Five Great Reasons to Visit Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan skyline dominated by Taipei 101
Taipei, Taiwan skyline dominated by Taipei 101 | Photo by Zhong Cen Fan Jiang CC BY-SA 2.0

Our first trip to Taiwan came about because of an amazing seat sale I noticed in my inbox.  Calgary to Taipei return for less than $500 CDN!  I mean, what choice did I really have?  🙂 Taiwan is under the radar of many travelers and we knew very little about it before our visit.

The Taiwan Flag
Taiwan Flag

Why Visit Taiwan?

Despite having a rich culture, amazing food, and stunning scenery, Taiwan isn’t widely known by many travelers to Asia. After our first vacation in Taiwan, it’s now at the top of our list. Taipei is a world-class city, and beyond the capital you’ll find eight national parks with lush mountains, valleys, coastlines and fascinating geology to explore.

Taiwan is a small island state off the southeast coast of China, with Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. It is approximately 245 miles (395 km) long and 90 miles (145 km) wide. It also includes many small islands, some of which are also claimed by China, Japan or the Philippines. The population of Taiwan is about 24 million and Taipei, the largest city and capital (population 2.65 million), is located on the northwest tip of the island. Taiwan’s climate is mainly subtropical, except for the southern part of the island, which is tropical.

Most of the population and farmlands are found on the western side of the island. The mountains and rugged coastline on the eastern side make it more natural and less populated.  An ideal visit to Taiwan can include the best of both worlds, with all the culture and sights of Taipei, and the stunning scenery, hiking and friendly small towns of Taiwan’s east coast.

Here are five great reasons to plan your next holiday in Taiwan:

1. That Famous Taiwanese Cuisine

Hotpot in Hualien
Hotpot in Hualien
Taiwanese breakfast – egg crepe roll (dan bing)
A Taiwanese breakfast – egg crepe roll (dan bing)

Taiwan is justifiably one of the best food destinations in the world. There are many must-try Taiwanese foods, including Taiwanese hotpot, beef noodle soup, bubble tea, and the infamous “stinky tofu”, as well as many other Chinese, Japanese and international options.  Lining up for delicious soup dumplings (xiao long bao) at Din Tai Fung is worth the wait. Sampling delicious street food at a Taipei night market is an experience not to be missed. You can find amazing food at small family Taiwanese restaurants, and food in general is very affordable. 

2. Beautiful and Diverse Taipei

Ciyou Temple in Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
Ciyou Temple in Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is Taiwan’s beautiful capital and largest city, and it truly offers something for everybody. It’s a city of contrasts, with history and culture, alongside modern architecture and transportation. Its skyline is dominated by Taipei 101, a bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck, which was the world’s tallest building until 2010.  The city is surrounded by green hills and mountains, and there are many parks and bike paths within the city. You can explore the shops and cafes in cool neighbourhoods such as the historic Dihua Street and buy some oolong tea; visit one of Taipei’s world-class museums; take the Maokong Gondola high above the city into lush and peaceful mountains; enjoy the food and exciting atmosphere at one of Taipei’s night markets; relax at the Beitou hot springs, or venture out to the mountain town of Jiufen, about 90 minutes by train from Taipei.

3. Eastern Taiwan – Mountains, Coastline, and the East Rift Valley

The eight-arched Sanxiantai Bridge connects the small island of Sanxiantai (三仙台) with Taiwan’s east coast.
The eight-arched Sanxiantai Bridge connects the small island of Sanxiantai (三仙台) with Taiwan’s east coast.

Taiwan has gorgeous scenery, especially on the mountainous and rugged east coast. Highlights of an east coast road trip could include hiking in Taroko Gorge National Park near Hualien, cycling in the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, Kenting National Park in the south, visiting one of the many hot springs or exploring unique geological formations on the coast. 

4. Taiwanese History and Culture

National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Taiwan’s history began with its indigenous peoples, then Chinese immigration and occupation, Japanese occupation and other Asian and western cultural influences.  Today this results in a culture that is distinctly Taiwanese, and there are an abundance of historical sites, temples, and museums to explore. In Taipei the National Palace Museum is a must for its permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks.  There are many regional festivals if you are lucky enough to be in a place at the right time. Taiwan also has a thriving modern culture (the Ximending district is the hub for nightlife, shopping and street performances), and most Chinese TV dramas and pop music artists popular throughout Asia originate from Taiwan.

5. Taiwan has the World’s Friendliest People

Even with all the amazing scenery, food and culture Taiwan has to offer, it’s the Taiwanese people that made our trip even more special. We traveled the circumference of the whole country, and the people we met everywhere were helpful, patient, and treated each other with respect. 

One night we forgot where we parked our car* 🙁 (see tip below). After eating some tasty hotpot at a restaurant in Yuli, we walked out to find it had become dark, and we were disoriented. We searched for over an hour and then it started to rain. We were feeling miserable and worried whether we could find our car at all that night. Thankfully a young couple noticed our distress, and immediately offered to help by driving us around to look for it. With their help we soon found it, and this is only one example of the kindness and hospitality of the Taiwanese people we met.

According to Expat Insider, Taiwan was rated 1st out of 64 countries in the Expat Insider 2019 World Survey, and the friendliest country in Asia (4th overall). In our own experience, the hospitality and pleasant nature of the Taiwanese people made us feel relaxed and safe on our trip, and has made Taiwan one of our favourite places on the planet.

