Auckland Travel Blog: Part 4 | New Zealand

Heading for the Hobbits in Hobbiton

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 1

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 2

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 3

Once our tour coach picked everyone up, we started our trip to Hobbiton. Auckland city is just like another big city in North America or Europe. But once I crossed the Auckland city border, I was shocked at how beautiful New Zealand was.

We were going through the Waikato region of the North Island, a regions well known for its thoroughbred industry and dairy farming. The gorgeous scenery of dairy farms and the Hauraki Plains were more picturesque than post cards. The lush green mountains and plains were full of sheep and so green that it’s hard to even imagine.

Sometimes we were passing through small Kiwi towns and those felt unreal too because everything was just too beautiful.

Once in Hobbiton, we got off our tour coach and there were cafes and gift shops. Here, I had a chance to have some coffee and a snack. The place was full of tourists and there were big tour buses taking people for the Hobbiton guided tour.

This picturesque 1,250-acre sheep farm area is where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films were shot. The Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and other structures are still remaining and have turned into popular tourist spots.

It’s mind blowing to see how a Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-Earth for movie making. Here I experienced the Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and other structures from the movie set.

When the Hobbiton site, the Alexander Farm, was discovered in 1998, the New Zealand Army had to use heavy earthmoving machinery to build a 1.5 km road to the site and to establish the initial set development.

Auckland Travel Blog: Part 3

1-Day Hobbiton, Rotorua & Waitomo Caves Tours

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 1

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 2

My 2nd day in New Zealand was full of tours and the tour bus was scheduled to come at 6:30 in the morning. So I woke up around 5:00 AM to get prepared. Whenever I am in a foreign country, I get worried about not getting up on time and missing my tours, so I always set up 2 alarms. This has made me not miss any tours so far.

It was too early to go outside and have breakfast. I always keep some cereal breakfast bars with me for situations like this, so I made good use of my breakfast bar and hotel-supplied coffee. As I was waiting in the hotel lobby and keeping an eye on the street, the tour coach came right on time.

New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean made of two main islands: North and South Island. On this tour, I will be staying within North Island where three-quarters of New Zealanders live and all the big cities are located.

Hobbiton, Rotorua and Waitomo Caves are all located in North Island and I will be able to complete this full trip in one day and still come back to Auckland to sleep at night.

The tour coach was a late model Mercedes Mini Bus and its operator/guide was very friendly. Somehow, he figured out that I was from North America. We would stop at a few other hotels to pick up more customers before starting our trip to Hobbiton through Waikato. Reaching Hobbiton would take 2 – 2.5 hours and the scenery is supposed to be gorgeous through the Kaimai mountain Ranges and Hauraki Plains.

Auckland Travel Blog: Part 2

New Zealand Travel Blog: Melbourne Highlights & Impressions

New Zealand Travel Blog: Part 1

The President Hotel in Downtown Auckland

After getting off the SkyBus, it took me about 5 minutes to reach the President Hotel, which is located in the Central Business District (CBD) in the heart of downtown Auckland.

When I booked this hotel months ago, this used to be a Best Western Hotel. Then all of a sudden, while I was in Melbourne I received an email from Best Western Australasia that the President Hotel had decided to leave the Best Western Group. My options were to either book another Best Western Hotel in Auckland or stay with the President Hotel as they would honour already booked reservations, so I decided to keep my reservations at the President hotel.

The President Hotel is nothing fancy but an OK hotel. The lobby area was unimpressive and so was the room. My room had a window, but I was not able to open the curtains and enjoy the sunlight because another building was blocking any sort of view whatsoever and it was the backside of that building, so it was very dark.

The best feature of this hotel is its location. I had no problem grabbing coffee or food because within a block or two there are many restaurants and street food vendors. There was even a Countdown – NZ Supermarket right next door where I went many times to buy whatever I needed.

I never got to try the hotel’s dining or buffet breakfast in the hotel because it made no sense when so many options to eat were available right next door.

Another feature I enjoyed was that I was able to keep an eye on the street sitting inside the lobby, so I wouldn’t miss my tour pickup. The Sky Tower is visible from the hotel and you can walk to it within a few minutes.

New Zealand Travel Blog: Auckland Highlights & Impressions

Auckland Travel Blog: Part 1

At the AKL Airport

Just like my experience in Melbourne, I didn’t have to face any human immigration officers at the airport. The automated machines process immigration for select visa-free countries called eGate and I was able to pass through immigration without any issue. Traveling with only one carry-on also helped.

SkyBus to Downtown Auckland

The most affordable way to reach downtown from the Auckland Airport is to take the SkyBus. You can purchase tickets ahead of your trip online or at the airport. The ticket booth is located right at the bus pickup spot at the international terminals in the Auckland Airport. Look for the SkyBus pickup spot and ticket booth near Door 8 at the international terminals.

The was a young female employee who greeted me at the bus spot and she showed me where to wait and mentioned the next bus would arrive in 10 minutes. I was the first one there waiting for that bus, but later on more customers were coming in.

If you buy a ticket ahead of time, you get discounts. I paid only NZD $17.50 on the SkyBus website; you will find tools there to figure where you need to get off based on your address. My destination was the President Hotel at 35 Victoria Street West, Auckland downtown. So I needed to get off at 175 Queen St Stop 7051.

The bus operator was extremely friendly and once I told him where I needed to get off, he made sure I got off at the right spot and explained to me that I still had to walk a couple of blocks to the hotel. He was my first hands-on experience on how nice and helpful New Zealanders are.

Qantas Business Class Review – Melbourne to Auckland - Airbus A330-200

Qantas International Business Class Lounge

After completing airport security, it was time to experience the Qantas Business Class lounge. I was not expecting this lounge located on the basement level; it took me a while to find it.

The Qantas International Business Class Lounge is huge and you will find everything, including a business centre with printers, a kid’s zone, and a shower facility. I didn’t have to use any of them; I was rushing to complete taking video and pictures, so I could have some time to eat or drink a coffee.

There were plenty of food and snacks. I saw the alcohol and coffee sections were impressive too; there was even barista coffee.

Qantas Business Class Airbus A330-200

I was expecting Qantas Airbus A330-200 to have one of the world’s best business class suites and I was not disappointed. Each suite is separated with a privacy divider and has direct isle access, regardless of whether it’s a window seat or not.

I had a window seat and it made my journey even better. Wrapped in black leather, these seats convert to a 2-metre lie-flat bed. There were numerous storage options and there was a big side table to keep items such as a laptop or camera. Even the spacious footwell can be used to stack a small suitcase or carry-on luggage.

Qantas’s business class food was great. To start with, I chose seared ocean trout with charred corn, jalapeno lime, and coriander. My main course was red braised chicken with stir fried gai tan, shiitake mushrooms, black beans, and jasmine rice. I had Maggie Beer salted honey ice cream as a dessert. This ice cream looked like an Australian specialty and I had never seen it before.

The Quantas Business suite entertainment system offered a 16-inch touch screen monitor and there were lots of Asian and Western options available.  16-inch seemed to be the perfect size to watch a movie right in front of my face.

There was no Amenity Kit provided on this flight. It was probably too short a flight (roughly 3.5 hours) for an Amenity Kit.

Overall, my first experience with Qantas business class was pleasant and I found nothing to complain about. I definitely will not hesitate to fly Qantas again in the future if the opportunity arises.