Papamoa and Mount Maunganui:- As you leave the Port of Tauranga you will drive along shore of Pilot Bay, past an extinct rhyolite volcano called Mauao and then stop to admire the spectacular beaches of Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Here you will also learn a little about the volcanoes and forces that have created New Zealand. New Zealand is not called ‘the Shaky Isle’ for nothing.
- The first inhabitants:- As you drive to Rotorua you will hear stories about the early Polynesians, where they came from and how they got here. It is quite a story. How did these people, with no metals and no written language, manage to navigate across the biggest ocean in the World, even getting to South America and settling islands as far apart as New Zealand and Hawaii? Some of their ancestors even got to Madagascar! You will also learn more about their unique culture, how the arrival of the Europeans changed them for ever and created the modern vibrant country of New Zealand, which is a blend of Pacific Polynesia and modern Western culture.
Huge forests:- On your drive inland to the Rotorua you will see how the rich agriculture of the coastal area gives way to forestry. Timber is a major export of New Zealand and logs are shipped from the Port of Tauranga to China and other markets.
- Rain forest walk:- Before the arrival of Europeans, over 90% of New Zealand was over covered by rain forest (today that figure is nearer 30%). The short walk to the Kaituna River and the Okere Falls is probably your only opportunity while you are here in New Zealand, to actually see, hear, smell and even taste, some genuine native New Zealand forest. Many of our plants are ‘endemic’, meaning they only occur naturally here in New Zealand (though you may recognise some from your local garden centre) You will also hear about the unique ecology of this country prior to arrival of ‘man’, a country that had no land mammals, only birds, why this was so, and how the arrival of Maori and then Europeans changed a land which had been isolated for 80 million years.
- Te Puia:- Te Puia sits on the edge of the Whakarewarewa (its full name is Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao) thermal valley which follows the line of a ‘rift’ allowing boiling water, geysers and bubbling mud to come to the surface. This is also the home of Pohutu, New Zealand’s and the Sothern Hemisphere’s largest and most spectacular geyser. Did you know that geysers can only be found in five countries in the whole world?
- Maori culture, arts, crafts and kiwi birds:- As you stroll around the grounds of Te Puia, you will also get the chance to see a traditional Maori war canoe or ‘waka taua’, a reconstruction of a fortified pre-European Maori village which sits on an original ‘pa’ site (a ‘pa’ was a fortified village or settlement), a school which teaches traditional Maori carving and see our country’s iconic Kiwi birds.
- Lunch:- Te Puia also has an excellent café with a wide range of foods, wines and beer and superb coffee. Alternatively, depending on times, you may have lunch at the ‘Shires Rest’.
- Hobbiton:- The drive to Hobbiton takes an hour through rolling countryside, over a volcanic plateau and through native forest. Hobbiton itself is hidden from the road, situated on a working sheep farm (apparently though there were around 40,000 sheep at the time of filming, Peter Jackson felt they were ‘too modern’ and imported the movie star sheep from England just for the film).
- Hobbiton Tour:- This is the highlight for most people, two hours wandering around the movie set on foot, with a local guide explaining, for example, just how Peter Jackson made Hobbits look so small, and Gandalf so tall. See The Dell, Bag End and enjoy an ale at the Green Dragon.
- Back to the ship:- Is over the very hills portrayed as the Misty Mountains, the backdrop to Hobbiton and one of the reasons the location was chosen for the movies. The hills are actually the Kaimais, a mountain range formed millions of years ago by volcanic action. Weather permitting, there is an amazing lookout near the top where you can see for miles and on a good day, you can even see Mount Doom in the distance.
After a great day out we will guarantee you are back at the port in plenty of time to board your ship, taking with you lots of wonderful memories and photos, of your tour with us.
‘Ka kite anō’ and have a safe journey.