Mary awaiting the bus to Hobbiton

Here’s our first few days in Hobbiton (really the town of Matamata), Rotorua, and Togariro Nat’l Park (which contains “Mount Doom”).

We have arrived in Hobbiton!

The “party tree”

Bag End, without all the dressing.

Looking out from Bag End.

Hobbiton is located on a working sheep farm. Here is a shearing demonstration.

Feeding this little critter made my day.

Rotorua is the epicenter of geothermal activity resulting in hot springs sprouting up in the city and surrounding areas. This shot is in a park downtown.

Many of these shots were taken at a volcanic reserve near Rotorua.

We visited the Maori Cultural Center at Te Puia.

We saw kiwis in a darkened pen where they are set up for breeding. No pix allowed in there. They are very threatened as a species and nocturnal and therefore sensitive to any light. Here I present a stuffed kiwi we spied in the museum.

Te Puia also has a nifty geyser.

Rotorua also features a non-native redwood forest. The trees match California’s in height and girth but are half the age. The theory is that they love the NZ climate.

Even the lakefront has geothermal minerals bubbling up.

We highly recommend the Robertson House B&B in Rotorua, where proprietor John and his pal Loki here make you feel at home.

Breakfast spread

Huka Falls on the way to Togariro

Steak sandwich lunch. New Zealanders put an egg on everything.

Unfortunately, Togariro was fogged in, but we did manage to stay at the ski lodge on “Mount Doom” even though we could not see the top.

The mountain looks like this in winter.



On this leg of the journey we depart Mount Doom and hit up the New Zealand Army Museum on the way to Wellington.

Dude, you got something on your shoe.

On the way to Wellington.

Stopped for lunch. You can get a very cheap lunch in the form of meat pies.

Finally arriving in Wellington we hike to the top of Mt. Victoria where a few of the LOTR scenes were filmed…

…namely the scene where the Nazgul descend upon the Hobbits who hide under the roots of a large tree. MKC demonstrates here.

Sculpture in the square in Wellington created by the good folks at Weta Studios.

The Te Papa Museum is pretty awesome. Part natural history, part cultural, and part art museum, the admission is free.

Yes, that’s the famous Colossal Squid!

Not Giant… Colossal Squid!

More stuffed Kiwi’s!

The City Art Gallery (also free), featuring a show by Yayoi Kusama. No pix inside though.

A flat white and a short black.


Boarding the ferry to South Island.


Mary and I stayed with pals John and araLyn at the Tui Community in Golden Bay. They live in this very cool octagonal house with a cob earth floor.

The airy bathroom (aka “The Toilet” by the kiwis) also doubles as a garden. Modesty be damned!

Our cozy “sleep-out,” another kiwi term for guest accommodations.





Golden Bay

Te Waikoropupu Springs, the cleanest, clearest water I have ever seen in nature,

Mmmmm… lamb chips.

The traditional Pavlova. We never tried it, and I’m okay with that.


Wood Pidgeon

Farewell Spit

It was a tad windy up there above the spit.


Red-billed Gull

Green-lipped Mussels

Go Ball Sacks!


This leg of the journey we head to the coastal town of Kaikoura where we went on a choppy whale-watch ride. Then it was off to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak nestled in the Southern Alps.

Fur seals snooze all along the coast.

We had one of the best seafood dinners at The White Morph in Kaikora.

Off to the Whale Watch. It was choppy conditions but I managed to keep my lunch down.

Pintado (painted) Petrel

One large sperm whale “logging.”


Dusky Dolphins (with weeks old calves)

New Zealand Crayfish (aka spiny lobster). I’ve worked in a lobster company/restaurant in Boston and I have to say, this critter beats Maine Lobster, hands down. I know that’s a kind of blasphemy.

White-faced heron

Then it was off to Mount Cook.

Kiwi’s love a fried egg on everything.

Lake Tekapo‘s Church of the Good Shepherd. The lake has a beautiful aqua color due to the mineral deposits reflecting light.

