Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Our first day in Queenstown turned out to be St. Patrick's Day. We celebrated by having a nice dinner at a restaurant called Flame, known for their steaks. We enjoyed eating our wonderful meal and watching all the crazy people out on the lawn near the waterfront. And we also enjoyed the beautiful views. Queenstown is on a lake that is surrounded by mountains, and it is just gorgeous. Our next day in we went in search of Deer Park Heights. Before our trip we watched some of the special features on the extended versions of our Lord of the Rings movies, and Peter Jackson mentioned they did some filming in Queenstown at Deer Park Heights. We figured since we were there we would like to go and see it. However, it turned out to be quite a search (we found out it closed a few years ago because the owner was tired of having people tramp through his property). With our GPS and some divine help we were able to stumble upon it, and ended up hiking half way up the big hill. A couple of the scenes that were filmed there were the Warg battle with the Riders of Rohan and the perfectly clear lake the Rohirrim Refugee were led past in the Two Towers. We didn't make it all the way since we had to turn our rental car in at a certain time. After doing the car return we headed back to town for lunch at Dux de Lux, a restaurant that brews their own beer. Then it was off to the gondola to check out the views from the top of a hill. However, it started raining so the views weren't as great as they could have been. Then for dinner we went to a fabulous pizza place and had a pizza that had lamb and veggies on one side and chicken, brie cheese and cranberries on the other half. Oh yum! Then it was time to leave Queenstown and fly to the North Island. But we ended up having to wait an entire day at the airport since we were flying standby. Thankfully we made it out on the last flight of the day, and it was an amazing view once we were in the sky. The Southern Alps went on and on and on as far as we could see for at least the first 15 minuets of the flight.
Kim enjoying a cider at Flame
Micah's mixed grill feast
The scenery around Queenstown
Hiking up towards Deer Park Heights
Looking up towards Deer Park Heights
The view from the trail up to DPH
Lunch at Dux de Lux
Micah outside the Dux de Lux restaurant, it is in a building from the 1800s built by a stonemason
Our ride up the gondola
Taking in the views at the top of the hill
The view from the plane of the Southern Alps at sunset

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hobbiton (Matamata)

Queenstown was beautiful. Yet another location that Pictures can't do it justice. We will share more about our time here in another post.
So, we made it to the North Island ... only 12 hours late. Fill in those blanks with the complexities of standby travel when an airline has to ground part of its fleet for emergency safety checks for possible cracks in the windshield. Needless to say, we are thankful that we managed to make it as early as we did. But leaving Queenstown was some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen from the air. I wish I could have taken pictures of our ascent out of the valley. We had to leave before sunset due to flight regulations in the area (of which we managed to do with 2 minutes to spare). The Mountains were all around us and the Southern Alps seemed to stretch on forever.
Our late departure meant we couldn't make it to our lodging in Rotorua or even pick up our rental car. So we ended up staying in an Auckland hotel near the airport on short notice. To say that the hotel was low budget would be an understatement. But it was an experience we won't soon forget. Well, on to our North Island adventures. After picking up our Rental car, finding breakfast and a craft store that sells yarn we were on our way to Matamata. Outside of this quaint town, is where they filmed the Shire portions of Lord of the Rings and most recently The Hobbit. Filming for The Hobbit just finished this last November. The wonderful thing about that, is that although all of the hobbit holes were dismantled after the LOTR filming, they were all rebuilt to stay for the Hobbit. The craftsmanship and attention to detail were amazing. It truly was as if we had walked into Middle Earth. Looking back through the pictures we took, I can hardly believe it even now. Everything was so perfect.
Meeting Gollum at the visitor's center
The Hobbit "ghetto" was added for the new Hobbit movies
Micah in front of Sam's house, or should I say Hobbit hole
Bag End (Bilbo's house)
Looking up towards Bag End at the other Hobbit holes
The view of Hobbiton from Bag End
This is where Frodo and Gandalf are riding on the cart into Hobbiton
Looking out over the lake towards the mill and the Green Dragon
Visiting the sheep at the end of the tour

Dunedin, NZ

We spent one night in Dunedin, which is on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand. We stayed at a wonderful B&B called the Grandview. The owners of the B&B had just had their first baby 10 days before we got there. We loved talking to them, and giving them what advice we could. And of course Kim had to get some newborn snuggles in too. We really wish we could have stayed there longer. But we did make the most of our time there. We ate dinner at a brewery, went for a tour of the brewery, went to the Cadbury chocolate factory and bought some goodies to bring home, saw the beautiful train station, and ate lunch at a cute cafe before we headed out for Te Anau and Milford Sound.
The Grandview B&B
Speight's Brewery
Breakfast at our B&B overlooking the city of Dunedin
Packing up to leave
The Dunedin Train Depot
Outside the brewery
Tasting the different beers at the end of the tour