We made a quick decision in late January to escape the 35 degrees plus heat of the Queensland summer, seeking the advice of our travel agent Joanne Harding-Smith of Maverick Travel located in Samford. We have been utilising Joanne’s pro-active skills for a few years & her extensive knowledge of cruises & overseas tours. She soon had an amazing offer for us from one of the major cruise lines for a suite on the Noordam, cruising from Auckland to Sydney via the eastern, southern and south-western coastlines of New Zealand. This sounded ideal. Ultimately, we were not disappointed as the weather was delightfully cool during our 20 days’ “escape”.
We flew to Auckland on 11th February & spent 3 very pleasant days in NZ’s largest city with 1.5 million residents, despite the huge amount of construction in that city.
Before departing Auckland, we really enjoyed a 35 minutes’ ferry cruise across one of Auckland’s two major harbours to Waiheke island.
While Auckland has always been a very expensive city for real estate (akin to Vancouver), we found the hotels and food quite expensive also. However, we could not resist the beautiful possum and Merino wool combination jumpers and coats that they produce. Possums are such a pest for farmers (and no doubt others) in NZ that there is a bounty on their heads!
It was one of those extraordinary coincidences that we were back on the Noordam so soon after cruising on her to Alaska from Vancouver only last June. So, we felt at home once on board after a very ordinary embarkation experience at the hands of the Kiwis manning the cruise terminal.
We spent most of the day on an excursion to Hobbiton, located inland in the Mata Mata region of the Waikato district, south-west of Tauranga & mid-way between it and Cambridge. 12 acres of stunning scenery on the Alexander family’s sheep farm was chosen for the setting of “the Shire” by the NZ film director, Peter Jackson in his films, Lord of the Rings & the Hobbit trilogy. A guide escorted us around the little Hobbit holes, the Mill and finally into the famous Green Dragon Inn. There are numerous little Hobbit holes (homes) set into the hillside with some tiny gates and fences, tiny front doors and windows and garden furniture. The site has become a huge drawcard for tourists. Clearly the Alexander family were very smart to write into the contract their ultimate entitlement to all the film set assets built into their farmland following filming. Thousands visited the day we were there.