Every time I think I’ve seen all of the best waterfalls in the North Island of New Zealand, I find another magical one that I must visit. Bridal Veil Falls was one of my more recent finds. Being just outside of Raglan and close to Matamata, I was able to conjure up the perfect day trip – a visit to Bridal Veil Falls, lunch in Raglan, and then on to Hobbiton for the afternoon.

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

Bridal Veil Falls

We woke up early (ish) on a Saturday, grabbed a coffee from Auckland, and hightailed it straight to Bridal Veil Falls. Good thing we brought snacks, because the 2 hour estimated drive time turned into a nearly three hour drive. We may have taken a wrong turn.

When we arrived at the falls, we had no idea what to expect. I’d just seen photos of it on Instagram and knew I had to visit. I didn’t bring hiking shoes or anything of the sort. Luckily, when we got there, the sign from the carpark estimated a ten minute walk to the falls.

After a trek down the wilderness path, we arrived at the top of Bridal Veil Falls. What a sight! This waterfall is 180 feet high (or 55 meters) and is seriously stunning. There are four viewing platforms to admire this one from, and they are all so incredible, I couldn’t choose a favorite.

At the beginning, you’ll be able to see the waterfall from the very top. It’s hard to see the magnitude of it, but it’s a cool and weird viewpoint.

Bridal Veil Falls, Waikato, New Zealand

Next, you’ll go down a bit and see the falls from the side. Here, you get to see the falls in their entirety, and it’s a bit more impressive.

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

To get to the third viewing platform, you’ll need to walk down a few steps. It isn’t far, and it’s much easier going down than up.

Bridal Veil Falls

The third viewpoint is a little bit further, about half way down the falls. It offers a great viewpoint because you can get the whole fall in one incredible shot.

Take the stairs a bit further, and you’ll come to the bottom, which is the fourth viewpoint.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

I attempted my first ever long exposure shot (a style of photography where the water looks smooth). I still have some work to do, but it was an exciting moment.

Bridal Veil Falls exceeded my expectations. Photos don’t do it justice! I highly encourage a visit in real life to these falls.

New Zealand is full of insanely beautiful waterfalls – Bridal Veil Falls is just one of them!

 

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This weekend, Michael and I decided that it was finally time for a trip to Hobbiton. One of the most visited tourist attractions in the whole country, Hobbiton, New Zealand is the filming location for the little Hobbit village in Lord of the Rings. I was ready to see all of the little hobbit homes, and planning to find the cutest one to live out the rest of my days.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand

We booked a tour for 4:50 PM on a Saturday. I figured this would be a good time for lighting, plus it was one of the few time slots still available when we booked the day before. We decided to make a day of it. Waking up early, we got a coffee and hit the road, heading first to Bridal Veil Falls. After admiring the falls, we had a quick lunch in Raglan, then booked it to Hobbiton.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

We arrived right before our tour time. It is absolutely necessary to book a tour if you want to see Hobbiton, and most tours sell out a few days in advance. If you’re particular about time, try to book more than one day in advance. Tickets will set you back $80 each.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

We drove up to The Shire, checked in, and hopped on a bus to head to Hobbiton. The bus ride was educational; we were shown a film which explained how the land was found and how it was chosen to be part of the movie series.

After disembarking, we were led through the winding paths filled with hobbit holes by our guide, Kimberly. She told us some fun facts (did you know you’d have to be 5’4″ or shorter to be cast as a hobbit?!) and gave us plenty of time to get all the photos we wanted.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Michael and I found our dream home, complete with a round blue door and a flower garden.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: The Green Dragon

After one hour and too many photos, Kimberley gently steered us toward my new favorite pub: the Green Dragon. Pre-tour, I had no idea that we would get to enjoy an alcoholic beverage during the next two hours. Dreams came true on this sunny Saturday in Hobbiton, New Zealand.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

We ordered up two brews and found a sturdy table.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

The folks taking care of Hobbiton also brew the beer on site. They have a selection of four brews on tap. I went with the amber ale.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Can you tell I liked it??

Even though it was a warm sunny day, the fireplace was burning, and the Irish music was blaring. The little pub was bustling, the tables were filled, and there was laughter in the air. Sorry Disneyland, I think I’ve found the new happiest place on Earth.

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

As my time in New Zealand is coming to an end, I’m planning the last of my weekend trips around the country. Hobbiton had been on my New Zealand bucket list for a while, and I couldn’t be happier that I finally made it there.

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On the bucket list of things you MUST DO in New Zealand, is of course wine tasting in Hawkes Bay! About five hours South of Auckland, this trip can be done in a weekend if you’re short on time. This is all you need to know about wine tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

I did some research beforehand and knew which wineries I most wanted to visit. Being from Sonoma County, California, and having worked in the wine industry for 3+ years, I knew what I was looking for in terms of a winery. I wanted to visit a few stunning properties, and a couple tiny, family-run wineries. We found the perfect mix of both.

Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay : Black Barn Vineyards

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

The first winery we stopped at was Black Barn Vineyards. I was attracted to the gorgeous architecture, many award-winning wines, and I was also loving that they served food. We stopped in and had a quick tasting, where we were served by a knowledgeable staff member who even hand-picked us a fig from their tree outside to pair with the Sauvignon Blanc.