The weather was not very cooperative viewing Mount Cook so we spent the night at nearby Twizel.

Big stilt sculptures in Twizel plaza.

The next day the skies were clearer and the lupins lead the way.


Road block.


More LOTR location reference, Minus Tirith (minus the CG castle) I believe.

After that, we went to Oamaru to see penguins: Blue Penguins (which are smaller than rabbits!) and Yellow-Eyed Penguins, which are endangered and much more rare. The former are adorable, but it was cool to see a few of the latter, as they are harder to find and you have to wait for a long time to see even one come out of the water. Well worth it, though. Here we are at the Blue Penguin colony during the day. We came back for the night time mass migration home to the colony.

It’s like Hobbiton for penguins.

I see you…

Here’s a Yellow-eyed fellow emerging onto the beach.



This post is the next to last documenting our New Zealand trip. Just north of Dunedin are the Moeraki Boulders which are naturally occurring boulders along the seashore that have been released from the eroding dune wall over time. These boulders are completely spherical with a honeycomb interior that reveals itself with further erosion. In the past, the beach was covered with hundreds of boulders of all sizes but, over time, people carted off the majority of them. What remains are are the largest, and still impressive, examples.

Stopped into Dunedin for lunch…

Wool made from Australian possum, a non-native nuisance species, is now very common in New Zealand.

We also stopped in the the city art gallery in Dunedin which, like most NZ art institutions, is free to the public.

Then it was off to the Catlins, the lowly populated but beautiful southern coast of South Island.

Dressed like this I think I could be mistaken for a fur seal by an actual fur seal.

This fellow (or gal) spotted me and started making tracks in my direction. I did not wait for him/her to arrive but opted to hide in the dunes. Whether the advance was amorous or adversarial, the encounter would not have been pretty.

The next day we headed out for a boat cruise through Milford Sound which is technically a fjord. It was quite rainy and dramatic but that made for extraordinary waterfalls.

A very wet Kea, a sort of mountain parrot.

Back in the town of Te Anau and into dry clothes.

Hey nice fish n’ chips. How about a fried egg on that? Seriously, NZ has an egg fetish.


We finished our trip by visiting Queenstown (South Island’s second largest city, Christchurch being the largest), Glenorchy, and Arrowtown. By the way, special thanks to MKC who took many of these photos. This trip was a celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. It seems like only yesterday!

Mary in front of a statue of the extinct Moa. Imagine encountering one of these big flightless fellows like the Maori did when they arrived on New Zealand soil over 700 years ago.


Gondola above the city…

Scary steep…

Sheep graze below as they do everywhere in NZ.

Queenstown from above.

Hell no!

On the way to Glenorchy.

Isengard location shot.


The End!

11 Responses to “New Zealand”

  1. 1 Anita February 16, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Hey, just looking through your photos of NZ, you’ve got some stunning ones there. Just thought I’d kindly point out that Queenstown is not the largest city in the SI, Christchurch is, Queenstown is just a major tourist town. Hope you enjoyed travelling around our country.

    • 2 John Casey February 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Thanks Anita, I made the correction. As you must know, you have a great country there. We look forward to visiting again and driving down the SI’s west coast during your summer months.

  2. 3 greta June 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    cool! some great pics of our country…
    I never really thought about the egg thing


    love your work

  3. 5 Lauren Margharita July 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Hey John – our mutual friend Meighan sent me the link to your blog since I grew up in NZ (Central Otago, kind of in the Queenstown area) although currently live in Boston.

    – I love how you go from Hobbit ville or whatever (new since I left) to sheep shearing. LOTR really put NZ on the map but wool (plus dairy and more) has always been one of our main exports
    – the egg on food thing is funny! must be a new trend I think…
    – what did you think of the meat pies? I grew up eating them (mostly just plain mince aka ground beef here)
    – Twizel?? Sorry you had to visit that shit hole 🙂
    – Impressed that you visited Glenorchy; 2 friends from high school came from there, beautiful
    – love the pic of the tea cozy! part of NZ will always be very British
    – looks like the only places you missed were the West Coast and Northland, perhaps Napier…

    Thanks for taking such gorgeous shots of my homeland!

