Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Auckland itinerary. New Zealand has long been a popular tourist attraction for its stunning nature. Where else can you find islands, beaches, volcanoes, glaciers, and endless fields of woolly sheep all in one convenient location? But then in 2001, the first Lord of the Rings movie was released, and something in New Zealand tourism changed forever–the arrival of Hobbiton.
Hordes of fantasy geeks began to descend upon New Zealand. They are all looking for one thing. The mystical location where Lord Mayor (I’m guessing) Peter Jackson filmed their favorite movies. Now the magical land of Hobbiton is only a brief bus ride away from Auckland. Join me for 24 hours in New Zealand, and I’ll put some fun in your life and fur on your feet. Whether or not you’re a LOTR fan.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
Where to Stay?
In my opinion, the Stamford Plaza Auckland is the perfect place to spend your One Day in Auckland Itinerary. It has lovely and comfortable rooms, a great bar downstairs, and the perfect location in Downtown Auckland. Plus the staff couldn’t be nicer!
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
New Zealand is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re not from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. NZ electrical outlets don’t work with American or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
Morning: Hobbiton Express Day Tour
When I say morning, now I mean morning. Your Hobbiton Express Day Tour will pick you up in Auckland somewhere around 6:45 in the AM. I know that’s a crazy start to a One Day in Auckland Itinerary. But trust me when I promise you that it is worth the early arising. I’m not even a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies and I had a great time. (To be fair, I’m a huge fan of the book The Hobbit.) Also you’ll definitely be able to nap on the bus.
I recommend the small group tour with Bush and Beach because you won’t be overwhelmed with some giant group tour of 50 people all dressed like Bilbo Baggins.Be aware that the price may look exorbitant to an American at first, but New Zealand dollars =/= US dollars.
The tour bus will pick you up directly from your hotel in Auckland. From there it’s a 2.5 hour drive to Hobbiton! But for me it felt like a lot less because I slept the whole way. By the time I woke up, I was ready for second breakfast, as well as…
approximately top 5: Hobbiton
1) beautiful nature
Of course the magical land of Hobbiton is not actually a real place. (Tolkien fanatics, do not send me angry emails on the subject! You know I’m right about this!) Peter Jackson originally created a temporary set for the land of the Hobbits when he made the Lord of the Rings movies. He chose a sheep farm for the location, of course. (That’s not one of my New Zealand has more sheep than people jokes. That’s just an actual fact.)
After the Lord of the Rings was finished filming, the temporary set was torn down. But after Peter Jackson had the “”brilliant” “idea”” of turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, he made a more permanent set for Hobbiton. Now you can visit this movie set any time you want. But as adorable as the Hobbit houses are, don’t miss the gorgeous countryside! It’s green and bucolic enough to make the pickiest New Zealand sheepie a happy character.
2) Hobbit house signs
Of course you’re not going to just be let loose on a strange film set without any advice or guidance, Internet Stranger! That would be cruel and unusual punishment! Your friendly guide will be happy to explain almost each and every one of the 44 “Hobbit” “houses” on the set.
One of the cutest details at Hobbiton are the little signs in front of each Hobbit home. The symbols and signs are meant to indicate the profession of the Hobbit that lives here. For example, this home has a fish on it because it is inhabited by Lew Zealand, the famous fish-thrower.
That honeycomb on the beekeeper’s mailbox is just too cute! I want to live in Hobbiton!
3) Movie Magic
Want to learn even more tips and tricks from the mind of Peter “Jackson”? Well, take a look at this gate. Doesn’t it look old, moldy and disgusting? But how can this be because the village was only built in the 21st century? In fact, this gate was aged by a combination of foam and paint. (You can touch it if you want, but be gentle! You want the fake mold to be preserved so Hobbit fans of the future can enjoy it too.)
One thing that didn’t get explained is why these gourds are here. I can only assume that they were convicted of murdering a bunch of other gourds. Now they’ve been publicly hanged as a warning to the rest of the vegetables.