Our new friend in this East Rift Valley cafe is known as "Coffee Uncle".  He grows, roasts, and brews these special cups of coffee himself!
Our new friend in this East Rift Valley cafe is known as “Coffee Uncle”. He grows, roasts, and brews these special cups of coffee himself!

*Tip for not losing your car: When you park in an unfamiliar place, take a quick photo or two of your car showing its licence plate, and a nearby landmark or road sign. We almost always do this, but this time we didn’t and ended up wandering around for an hour in the dark looking for it. Lesson learned!


Planning a trip? Wondering where to Stay in Taiwan?

Read more about some of our favourite places to stay in Taiwan. These hotels and B&Bs in Taipei and throughout Taiwan feature both budget and affordable luxury options. We focus on hotels and B&Bs that offer good value, along with that special something to make your stay memorable.

Grand Hotel Taipei, Taiwan

Best Places to Stay in Taiwan

Here are some of our favourite places to Stay in Taipei and Around Taiwan

The Grand Hotel Taipei
The Grand Hotel Taipei, Zhongshan District

Your choice of accommodations can make or break your holiday. When we search for places to stay, first they must be clean, safe, and comfortable. Then we like to mix it up, and stay in a variety of accommodations—some budget and some affordable luxury. So our list focuses on hotels and B&Bs with good value, along with that special something that can make your stay memorable. Taiwan is known for its friendly people and hospitality, and this was also our experience in these hotels and B&Bs thoughout the country. Here are some of our favourite places to stay in Taiwan.

Disclaimer: We have personally stayed in the accommodations listed below at our own expense, and received no compensation for these recommendations. This post contains affiliate links where TouristSite will earn a commission if you make a purchase, but there is no extra cost to you.

Where to Stay in Taipei

Grand Hotel Taipei

Staying at the 14-story Grand Hotel Taipei in the Zhongshan District almost feels like staying in an Asian palace. The 4.5-star hotel is a landmark of Taipei, perched high against Yangming Mountain, facing the Keelung River. The interior lobby is stunning and the grounds are beautiful.

The Grand Hotel is well-located near many popular attractions. It’s an 8-minute walk from the Jian Tan metro station (MTR). There’s also a hotel shuttle to the MTR and the Shilin Night Market, one of the best night markets in Taipei. The National Palace Museum, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Maokong Gondola, and Taipei Zoo are all easy to access by MTR or taxi. It’s a great place for a very-affordable splurge. As a major resort-style hotel, the service is less personal but very professional. This is a great place to stay if you want to be immersed in a grand Asian atmosphere.

The Lobby of the Grand Hotel Taipei, Places to stay in Taipei
The Lobby of the Grand Hotel Taipei

The Rido Hotel in Da’an District, Taipei

The Rido Hotel is a boutique hotel in Taipei City’s main financial district, in a great location facing Da’an Forest Park. Once inside, the art and architecture give it a real European feeling. Da’an Park is a great place to go for a walk, or rent a bike to enjoy on the local bike pathway. It is near the Taipei 101 tower, and you can walk to many restaurants including Din Tai Fung for must-try soup dumplings.

The Rido Hotel is across the street from Daan Forest Park, Places to stay in Taipei
The Rido Hotel is across the street from Daan Forest Park, Taipei

More Places to Stay in Taiwan

Legend Hotel Pier2 Hotel in Kaohsiung

The fun Legend Hotel Pier2 in Kaohsiung is well-located between Lover River and The Pier-2 Art Centre. The quirky “Alice-in-wonderland” inspired murals and bonuses like in-room snacks and drinks make it great for families or young-at-heart. There is also a substantial breakfast buffet, entertainment/games area and laundry facilites. Friendly staff and great value.

Legend Hotel Pier2 in Kaohsiung, Places to stay in Taiwan
Legend Hotel Pier2 in Kaohsiung

Wisdom Garden Home Stay B&B in Yuli, East Rift Valley

The Wisdom Garden Home Stay in Yuli was one of our favourite B&B stays ever. The garden setting is beautiful and peaceful, and the warm hospitality of the family who runs the B&B makes it even more special. The Taiwanese breakfast was so thoughtfully prepared and one of our best meals in Taiwan—we would return to this Taiwan B&B just to eat this meal again. Our room was modest but spacious and clean. Yuli Town is only a few minutes drive away, and the location is perfect for walking the Walami Trail, heading to a hot springs, or cycling on the Yufu Bikeway.

Wisdom Garden Home Stay, Yuli, East Rift Valley, Places to stay in Taiwan
Wisdom Garden Home Stay, Yuli, East Rift Valley

Kindness Hotel in Hualien (near Taroko Gorge National Park)

The Kindness Hotel in Hualien is a perfect place to stay if you are on a Taiwan East Coast road trip. The service is excellent, and amenities include free parking, laundry, meals and bicycles, making it an excellent value. The evening buffet is extensive and with live musicians it almost feels like a celebration. If you have a car and are in Hualien to visit Taroko Gorge, we would recommend staying in Hualien rather than next to the park. It’s a short drive to the trails and in the evening you can enjoy Hualien.

The road from Hualien towards Taroko Gorge National Park
The road from Hualien towards Taroko Gorge National Park

Kenting Maya House, B&B in Kenting National Park

Kenting Maya House (墾丁瑪雅之家民宿 l 防疫ok l 客房二氧化氯殺菌) is a great B&B if you are visiting Kenting National Park, on the southern tip of Taiwan. It’s located in a peaceful rural setting a short fifteen-minute walk from Kenting town, and a short walk from the local market. We enjoyed watching the birds from our balcony while eating our breakfast, which was served in our room.

