Don and Christine, our Airbnb hosts in Auckland, suggested that we have a look at the west coast of the peninsula the way back south to Auckland from Paihia. Primarily so that we could see Waipoua Forest, one of the best kauri forests in New Zealand.
Kauri are a type of ancient conifer tree that are only really found in the southern hemisphere. The North Auckland Peninsula used to be a large subtropical rainforest full of kauri trees, but now only small areas remain.
A short walk from the road that winds its way through the forest is T?ne Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, the largest kauri tree in New Zealand. The forest is like none that exist in Europe; tree ferns seem to be the main form of vegetation, giving the forest a tropical feel. We also took a slightly longer walk to the Four Sisters, a group of four kauri trees growing together.
We drove back through Auckland, and continued south to Hamilton, where we stayed at an Airbnb on the river.
The next day we drove east towards Tauranga. Stopping off at the Hobbiton Movie Set.
Hobbiton is actually a sheep farm. But was used as Hobbiton for the Lord of the Rings films. The set was temporary, so was removed after filming. The set was rebuilt, permanently this time, for the Hobbit films.
The tour of Hobbiton was very well done, and the gardens of all the hobbit holes were immaculately maintained. It was a rainy and windy day, so I was lucky enough to obtain some plastic oak leaves from the tree above Bilbo's house.
That evening we went to a lake outside Tauranga for a night kayaking trip to see some more glow worms.
We paddled across a lake formed by a hydroelectric dam to the natural canyon that feeds the lake. By the time we reached the canyon the sun had set. Unlike the cave glow worms, canyon glow worms only glow at night. The walls of the canyon we covered in points of blue-green light.
The next morning we walked up Mount Maunganui, the mountain that looks over Tauranga. The climb involved many steps, but it was worth it for the view.
From Tauranga it was a short drive south to Rotorua.