4) Step inside the painter’s house
It’s impossible to go inside most of the adorb Hobbit homes. And the interior scenes in Hobbiton were filmed on a movie set somewhere else. So even the homes you can go inside are only full of dirt and nothingness. But it’s still fun to pose for your Hobbit picture inside the painter’s house. This is one of the few that has a door that will open. (Another advantage of a small group tour is that there’s enough time for the guide to take your picture.)
Peter Jackson made Hobbit homes in various sizes. That way he could make Ian McKellen, who played the wizard Gandalf, look much larger than Martin Freeman, who played Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit. But I made myself look Hobbit sized in this photo simply by getting on my knees. I suggest you do likewise when you visit Hobbiton. Look how cute it is! Just remember to send me a royalty check for having the idea.
5) Eat like a hobbit!
Everyone knows that Hobbits love to eat. That’s why they get a second breakfast, after all. On this tour you can eat like a Hobbit with the all you can eat buffet. The food was totally decent and very filling. The one dish that was panned by my fellow travelers was the fish. I can’t say for sure because I did not try it. I know better than to eat fish from an all you can eat buffet. That’s one of the first things every American child has to learn.
The best part of the lunch is that you also get a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. Hobbiton brews its own ale, cider, and ginger beer, so you get to choose one. If you imbibe, I suggest getting the ale. It’s quite flavorful! But the ginger beer is nonalcoholic, in case you have teetotalers or “children” in your party. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the lovingly recreated Green Dragon Inn. Sadly the lighting is poor and all my pictures came out miserable, so I can’t really prove to you how fabulous it is. You’ll just have to go to New Zealand and see for yourself.!
After lunch is over, say goodbye to the sheepies! It’s time to head back to Auckland for an afternoon and evening of more modern fun.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
Late Afternoon: Sky Tower
After the long ride back from Hobbiton, you’re probably going to want to go back to your hotel and nap. But teaching you how to nap falls out of the purview of this blog, Internet Stranger! However, once you’re fresh and rested, you’ll be up for some fun and won’t want to waste the rest of your One Day in Auckland Itinerary. And unless you suffer from vertigo, what’s more fun that going to the top of a 328 meter building? Head on over to Sky Tower for the best views of Auckland around.
I strongly suspect that the top is a UFO, so maybe if you’re lucky, the aliens will beam you up to their home planet! Then I can email you a copy of my Perfect 24 Hours on Mercury. But until then, you’ll have to be satisfied with…
three fun facts: sky tower
1) How much does it cost?
That’s a tricky question, Internet Stranger! As of this writing, it costs 32 Kiwi Bucks to ascend to the top of New Zealand’s finest spaceship. But if you follow this itinerary, you’ll pay nothing! That’s because I suggest you make a reservation at the fine dining restaurant, The Sugar Club.
The food is much better than the buffet at Hobbiton, satisfying though it was. But on top of that, admission to the Sky Tower is completely included with your reservation. I feel this tip alone is worth the entire blog. As Maui would say, “You’re Welcome!”
2) Just How tall is the sky Tower?
Well, I already told you in meters, but if you’re an American like I am, that won’t mean that much to you. A helpful infographic at the top of the Sky Tower shows how tall it is compared to other famous Tall Things. It’s just shorter than the TV Tower in Berlin and about 100 meters shorter than my beloved Empire State Building.
It’s also the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. (I assume the second tallest is the giant Jesus statue in Rio? Not exactly clear on what a freestanding structure is, but he’s definitely standing.)
Of course you’re not allowed to actually stand on top of the tower, so you can’t reach the full depth of its height. But the main observation deck is on the 51st floor, and the Sky Deck is on the 60th floor. I think that’s high enough for any reasonable adult.
3) How do we know it won’t fall and kill us all?