Kenting Maya House, Kenting National Park, Places to stay in Taiwan
Kenting Maya House, Kenting National Park

Why Visit Taiwan?

Read more about Five Great Reasons to Visit Taiwan. Despite having a rich culture, amazing food, and stunning scenery, Taiwan isn’t widely known by many travelers to Asia. After our first vacation in Taiwan, it’s now at the top of our list. Taipei is a world-class city, and beyond the capital you’ll find eight national parks with lush mountains, valleys, coastlines and fascinating geology to explore.

Taipei 101, Taipei Night View Taiwan
Taipei 101, Taipei Night View Taiwan

Statue of Liberty – Crown Access

How to See the Statue of Liberty with Crown Access

The first thing to do once you have booked your trip to New York City is to reserve your Statue of Liberty Crown Access ticket.

How to visit the Statue of Liberty Crown
Climbing up the statue of liberty to the crown is an amazing experience – but you must have a crown access ticket
Updated February 15, 2020

The Statue of Liberty was designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. In 1886 the Statue was completed, and she has since become a symbol of freedom to millions around the world.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
 

– Emma Lazarus

Reserve your Statue of Liberty Crown Access Tickets

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are highlights of a trip to New York, and a regular Reserve Ticket for $19.25 (including access to both) is already good value. But for only $3 more you can instead purchase a Crown Access Ticket, and given access to climb the 393 stairs up inside the statue for an unforgettable view from the crown. Climbing up to the Crown is a much more intimate experience than the regular tour, as only a few people are allowed up at a time.

This tour would be a great family outing. The climb is equivalent to 27 stories, so might not be suitable for some younger children. Children must be at least four feet tall, and must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Statue of Liberty – Original Torch
Statue of Liberty – Original Torch

Plan your visit

  • Tickets can only be booked through Statue Cruises, the official provider. Other ticket sellers either don’t give access to the island, just a view from their boat, or are over-priced/scams.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: 1-877-LADY-TIX (1-877-523-9849) or 201-604-2800
  • Prices including crown access: $22.25/adult, $12/child (age 4-12), $17/senior (62+)
  • Ticket includes ferry and access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
  • Audio Tours of Liberty and Ellis Islands are included.
  • This is a high security attraction, and it’s essential to visit the National Park Service information page, so you know what to expect.
  • All crown visitors must be physically able to climb up and down the 393 steps unassisted.
  • There are 162 narrow and tight steps from the top of the pedestal to the crown.
  • There is no elevator from the top of pedestal to the crown (the Statue’s feet to the Statue’s head).
  • The stairs to the crown are in an enclosed area that can have high temperatures in the summer, so bring water.
  • Try to book your tour earlier in the day as afternoon tours (2pm or later) won’t have enough time to stop at the the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
  • Ferries leave from two locations: Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

CLIMBING TO THE TOP
Climbing inside the Statue of Liberty to the Crown
STATUE OF LIBERTY
The Statue of Liberty

Want more budget-friendly things to do in NYC?

New York City is one of the most captivating cities in the world—and one of the most expensive. Here are 10 great things to see and do in New York without breaking your budget.

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York City


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How to get tickets to the Statue of Liberty Crown
Travel in the USA - Statue of Liberty
Icefields Parkway Alberta

Our Epic Road Trip on the Icefield Parkway – Banff to Jasper, Alberta

(Updated March 2020)

If there is one road trip that is “bucket list” worthy, a summer drive on Alberta’s scenic Icefield Parkway from Banff to Jasper certainly qualifies.

We had a free weekend last June, and decided this was a great opportunity for us to do the famous Icefield Parkway road trip in the Canadian Rockies. The weather was great, spring flowers would be blooming, and we were just ahead of the summer high season. We live in Calgary, so we booked our accommodation in Jasper, and off we went.

Icefield Parkway Featured as “Drive of a Lifetime”

There is so much to enjoy in Banff and Lake Louise, and further west into British Columbia, that we hadn’t yet ventured north to Jasper. We had high expectations, as the highway had even been featured in National Geographic as a “Drive of a Lifetime”, and we were not disappointed. This is definitely a case where the journey is as great as the destination. Although the Icefield Parkway is only 230 km, we allowed a full day to enjoy the experience and stop along the way.

Banff National Park gate
Banff National Park Gate

The Icefields Parkway (or Highway 93) runs through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, along the Continental Divide. If you are leaving from Calgary, take the TransCanada Highway west to Banff, and continue just past Lake Louise, where you will take the exit north to the Icefield Parkway. [How can you pass by Banff and Lake Louise without stopping? If you haven’t been, you can’t! You’ll just need to add a couple more days to your trip. :)]

Highway 93 – The Icefields Parkway Road Trip Begins

Epic Road Trip Highway 93
Highway 93 – The Icefields Parkway

You will see beautiful lakes, waterfalls and rivers…

Mountains and lakes along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
Count on making lots of stops along Highway 93 to just take it in.
Mountains and lakes along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
Beautiful mountain lakes that range from brilliant blue…
Mountains and lakes along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
…to vibrant green.

wildlife…

Big horn sheep along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
Big horn sheep crossing the highway.
Young elk along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
I think this is a young elk.
Black bear along Highway 93, Banff to Jasper
A black bear munching away on berries and other plants.

forests and flowers…

We visited in late June, a great time to see spring flowers. If you go, be sure to stop along the way, take a walk on one of the numerous trails, and experience nature for yourself.

