New Zealand is well-known as a beautiful and scenic place to visit, spread over two main islands, and there are some really unusual vacation destinations to be experienced and enjoyed. Outside of the major cities, along with huge animals, Hobbits and glowworms, some odd and definitely different experiences are to be had.
One of the best ways to tour this fascinating land is by campervan. These vehicles are ideal for stopping off and visiting fascinating places along the way, without the expense of staying over in expensive hotels. The following is a tour of just some of the attractions in the North Island of New Zealand.
Up in the Waikato region of North Island, just 31 miles from Hamilton, can be found the small town of Tirau. The meaning of the town’s name in Maori is “place of many cabbage trees,” referring to the Cordyline australis trees which are found all over New Zealand.
While the town only has about 800 residents, this popular tourist stopover is host to some really big animals. When driving through the town a huge dog, herding an equally large sheep, (both pictured above) stand guard over the town. These gargantuan creatures are there for a reason, however. Big Dog is the home for the i-SITE Visitor Center (part of New Zealand’s official visitor information network), while Big Sheep is, rather appropriately, the home of a wool and craft shop.
These fascinating buildings were built using discarded corrugated iron back in the 1990s with a local artisan by the name of Steve Clothier designing and building their heads. The dog and sheep are not alone, however, as there is also a very large cow pushing a shopping cart and a praying mantis standing guard. At the church in the town can be seen the enormous form of the Good Shepherd. The town also offers a large toy museum on the outskirts called The Castle, which opened in 2000.
Staying on North Island, another worthwhile visit is the town of Matamata, which is one of the more original and unusual vacation destinations in New Zealand.
The town is well-known as being a thriving farming area involved in the breeding of thoroughbred horses and their training, but it has another, far more popular, claim to fame.
One of the farms in this scenic area is known as Hobbiton. When filming the popular Hobbit movies this farm was used to create a village for the small inhabitants of this fictional world and once filming was over, the government in New Zealand saw the big touristic advantage of leaving the Hobbit holes in place. Visitors can enjoy these tiny and cute homes and are even welcomed to the town with a “Welcome to Hobbiton” sign.
Anyone interested in visiting caves will find the Waitomo Glowworm Cave absolutely fascinating. Situated in Waitomo on North Island the cave forms a part of the Waitomo Caves system and is quite literally lit by glowworms.
This fascinating location was found back in 1887 when an English surveyor by the name of Fred Mace, in the company of a local Maori Chief, Tane Tinorau, got it into his head to explore the caves. There is a stream entering the cave system and the two men accessed it riding on a small raft.
As they navigated their way along, holding candles to light the way, they suddenly noticed star-like glittering lights above their heads. On closer inspection this turned out to be thousands of glowworms, hanging peacefully on the formations above. The men made many return visits to this fascinating place and it was soon opened to tourists as the Waitomo Glowworm Cave.
The caves are fascinating in themselves, as the stalactites, stalagmites and other limestone formations in the cave are beautiful too. The caves can be found one hour away from the town of Hamilton, approximately 2 hours south of the city of Auckland and 2 hours away from Rotorua. Along with the above examples, there are many more unusual vacation destinations to be found in New Zealand, making it a place to visit over and over again.
By Anne Sewell
Big Dog & Big Sheep Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Phillip Capper
Welcome to Hobbiton CC-by-SA Michael Goetter
Hobbiton CC-by-SA Tara Hunt
The Cathedral in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves system – in the public domain.