Well we don’t! Nothing is guaranteed in this life. But we can be pretty sure this isn’t going to happen. The Sky Tower is sturdy stuff. It’s made with 15,000 cubic meters of concrete and 2,000 tons of steel. (The Sky Tower website is trying to trick me into misspelling meters and tons, but I’m not going to fall for that. Metres and tonnes can’t be right!)
The Sky Tower is also built to withstand winds up to 125 miles per hour. It can also withstand an earthquake up to 8.0 on the Richter Scale. Sadly, the Sky Tower website says nothing about what will happen when the aliens return for their spaceship that they left perched on top of the Sky Tower. They also do not say if the aliens will come in peace or if they will obliterate us with their death rays.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at The Sugar Club
Most restaurants at high altitude are kind of meh, food-wise. I mean, they already have you trapped hundreds of feet above the ground. Where else are you going to go? And if you complain about the food, they can always push you out a window. But The Sugar Club is an exception to this. It is run by Peter Gordon, a New Zealand-born chef with restaurants in several countries. It’s the perfect place to end our One Day in Auckland Itinerary.
The dishes at The Sugar Club are beautiful and creative. I ordered the chef’s tasting menu because I always do. If there’s a chef’s tasting menu available, I don’t even look at my other options. Why not go with the chef’s best work, right? So without further ado, I shall share…
approximately top 5: sugar club edition
The sashimi is a regular on the menu, but the type of fish they use depends on what is fresh that day. My favorite thing about this tasting menu is that each dish featured something I’d never eaten before. For example, this sashimi dish included the surprising combination turmeric daikon. It also contained cultured cream, which I had never tried with sashimi. So already we were off for an adventure.
The second appetizer, a venison bite, contained spiced watermelon. This was also new to me. But I dig this pattern of infusing produce with some unfamiliar taste. It’s like Frankenproduce but without any GMOS.
Peter Gordon is famous for fusion cuisine. In this dish we got a little Japanese-Middle Eastern Fusion. The eggplant was infused with miso and sesame and served with dates, feta, and tahini. I think this is a cuisine fusion people should try more often. As long as it doesn’t involve dipping sashimi into hummus. Also I love countries that call eggplants aubergines. It’s way classier.
Now we get a little French-Chinese fusion with a mushroom, celeriac, and comte pithivier. A pithivier is a French pie made with puff pastry. It can be sweet or savory. But the surprise here wasn’t the puff pastry. It was the use of a Chinese ingredient called golden needles. These are actually dried lily buds. I wasn’t sure what they added to the dish except for some crunch.
By the way, that glob on the side looks like “The Grey Stuff” from Beauty and the Beast. But it’s actually a delicious mushroom ketchup. I don’t feel like my phone camera captured the colors very well here.
5) duck breast
On to the main event: the duck breast! According to the menu, it’s a Cambridge duck breast. I don’t know what that means but I assume it’s a duck that hobnobs with the Prince of Wales and wears an ascot. The Indian influence can really be felt in this dish. It’s served with a mughlai korma and a samosa.
Korma is a kind of braising technique that results in a rich dish. Indeed this main course was as rich and satisfying as you would expect from a duck that matriculated at the same university that produced Alan Turing and Charles Darwin.
It wouldn’t be a New Zealand fusion restaurant without some Maori influence. This dish is called. Yaloka ni Vonu, which means Turtle Eggs in Maori. But there are no turtles harmed in the making of this dish. Not even turtle embryos. The turtle egg here is made with coconut. It’s surrounded by some disturbingly good chocolate called Cru Virunga from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This was probably my favorite dish on the menu. But now I feel I’ll never try real turtle eggs because I know they can’t live up to this dessert.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Auckland Itinerary
What would you do with a One Day in Auckland Itinerary? Have you ever eaten a turtle egg, real or made of coconut? And who is cuter: an actual Hobbit or me pretending to be a Hobbit? (Before you answer, remember I am real and Hobbits are not real.) Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a One Day in Auckland Itinerary. If you have time for another One Day in Auckland Itinerary, try this one. And if you want to add 24 hours in Paihia and the Bay of Islands, click here.