Tiger Lily
A very determined alpine flower in the rocks.
Is this a black-eyed Susan?

…and spectacular mountain peaks and glaciers.

Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Glacier along Highway 93
Allow plenty of extra time to stop along the way.
Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Athabasca Glacier along Highway 93
The Athabasca Glacier is the most visited glacier in North America. It has been receding for the last 125 years.

The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield, which the Parkway is named for. To get a sense of scale in the photo above, look at the cars in the parking lot. The Columbia Icefield is about 100 square miles and hundreds of feet deep, making it the largest in the Rocky Mountains.

Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Athabasca Glacier along Highway 93
I would highly recommend walking up to the edge of the glacier.

You can easily walk right up to the edge of the glacier, but walking on the glacier is dangerous. People have died there by slipping into one of the deep crevasses.

Across from the glacier is the Columbia Icefield Interpretive Centre. The Centre sells food and tickets for the Ice Explorer, which are large vehicles specially-designed to drive onto the glacier, where you can also walk on it with a guide. You can also get tickets for the Glacier Skywalk.

Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Glacier Skywalk along Highway 93
The Glacier Skywalk

There are numerous trails along the IcefieldParkway, including this one where you can see the Sunwapta Falls.

Icefields Parkway Road Trip – hiking paths
There are numerous trails throughout the National Park.
Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls

The mountains along the Icefield Parkway are probably the most spectacular I have seen. Around each bend was a new vista, and we couldn’t resist stopping to take another photo.

Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Curvy Mountains
Curvy Mountains
Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Jagged Mountains
Jagged Mountains
Icefields Parkway Road Trip – Snowy Mountains
Snowy Mountains

If you go…

  • Fill your tank with gas before you leave, as services are limited and expensive on the Parkway.
  • Watch the road for wildlife, and also for cars stopped to view wildlife.
  • Keep a safe distance from ALL wild animals, and be prepared for possible bear encounters.
  • Allow plenty of time to stop along the way for activities, hiking, or to take in the magnificent views.
  • Book your accommodations in advance, as they are limited and can be expensive.
  • Bring a picnic and snacks to eat along the way.
  • A national parks permit is required to travel on the Icefields Parkway, and can be purchased at the park gates, information centres, and partner locations.
  • The Parkway can be cycled from Banff to Jasper over three to five days, and campgrounds are available along the parkway. (plan in advance)
  • The best time to go is June to September. Some facilities, including the Columbia Icefield Centre, are closed mid-October to mid-April.
  • If you go during the winter, check ahead for road closures.

For more information about the town of Jasper and it’s local attractions, click here.

Welcome to Jasper sign
You’ve arrived at the town of Jasper.

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Our Epic Road Trip on the Icefield Parkway – Banff to Jasper, Alberta. 
This is one road trip that is truly “bucket list” worthy.
Icefield Parkway Road Trip
Hadrians-wall-walk

Hadrian’s Wall Walk – West to East

Hadrian's Wall Path
Hadrian’s Wall Path

“We walked across England!”

Our six-day walk on Hadrian’s Wall National Trail, West to East

The day finally arrived for our first long distance walk, west to east on Hadrian’s Wall National Trail in England. Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 122 AD by Roman soldiers, under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. The path follows this stone wall across England from coast to coast, so we could say “we walked across England!” This path seemed doable for our first walk – but still a challenge. Most walk Hadrian’s Wall east to west, but our route was west to east, so we would have the prevailing winds at our back. This was our route:

• Bowness-on-Solway • Carlisle • Banks • Old Repeater Station • Halton Red House • Newcastle-upon-Tyne • Wallsend •

According to my Hadrian’s Wall T-shirt, the trail is 136 km (84 miles), with 80 milecastles and six Roman forts. The actual length is probably a bit longer when you go off the path for accommodations, detours, food or fort visits. We decided to complete the walk in 6 days. If you are planning your own Hadrian’s Wall walk, see below for more specific tips and resources, and info about our hiking gear. Here’s how our walk went!

Day 1: Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle

31 km

It was a perfect June morning to begin our walk, with blue sunny skies. We arrived in Carlisle a couple days earlier to have time to explore the city, and recover from jetlag. For the first section we had to take bus #93 to the path’s start at Bowness-on-Solway, then walk back to our Carlisle hotel for one more night.

Bowness-on-Solway is a peaceful village on the Solway Firth. The cute homes here don’t have addresses, but names like Silver Hill, and the White House. We saw the well-known local pub, The Kings Arms, but it doesn’t open until 4pm, which is too late for most west to east walkers.

And so it begins!
7040 miles from home. Across the firth is Scotland.

The official start of Hadrian’s Wall Path is at a small shack along the Firth, which opens into the Irish Sea. At this point the firth is also the border between England and Scotland. The path begins fairly flat with a long stretch along the firth, and lots of birds.

Early on this first section there was an interesting man who had made a road sign, which he updated for each walker to mark the distance to their hometown.

On the first day, there was no actual wall to be seen…at least not in its original form.  After the Romans left the wall was no longer in use, so people used stones from the wall for their own construction needs. An example of this is St Michael’s Church, in Burgh-by-Sands. This 12th century church was built on the foundation of a Roman Fort, with stones from the wall. In 1307 Edward I was brought here to lie in state after being killed during the uprising of Robert the Bruce. It is one of many churches and other attractions to see along the path.

