New Zealand – 3 Unique Locations To Explore
New Zealand is spread over two islands and offers several unusual attractions, including a Hobbit village, a buried Māori village, and the steepest street in the world.
Nestling in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is an island country, spreading over two main landmasses – North Island and South Island. It is also surrounded by around 600 smaller islands. The sparsely populated country has some great cities, but in between are sprawling and beautiful national parks, great beaches, and world-class surfing. On top of this, winter sees a great skiing experience in the mountains of New Zealand. Meanwhile, throughout the country, there is plenty to learn about the fascinating Māori culture.
For those who like something out of the ordinary, New Zealand also has a number of unique and unusual attractions to explore. Here we visit the home of the Hobbits, a buried Māori village and the second steepest street in the world.
Please note: You may not be able to travel to New Zealand right now, due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the number of infections has been relatively small as compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand’s government wants to keep it that way! Before making plans to visit New Zealand, check out your country’s travel advisory website to find out the latest status.
1. Hobbiton, Matamata
Fans of “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit” films should not miss this one. What was once an unassuming sheep farm was transformed for Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the famous Tolkien book series. While it was built as a film set, the owners of the sheep farm decided to keep the attraction, which was a stand-in for the fictional town of Shire. Of course, Hobbiton is also perfectly located in New Zealand, which is considered to be the unofficial real-life location of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was shot here in 1999. Ten years later, the site was rebuilt as a set for “The Hobbit” trilogy of films. This time, the buildings were crafted from more permanent materials, meaning they will stand the test of time.
For those who want to walk in the footsteps of Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, and Bilbo Baggins, this charming site is a wonder to visit. Even though the sheep farm is still in operation, visitors are allowed to tour the area used for the film set. Unfortunately, most of the Hobbit holes are fenced off, meaning visitors can’t enter them. However, they did set one aside for people to explore. On an official tour, guides keep visitors informed about the film action that occurred at each location, including Bag End and the famous Green Dragon, an old-world pub that is still open for business.
Tours depart from three sites – Matamata i-SITE, Rotorua, and The Shire’s Rest. The tours end with a complimentary cider in The Green Dragon. Visit the official website to find out more.
2. Te Wairoa Buried Village, Lake Tarawera
Heading now to another village in New Zealand, but this time it is the real deal. The village of Te Wairoa was first established in 1848 by Christian missionaries. However, in June 1889, Mount Tarawera erupted. Known as the largest volcanic eruption in New Zealand, 100 people were killed when the village was covered in boiling mud. Sixty years later, the Smith family purchased the land and started excavating. They ended up uncovering the remains and artifacts of the lost village, which can be seen today. Visitors to the 12-acre site can view the excavated village, including a reconstructed pioneer-era cottage, various other sites, and a museum. The meeting house of the village, known as the Hinemihi, miraculously survived the volcanic eruption, and many people sheltered under its roof. However, the meeting house was purchased in 1891 and transported to England where it stands in Clandon Park in Surrey.
3. Baldwin Street, Dunedin – The World’s Steepest Street
Most people would think Lombard Street in San Francisco – the set for Steve McQueen’s famous car chase in the film “Bullitt” – is the steepest. However, Baldwin Street makes that one look like a gentle slope. At a glance, it might look like the homes are sliding down the hill, but they are, in fact, perfectly level.
The reason for the incredibly steep street is that the city of Dunedin was planned by urban designers in London, who created an orderly grid system placed on top of the map, with no idea of the actual topography. This meant that a number of streets in the city were placed on very steep grades. However, Baldwin Street takes the cake as the steepest of them all.
The street has held a Guinness World Record for many years. However, in July 2019, the village of Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, Wales, snagged the award. The good news is, in April 2020, Baldwin Street was reinstated as the world’s steepest street. A visit to Baldwin Street is definitely worth it if your legs can handle it!
Have fun exploring the more unusual side of New Zealand on your next vacation and take some truly Instagrammable photos along the way.