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

After our tasting, we felt like we needed to see more of the property. It was just so beautiful! We skipped through the restaurant to the outside patio, where we ordered rose and fries and soaked up the sun surrounded by vineyards. If it wasn’t such a warm day, I would’ve been all over the beanbag chairs – how cute are they??

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay : Te Mata Estate

After a good chill session and a lot of tramping through vineyards, we chose our next destination – Te Mata Estate.  This one was chosen primarily on recommendation and location. It’s the oldest winery in New Zealand, and it’s right across the street from Black Barn! We headed over.

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

After driving over their super-cute bridge, we were surprised to find a little office-looking building to be the tasting room. It wasn’t busy (we were only the second car in the parking lot!) so we headed in. The tastings were marked at $7.50 each, waived with a purchase. We had a quick tasting and bought a bottle of Merlot/Cab blend, which was our favorite.

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay

Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay : Akarangi Wines

We decided to head somewhere next that we could get some good, personalized service. Somewhere small and family owned. We came across Akarangi Winery on Google and drove down the street to the tasting room. Wine tasting in Hawkes Bay has been on my bucket list for a long time, and I was so excited to find a winery where we could sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with a winemaker!

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Akarangi Winery is a tiny little tasting room in an old church. When we pulled up, no one was in, so we just gave a shout out. The old man that emerged was the owner of the winery, and has been making wines for years and years. We had a long conversation with him over the course of our tasting, where he taught us about the wines he was producing. It was exactly what we were looking for, and ended up being our favorite winery of the day.

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

The wines at Akarangi were our favorite. The vibe of the winery is so relaxed and calm, exactly what a winery should be. No pretentious vibes here!

Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay : Craggy Range Winery

For our last stop, we chose Craggy Range Winery. A gorgeous property and tasting room, Craggy Range is filled to the brim with delicious wines. We tried a variety, my favorite being their Pinot Gris (I’m a sucker for a crisp white!).

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

We had a great tasting at Craggy Range, as the wines were fantastic. The staff was pretty busy, but we entertained ourselves by trying to pick out the flavours in each wine.

By the end of the day, we were happy, content little tourists, ready for a big italian feast in Napier and a cozy bed in rural Hawkes Bay. We’d had a successful day and couldn’t have asked for more!

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On a lazy, sunny weekend in Auckland, Michael and I decided that we wanted to get out of the city and explore a bit. I am really into chasing waterfalls around New Zealand, so we had to find a one we hadn’t been to. Enter: the perfect day trip from Auckland, Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls.

Piha Beach & KiteKite Falls: The Perfect Day Trip from Auckland

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls: The Perfect Day Trip from Auckland

We packed a lunch and drove the 45 mins to the falls first. Spoiler alert: it’s super hard to find the falls on Google maps. Especially since you’ll lose service when you get close. If you search for KiteKite Falls car park, instead of just KiteKite Falls, you’ll get proper directions. This way you can park your car and take the path to the falls.

We did a short 30 minute hike to the falls, and then settled in on the side of a hill. There isn’t much room to sit for a relaxing picnic at the bottom of the falls, but the view makes it worth it. Keep your eyes peeled in the water for eels!

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

After a couple hours of chatting and eating, we continued the hike up to the top of the falls. Holy moly! The top of the falls is so much more friendly for those looking to stay a while. There is room to sit, a swimming hole that you can jump into, and amazing views. It’s not the easiest hike to get to the top, but it’s short and a good workout.

After the falls, we headed to Piha beach to watch the sunset. I am so happy that we did this – it was the best sunset I’ve seen in New Zealand so far!

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach & KiteKite Falls: The Perfect Day Trip from Auckland

Piha Beach & KiteKite Falls: The Perfect Day Trip from Auckland

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

Piha Beach and KiteKite Falls

This is just one of so many great day trips from Auckland. For more posts on New Zealand, see the following:

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Known for the best snorkeling in New Zealand, Goat Island Marine Reserve is just a short drive North of Auckland, and the perfect destination for a day trip.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

Goat Island Marine Reserve

If you’re traveling through New Zealand and looking for something to do near Auckland, consider packing your swimmers and heading to Goat Island Marine Reserve for a day. There are tons of day trips you can take from Auckland, and if the weather is right, Goat Island is a fabulous choice.

Goat Island Marine Reserve is a little cove filled with all kinds of fish. There are no goats on the island. But, there are loads of booths renting out snorkel gear, and plenty of room on the beach.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

Bring a picnic, because as is the case with most beaches in New Zealand, there are no restaurants around.

Goat Island Marine Reserve is the perfect place to spend a day in the sun and the water. Rent snorkel gear from the storage container at the edge of the beach for $15 (mask and flippers). Throw in a pool noodle for an extra $5 if you’re worried about swimming. Pro tip: the rental company at Goat Island is less expensive than the ones on the way. Don’t bother trying to find them cheaper while heading there.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

Flop into the ocean on a clear day, and you’ll be able to see the coral below, swarming with multiple varieties of fish.

Bring your camera, because it’s beautiful! There’s a little waterfall at the far end of the beach that most people don’t see. The little island is a great spot to spread a towel and bathe in the sun. Rent a kayak to head over there.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

Goat Island Marine Reserve is a great spot for the budget traveler, as the snorkel rentals are cheap, parking is free, and it’s a great spot to mark off of your bucket list.

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