St Michael's Church, Burgh-by-Sands: This 12th century church was built on the foundation of a Roman Fort, with stones from the wall. In 1307 Edward I was brought here to lie in state after being killed during the uprising of Robert the Bruce.
The 12th century St Michael’s Church, in Burgh-by-Sands, was built on the foundation of a Roman Fort, with stones from the wall.

Although we didn’t see remains of the actual wall, there was a lot to make this part of the walk interesting, from listening to birds in the wetlands, cute villages, wooded areas and pastures.

The first of many cows we would meet along the path.
We saw a lot more cows and sheep along the path than people.
Hadrian's Wall gate
Much of the path goes through private property, and there’s an amazing variety of ways to cross through gates or over walls. The acorn on the post is the symbol of Hadrian’s wall path.

Walking into Carlisle we encountered a detour due to the devastating flood in early 2016. By the time we reached our hotel again we had walked 31 km, tired but happy to have completed our first leg. It’s worth spending a day in Carlisle to explore the small city and its castle.

Day 2: Carlisle to Banks

27 km

The Eden Bridge, Carlisle
The Eden Bridge, Carlisle

This morning we rejoined the path at the Eden Bridge, and for the first while the it followed the River Eden. The path leaving Carlisle was beautiful, down a long aisle of spring flowers.

June is a great month for wildflowers along the path.
Wildflowers along the path in June.
The Stall-on-the-Wall honesty box.
The famous Stall-on-the-Wall honesty box.

After a couple of hours, we came across the “famous Stall-on-the-Wall”, which is an honesty box filled with assorted chocolate bars, chips and other treats to maintain your strength during the walk. There are a few of these fun stations along Hadrian’s Path, so if you go bring some small change or bills to enjoy them. One even had a small freezer with ice cream bars.

Much of Hadrian’s Wall path goes right through farmer’s fields, so we passed by lots of sheep, cattle and horses. We enjoyed seeing them, and most animals watched us with mild interest, but this cow right beside the path was a little intimidating. We went off the path to give it as much space as possible, and Darrell promised it he would cut back on beef.

cows
This cow was a little intimidating.
a nice path
After walking 20km we appreciated the comfy wood chips on this path.

Near the end of day two we came across the first substantial section of the wall. It was a fantastic day, but my feet began to protest and I got some nasty blisters. After the last steep hill we were both VERY happy to to reach the Quarryside B&B. After listening to our moans, our host, Elizabeth, asked how far we walked that day, then burst out laughing, “Is that all?”

Hadrian's Wall
Finally, Hadrian’s Wall!

Our Quarryside B&B room with a view
Quarryside B&B room with a view.
The Belted Will Inn, Hallbankgate
The Belted Will Inn, Hallbankgate

Our ensuite room at Quarryside was lovely and spacious with a view of the country. After a short rest, the Elizabeth’s husband drove us to the Belted Will Inn for a pub dinner.  I had a tasty fish pie and Darrell had steak pie, in spite of his promise to the cows earlier that day. After our delicious dinner the pub owner gave us a ride back to our B&B.

Day 3: Banks to Old Repeater Station

27 km (completed 14 km)

Day three started with an excellent breakfast at our B&B, including their own farm fresh eggs and local sausages. We also took Elizabeth up on her option of a packed lunch.

A Milecastle at Hadrian's Wall
A Milecastle at Hadrian’s Wall

Before setting out, I doctored my feet with Second Skin, Compeed, and duct tape. With them fully covered they didn’t feel too bad. The weather had become misty with some rain, but we were prepared with rain coats and covers for our backpacks.  The cooler temperatures were pleasant to walk in so we didn’t mind at all. This section of the path is hilly, very picturesque, and we were seeing a lot more of the wall.

Ready to walk Hadrian's Wall Path - rain or shine!
Ready to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path – rain or shine!
A section of the trail through a quiet woods.
A section of the trail through a quiet woods.
Turret 49B. Two small watchtowers, or turrets, were built between each milecastle.
Turret 49B. Two small watchtowers, or turrets, were built between each milecastle.
Birdoswald, one of the best preserved Roman forts on Hadrian's Wall.
Birdoswald, one of the best preserved Roman forts on Hadrian’s Wall.

After about an hour, we reached Birdoswald, one of the best preserved Roman forts on the wall and well worth a stop.

A short time later we arrived at these remains of the Roman Willowford Bridge, which originally crossed the River Irthing. Over time the course of the river changed so these remains are a distance apart from the current modern bridge.

Remains of the Roman Willowford Bridge
Remains of the Roman Willowford Bridge
Some super-cute lambs frolicking on the hill.
Some super-cute lambs frolicking on the hill.

Despite the beautiful scenery, my feet could only make it about 14 km. While walking to a bus stop, a couple of local ladies in an  SUV stopped to ask if we needed a ride. They had noticed me hobbling, and we gladly accepted their ride to our next B&B.

At the Old Repeater Station B&B we had a nice welcome from our host, Les. The room was a small ensuite with a comfortable bed and cozy bedding. There is also a comfortable common lounge and dining room. Les made a delicious dinner for us and his other guests, served family style at his big table. I had steak pie and Darrell had lasagne, served with bowls of mashed potatoes, vegetables and bread.

Day 4: Old Repeater Station to Halton Red House

23 km (Instead, Housesteads Roman Fort to Carrawburgh Temple of Mithras: 10 km)

After another hearty full English breakfast (and a few more packages of Compeed and Second Skin) we were ready for day four.

