When in New Zealand Do as the Kiwis Do


Kia Ora! It has been nearly a month since I’ve touched down in New Zealand and man, has time flown. Though it is fall here, Auckland is quite warm and the land is absolutely gorgeous. Rolling hills, lush green, and not-so-active volcanoes. It’s no wonder The Land of the Long White Cloud is high on most travelers’ bucket lists.

My stay began with one of the most vital stops for a true Kiwi experience: down to Matamata to visit Hobbiton. I’ll be the first to admit I have never seen a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit film. In fact, I’ve only ever read the first Hobbit book. Even for those that tour Hobbiton with no prior knowledge of the films—and our tour guide admitted that more than half of all visitors fell into that group—it was still a fantastic experience. We toured the set and learned all about Sir Peter Jackson and the lengths he went to make even the shortest of scenes absolutely perfect. It felt like a true fairytale come to life.

hobbit hole hobbiton matamata
A hobbit hole at Hobbiton in Matamata

We journeyed on to Rotorua for a day of geothermal exploration. In the morning, I gathered with two other interns for a small hike through a small forestry area leading to Lake Rotorua. The entire area smelled sulphuric, but even I didn’t mind getting used to that smell after I saw the area’s gorgeous natural beauty.

foggy view rotorua lakeside hike
A snapshot of the gorgeous view from our Rotorua lakeside hike

We spent our afternoon at the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. Our tour guides were equipped with tons of knowledge about the science and the Māori culture behind the breathtaking sights. We saw tons of craters, mud baths, hot springs, and an active volcano. Our tour guides talked us through the history of the landmarks, showing us rock layers that held evidence to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that happened over 15,000 years ago. What I consider the most fascinating was the Champagne Pool, a fizzing body of water that was bright green and orange. It got its name from the way it fizzed, similar to the bubbly wine.

champagne pool at wai-o-tapu geothermal wonderland
The Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland
foggy mud pools at wai-o-tapu geothermal wonderland
A stunning view from the foggy mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland

As an intern with a busy week, taking advantage of weekends is key. On my first weekend here, I explored the glory of the Auckland Domain, which led to the large Auckland War Memorial Museum. For those history buffs, it was a great place to read up on New Zealand history. For those less interested, don’t let the name fool you. There were tons of art, science, and political exhibits. I even enjoyed a volcanic eruption simulator. Afterwards, I enjoyed an hour of losing myself in the Domain’s large walking trails.

Polaroid self-portrait taken in the Auckland Domain

Overall, my trip has been life-changing. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful and unique places, and I’m anxious to see even more of it.

Abigail Ferris is a student at The College of Saint Rose. She is an ISA Featured Photo Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA Internships in Auckland, New Zealand.

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