back on the coach and it’ll escort you back to The Shires Rest. Make sure you leave time to take a look in the gift shop afterwards! 

Overall I 100% recommend the tour of the movie set. If you’re a LOTR lover then you’re bound to enjoy it no matter what the cost. I’ll admit I left the tour feeling like I needed to properly sit and rewatch the films. I was that idiotic person who put their hand up when the tour guy asked ‘is there anyone willing to admit they haven’t seen the films?’. 

Other Tickets Available 

For those mega fans in question, you can choose from other variations of the tour as well. The Hobbiton entrance fee will be more but the experience more in-depth. I’ve given an outline of other types of tours that you can take below or you can take a look at the official Hobbiton Movie Set website here.

  • Standard Hobbiton Movie Set Tour: $84 per person 
  • Standard Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from Matamata with transfer: $84 per person 
  • Evening Banquet Tour – Dine in The Green Dragon Inn: $195 per person 
  • Tour and Lunch Combo: $120 

Visit the official website for more pricing as they are subject to change. Children under 8 years old go free and 8-16 years get a discounted entry.

The Hobbiton Movie Set a photograph of how the set looks on arrival
Gorgeous isn’t it?

Interesting Facts about LOTR and the Movie Sets

Alongside being visually pleasing our visit to Hobbiton was educational too. I learnt a lot about the area, the making of the films, set, cast, it was very eye-opening and amazing to see just how much work and detail goes into the preserving the movie sets. I’ve listed my favourite facts that I learnt on the day about LOTR and the set below:

  • The Alexander farm was chosen as the movie set because of the lake on the farm. Their neighbour was in the running but lost out because of that damn lake! 
  • The first movie set that was created for LOTR was totally demolished after filming. It was after rebuilding the second that Russel Alexander wanted to keep the set as it was for tours. 
  • The tree that sits on top of Bilbo Baggings house is completely FAKE. 
  • The tree was created by artists and a week before filming was due to begin Sir Peter Jackson decided he didn’t like the tree and asked the team to rebuild it! Safe to say he wasn’t in their good books. 
  • At the end of the Return of the King when Sam returns home it’s his real daughter that comes running out of the Hobbit hole and Sean Astin had no idea! He’s been away for over a year and it was a total surprise come film day – so a real moment was captured! 
  • The extras at Bilbo’s party were all locals from the town of Matamata, not actors. 
  • The whole panoramic view of The Shire only features in the first film for a whole 8 seconds. 

It’s insane how much work goes into creating a movie set. Though I knew that already it was captivating to see it all in real life. I don’t call myself a huge movie buff so visiting movie sets isn’t something I do often on my travels but I couldn’t have enjoyed this one more! 

Where is the Hobbiton Movie Set? 

Onto the more boring but practicalities of visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set where is it? Located on the North Island of New Zealand just outside of a town called Matamata. There are a few different options when getting to the movie set but the easiest is to drive. There are various tour companies that run tours from nearby cities like Auckland and Rotorua. For more information on day trips to Hobbiton Movie Set then take a look at this website. There’s also the option to get a transfer from the Matamata visitor centre to start of the tour. This is a great option if you don’t have the option of your own transport and are staying locally in the town. There is no public transport that goes directly to Hobbiton only organised bus tours. 

Parking at the Hobbiton Movie set

If you do have a vehicle then you can park for free at The Shires Rest. They have park suit all kinds of vehicles from buses, campers and cars. The movie set is about 20 minutes drive from the actual town along country roads so there was no traffic when we arrived for the 10 am tour. That said if you have an earlier tour booked to make sure to plan ahead for traffic in rush hour. 

Camping Near the Hobbiton Movie Set 

New Zealand is a great country to hire a campervan. It’s freedom camping friendly which will save you a lot of money! Check out my post on the best freedom campsites on the North Island here. But in terms of camping near Hobbiton, we actually didn’t find many freedom camping spots so we stayed at Brocks Place.

Sunrise from Brocks campsite
Sunrise from Brocks campsite – worth getting up for!

Brocks Place is a family-run farm who rent out a patch in their garden to campers. It’s $8 per person/4 Great British Pounds with an extra charge of $2 per person/1 GBP for a hot shower. The site offers non-powered sites only but it’s a wonderful spot for the night. With picture-perfect views of the misty mountains and rolling hills, it’s a hidden gem when it comes to camping near Hobbiton. The sunrise is worth getting up for too! Located a 5-minute drive from Hobbiton it’s perfect for those earlier tours. 

Accommodation in Matamata 

For those not camping there are plenty of accommodation choices in the town of Matamata. There is one backpacker’s hostel in the town originally named ‘Matamata Backpackers’ which has great reviews on booking.com. Closely followed by Denchys B&B and Matamata Central Motel. Prices are varied starting at $59 for the backpackers based on two people sharing and up to $166 for the motel. There are accommodation options for every budget in the town. In summer I would look at pre-booking both the tour and accommodation in Matamata. We visited the Hobbiton Movie Set in Winter and it was still packed out. 

Click here to go straight through to some accommodation in Matamata!

Sharing is Caring!

Even with the steep Hobbiton entrance fee, this day out is totally worth out. It may only be a few hours but it was still worth every penny. The movie set is so popular and tours are often booked out every single day all year round so they have to limit the amount of time for the tour. I hope you enjoyed this post and even if you’re not a mega LOTR fan you’ll still have a great time, I did! If you did enjoy this post I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! 

Safe Travels, I hope you manage to visit this cute little haven of magic despite the steep Hobbiton entrance fee!

Alicia