The previous day we had cut the walk short and missed some of the most spectacular sections, so we took a bus back a few miles to begin our day at Housesteads, the most complete Roman fort in Britain. We were glad to see the fort, and the dramatic landscape in this section was a highlight of our walk.

Housesteads Roman Fort
Housesteads Roman Fort

The path follows the best preserved section of the wall up and down steep hills, with spectacular views. The ground here is steep and very uneven, but with our hiking boots and walking poles it was a pleasure. This was the busiest section of the path with a lot of day walkers, but not at all overly-crowded.

Rugged terrain and spectacular views on day four.
Rugged terrain and spectacular views on day four.

We were only able to make it 10 km, to Carrawburgh, Temple of Mithras, then I had to stop again because of my feet. So we took a bus to Chollerford, then a taxi to our next B&B, Halton Red House Farm. At this point we changed our goal to walk at least 100 km of the trail. My disappointment at cutting short another day’s walk was soon forgotten when we arrived at Halton Red House Farm, another lovely B&B. Our hostess Sheila drove us to a nearby pub where we had another excellent, hearty meal.

Day 5: Halton Red House to Newcastle

27 km (completed 17 km)

After a perfect English breakfast we set off again towards our next stop at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On day five the rugged terrain was behind us, and the hills flattened to gently rolling farmland that looked beautiful even on this rainy day.

Leaving our pretty B&B, Halton Red House Farm
Leaving our pretty B&B, Halton Red House Farm
A pleasant walk on a grass path.
A pleasant walk on a grass path.

After about 5 km we came across the Robin Hood Inn, where we decided to stop in for an excellent scone with cream and jam.

The Robin Hood Bar & Restaurant
The Robin Hood Bar & Restaurant…
where we had an excellent scone.
…where we had an excellent scone.

We walked 17 km, then stopped at the Three Tuns pub at Heddon-on-the-Wall, then again because of my sad feet, took a taxi to our hotel in Newcastle.

Day 6: Newcastle to Wallsend

8 km

On our final day we hired an Uber driver to take us from Newcastle to Wallsend, which is the eastern terminus of Hadrian’s Wall path. We then walked west back to Newcastle. At Wallsend is the Segedunum Roman Fort and museum. We didn’t visit the museum, but we did go up their tower which looks over the former fort, and has a good video explaining the history of the site through the ages.

The bridges of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The bridges of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Then we walked the 8 km back to Newcastle, which is a very nice urban path once you get past the first bit at Wallsend. Coming into the city the path follows the River Tyne, with Newcastle’s interesting buildings and bridges.

So in the end, we walked 107 km of Hadrian’s Wall path, coast to coast, but with 36km skipped across days 3 to 5.

The only real discomfort was from blisters on my feet. In hindsight I think I caused this by having a pedicure a couple weeks before our walk, which may have made my feet look pretty, but also removed callouses that probably would have been a layer of protection for a long walk. Otherwise, we both felt good, and the hills even became easier as we went. It was a great experience as our first long distance walk, and I’m already thinking of where we could walk next.

The Hadrian’s Wall National Trail itself was fantastic, with a great variety of landscapes as well as the famous wall and Roman forts.  It was a pleasure to get to know the area up close, walking through the many farms, villages or wilderness areas. There are more attractions than we had time for along the way, including Roman forts, and also churches, museums, and villages.

Planning your own Hadrian’s Wall walk

Two resources that helped immensely in planning our trip:

  • The National Trail website: They have a map that was a great help in finding accommodations along the wall.
  • Hadrian’s Wall Path guidebook, by Gordon Simm and Jacquetta Megarry, helped in planning the trip, and kept us on track during the walk.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links to products we recommend and have verified and/or personally used, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

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Getting Ready for our Hadrian’s Wall Walk

We spent today in Carlisle, Cumbria, excited to begin our west to east coast-to-coast walk across England via the Hadrian’s Wall National Pathway. This trail runs from Bowness on Solway in the west, to Wallsend, east of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle, which is along Hadrian’s Wall.

I’ve dreamed of doing an epic hike for a while. This is far from a 500 mile Camino, but it is our first multi-day hike. Hopefully all goes well and it won’t be our last – if only to make use of all the gear we acquired in preparation for the trip. After the walk I’ll post a complete itinerary, including a list of all our gear, and what we used and what we didn’t.

hiking-boots

Walking Poles

Daypack

Our Route

Hadrian’s Wall National Trail follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall, 84 miles from coast to coast in northern England. It typically takes about a week to complete.

We’ve planned to complete our Hadrian’s Wall walk in six days, mainly because that’s how it worked out booking our accommodations. There are limited options for rooms near the path, so reservations must be made in advance of the trip. I’m looking forward to staying in these small B&B’s, and finding some interesting pubs for dinner along the way.

Our walk begins tomorrow, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

About Hadrian’s Wall

The Wall is one of Britain’s most impressive Roman sites. It forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the wall built in about 117AD as the northern border for Roman Britain. It was a massive project, taking about 15,000 soldiers to build. Along the wall there were 80 milecastles, as well as many observation towers and forts.

Calgary Summer Festivals

Calgary 2020 Summer Festivals

When warmer weather approaches Calgarians are ready to burst out and celebrate. For the summer of 2020 there are dozens of festivals and events for every age and interest. Whether you live here or are visiting, check out this roundup of some of the best summer festivals in Calgary.