    Lauren M.

    • 6 John Casey July 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      Hey Lauren,

      Hobbiton was ministered by the sheep farmer on whose land the set was built. So the sheep shearing was part of the tour. I was impressed with the speed of the sheerer and the docile nature of the sheep. She seemed to be saying “Here we go again.” The lambs made my day. I’m a total sucker for baby animals.

      I was amazed at the number of venison farms we came across. I’ve only seen maybe two in the States and at least half a dozen in NZ.

      Most Kiwis expressed confusion and suspicion when I brought up the egg on top issue. Maybe it’s a new food movement that was just sprouting up.

      I only had a couple of meat pies but they were a very good simple lunch option. Such a good deal too.

      Twizel was our only cheap option near Mt. Cook. I’d like to stay in that fancy alpine lodge near the mountain some day when I strike it rich.

      We hap to skip some of the country as you mentioned. We figured the weather on the west coast would be too rainy in early spring to appreciate the landscape. It’s on the must list to our next visit.

      I’m glad you appreciate the post. We really liked NZ a lot and I was hoping to convey it’s beauty.


  4. 7 Lauren Margharita July 21, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Ok, 2 more things:

    – that ham and chicken sausage thing that you’re not sure is meat is the American equivalent of bologna – you may know this! Crap food in any country but a staple in kids sandwiches here and there!
    – Pavlova really is wonderful, you should try it. It’s not that hard to make actually, it’s basically a big, gooey meringue. Yum!

  5. 9 steph January 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I’m desperately homesick completing a phd in the UK and these photos have been a right royal blessing. I have been to nearly all of these places – thank you so much. What fantastic photos you take. You ought to look up our Maori birdnames though. Wood pigeon – kereru – sounds much prettier for example. I miss our birds, their songs the dawn and evening choruses, the bush, mountains, sea, lakes – I’ve never not lived by the sea until I came to Nottingham. There are no horizons here – just a flat fuzz. I miss the layers upon layers of hills dropping back into mountains and the sea horizon in the other direction. I used to live in a place similar to your friends around the Tui Community… alternative living sort of thing, but always spitting distances from the seashore. Morning swim…

    That thing in a packet isn’t pavlova. You make it at home in an oven. It’s white. It’s crispy on the bottom, caramelly in the middle and whispy meringuey on top. Whipped cream, fresh strawberries and kiwifruit – sometimes with chocolate chips sprinkled over as well. That stuff is commercial meringue pretending to be pavlova. And no Kiwis do NOT put an egg on everything! Excuse me for being a little rude – but that’s complete RUBBISH!! Wherever did you go? Quite apart from the fact we probably have a higher percentage of vegans than many other places in the world. I don’t eat eggs. I don’t know anyone who sticks an egg on chips … that’s what the Brits do. One of your eggs was poached not fried and I’ve never been to a place that stuck an egg on top unceremoniously like that. Except an authentic Chinese restaurant – an omelette looking a bit scrambled on top of vege chop suey. I gently peeled it off.

    • 10 steph January 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Actually with the pav – its almost biscuity on the bottom, and the caramelly bit is chewy but honestly it’s nothing like a meringue. You have to cook in very low heat for ages for it to come out right. As for the blinking cheeky ‘meat’ photo – that’s dog tucker mate! I’ve saved this link so I can gaze at these occasionally. I wanted to be back this summer but my cat, who I’ve brought to the UK twice now, has to have a rabies vaccination to get back into New Zealand, and we have to wait 6 months now. Delilah and I will be back in July and we’ll probably end up living in a housetruck similar to the old one with a bike above – by the sea with a vegie garden. 😉

  6. 11 Hyrra M. August 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Ca lumea poze ! Taman pe taman ! Am mai vazut o parte de lume !

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