Calgary summer festivals

The 4th Street Lilac Festival

June 7, 2020, 10am to 6pm

  • This free one day event is the start up to Calgary’s vibrant festival season.  
  • Enjoy the unique and pedestrian friendly 4th Street venue, offering an array of musical talent, artisan vendors, quality entertainment and some perfect people watching.
  • There are six stages hosting over 30 performances throughout the day, and over 500 vendors that vary from artisan crafts to street food.
  • website

Sled Island Music Festival

June 24-28, 2020

  • The annual Sled Island festival features over 250 bands plus film, comedy and art across 30+ venues in Calgary!
  • website

Calgary Stampede
champios-buckle-up

July 3 – 12, 2020

  • At the biggest festival of all, the whole city joins in the world famous Calgary Stampede.
  • Parade, rodeo, midway, music, and food.
  • Events throughout the city including numerous free pancake breakfasts with entertainment.
  • website

Calgary Folk Music Festival
cow-bg

July 23 – 26, 2020

  • The 4oth annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park features acts from around the globe on multiple stages.
  • The festival includes an interactive family area, international craft market, global culinary delights, a record tent and tree-shaded beer garden.
  • Over 70 artists present roots, blues, world music, funk, country, and bluegrass.
  • website

Pet-A-Palooza

July 25 & 26, 2020

  • Pet-A-Palooza is a FREE family-friendly and pet-friendly festival.
  • Bring your pet to sample treats & food. Shop for toys, collars, coats and beds! And best of all get hooked up with FREE SWAG!!
  • Join us at Eau Claire to meet over 80 exhibitors, local rescues, listen to live music, check out Running of the Bulls – French and English Bulldog Races! And, you did what with your wiener?! Raced em’! New this year wiener dog races!
  • website

Calgary International Blues Festival

July 27 – August 2, 2020

  • The Calgary Bluesfest takes place at Shaw Millenium Park, offering non-stop mainstage performances, a beer tent and nightly dance parties that run late into the night.
  • This family friendly event draws audience members from around the world, who enjoy the grass-roots feel and fun for all.
  • Also check out the Calgary Mid-winter Bluesfest running February 24 – 29, 2020.
  • For an up-to-date artist line-up visit the festival website

Calgary Fringe Festival

July 31 – August 8, 2020

  • “Anything Goes Theatre”
  • Around 30 shows – for a total of over 160 performances over nine days.
  • Fringes are uncensored, non-juried theatre festivals, bringing together emerging and established artists alike to tell their stories on stage.
  • Check the festival website for up-to-date information.

Inglewood Sunfest
footerLogo

August 1, 2020

  • A feisty summer festival in the heart of Inglewood, with activity for all ages.
  • Street performers, music, unique shopping, and food outlets.
  • website

Calgary Dragon Boat Festival

August 7-9, 2020

  • The Calgary Dragon Boat Race & Festival draws +1850 competitors, +4000 spectators and an abundance of excitement and cultural experiences.
  • North Glenmore Park, 7305 Crowchild Trail SW, Calgary
  • website

Calgary Japanese Festival “Omatsuri”

August 8, 2020

  • “Omatsuri” is the Japanese term for a “traditional festival”. Visitors to the festival will be treated to authentic Japanese customs, presentations of traditional music, dance & song, martial arts demonstrations, and more!
  • Price: $3 to $7
  • Max Bell Centre, 1001 Barlow Trail SE, Calgary
  • website

Marda Gras Street Festival
cta-mask

Sunday, August 9, 2020

  • The streets of Marda Loop will come alive at this 35nd annual New Orleans themed festival.
  • Purple, green and gold pageantry; a variety of high quality cultural performers, dance groups and musicians; and great food. There is something for each member of the family and best of all it’s FREE to attend!
  • website

Opera in the Village

August TBA

  • Calgary Opera is the only opera company in Canada with an annual outdoor summer opera festival. In 2020 Calgary’s East Village RiverWalk Plaza will once again be filled with music as Calgary Opera presents an abridged production of Carmen.
  • Check Calgary Opera’s website for updates.

Shakespeare by the Bow

July and August 2020

  • Calgary city’s summer Shakespeare tradition in beautiful Prince’s Island Park.
  • Celebrate Alberta’s emerging artists. Admission is pay-what-you-will by donation (no ticket required). Bring snacks and a picnic as you enjoy this 90 minute performance.
  • Suitable for all ages.
  • Check the Theatre Calgary website for updates on this season’s performance.

GlobalFest

August 20 – 29, 2020

  • An international fireworks festival and celebration of Calgary’s diverse cultural; with cultural pavilions, ethnic food booths and a night market.
  • website

The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF)

September 23 – October 4, 2020

  • Watch up to 200 multi-genre feature and short films from Canada and over 40 countries. The festival also hosts gala events, movie screenings in several Calgary theatres, and special presentations to bring out an entertaining and educational 12 days each fall.
  • Local Tip: Fans and local filmmakers can get the chance to interact with each other through the Behind the Screen series.
  • website

Beakerhead

September TBA

  • Calgary’s annual festival where science and engineering meets art and entertainment. Experience large-scale mechanical public art, performances, science-themed culinary creations, hands-on workshops, and more.
  • website

For information on even more Calgary festivals, check out www.visitcalgary.com.


Bluke the cat

How to travel with your cat to Korea

Most people don’t travel internationally with their cat, but we recently brought Bluke from Calgary, Alberta to Seoul, South Korea. Here are a few of our cat travel tips.

Competa, Andelucia, Spain

Travel Inspiration 2019

I don’t know about you, but I get almost as much feel good mileage from travel planning as from the trip itself.

A few years ago, a study from the Netherlands found that vacationers were generally happier than non-vacationers – not necessarily after a holiday, but before the holiday, while planning and anticipating their vacation.

So I’ve been looking at travel trends, and dreaming and planning for our next trip. If you haven’t started planning your next vacation, here’s some travel inspiration for 2019 so you can take advantage of this pre-trip happiness.


Travel hot spots “off the beaten path”

Although this is an oxymoron, a lot of people want to go where the other traveling masses haven’t settled in yet.

Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba | photo by Michael Gaylard / CC BY

For Canadians, Cuba has been a popular sun vacation for years, but we haven’t made it there yet.

It’s great that more travelers can now safely visit formerly off-limits countries such as Cuba and Columbia. I’ve even seen Iran on some recent must-see lists. Through Instagram, I’ve seen how interesting and beautiful that country is, and I would love to visit, but today it’s still too difficult and dangerous for me. During my lifetime, the same would have been said about countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia, and today they are top tourist destinations, so maybe someday.

Getting away from it all, but closer to nature

South Georgia Island

Finding that undiscovered gem means different things to different people, but as people are traveling more than ever, you might have to go further to get “off the beaten path”. Getting closer to nature on a safari in African, elephant sanctuary in Thailand or tiger spotting in India are bucket list kind of adventures.  Lately I’ve noticed more travelers are also visiting very remote Arctic or Antarctic locations, such as Greenland or South Georgia Island, where humans are outnumbered by polar bears or penguins.

South Georgia Island

South Georgia Island | photo by nomis-simon / CC BY

In case you don’t know about South Georgia Island (which I didn’t), it’s part of the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Visiting South Georgia Island is a bucket-list expedition that looks awesome but is pretty pricey. Maybe someday!

Jasper National Park, Alberta

For spectacular mountains, outdoor adventures and plenty of wildlife, I recommend Jasper, Alberta – and with the current low Canadian dollar it’s a bargain. For the best prices and to avoid crowds, try to travel outside peak times in July/August.

Black bear in Jasper National Park

A black bear we spotted in Jasper National Park.

Jasper National Park is also one of the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserves, and one of the best places to view stars and northern lights. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held each October. And getting to Jasper…via the the Icefield Parkway from Banff is one of the world’s most unforgettable road trips.

Speaking of road trips…

One of the best ways to put some distance between yourself and the traveling masses is by taking a road trip. A lot of travelers only take road trips locally, but internationally it’s a great option as well. Having a car gives you the freedom to stop at those interesting places not so accessible by public transport. If there are two or more of you, it can also be one of the least expensive ways of getting around.

Travel Inspiration 2016, Competa, Andalucia, Spain

Stopping at a mosaic-embellished bench to take in the view of the white hill-town of Competa in Andalucia, Spain.

A Spanish Road Trip

A couple years ago we took a road trip through south and eastern Spain. Along our planned route were a lot of places we had not heard about, and it was wonderful having the freedom to stop and explore.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden | photo by Thomas Fabian  / CC BY

A Scandinavian Road Trip?

We recently visited Stockholm, but a road trip might be a great way to see more of Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway. These are relatively expensive countries, so we would have to figure out some ways to stretch our budget.

Alternates to the most popular big cities

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal | photo by Rustam Aliyev / CC BY

Portugal

One way of stretching your European vacation budget is to visit alternatives to the most popular destinations like Paris or Rome. Portugal is a great example, being one of Europe’s least expensive countries, but with great architecture, food and culture. Other options might be the Le Marche region of Italy, or Eastern European countries such as Hungary or Montenegro. While still popular with travelers, some of these options are less busy, and less expensive.

Hokkaido, Japan

Tokyo is a must-see if you are visiting Japan, but for something completely different, check out the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido. It’s a popular recommendation this year, as the Hokkaido Shinkansen high-speed train from Tokyo will begin service in March. Hokkaido is known for it’s wilderness areas with outdoor activities such as skiing or hiking, and Sapporo’s famous snow festival with enormous ice sculptures. Hokkaido is also a great food destination, with fresh seafood, dairy, produce and delicious local dishes such as soup curry. If you go to Hokkaido, be sure to visit Otaru, a picturesque small harbor city northwest of Sapporo. In addition to the rail link, it’s easy to fly from Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo with more than 80 flights per day.

Food in Hokkaido

Food in Hokkaido | Light and delicious cheesecake in Sapporo, and fresh grilled shellfish in Otaru.

More dream destinations for 2019

  • MATERA, ITALY and PLOVDIV, BULGARIA | In 2019, Matera and Plovdiv are the European Capitals of Culture.
  • THE PELOPONNESE, GREECE
  • THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
  • ARLES, FRANCE The town famous for Vincent Van Gogh is getting a major new arts venue which features the Luma Arles tower by Frank Gehry.
  • MUMBAI, INDIA
  • SINGAPORE | More famous this year after the success of Crazy Rich Asians
  • MEXICA CITY, MEXICO

So if you haven’t planned your vacation yet it’s time to start dreaming!
Where would you like to go in 2019?

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Travel Inspiration

hobbitonNZ

Our New Zealand Visit to Middle Earth

Nestled in rolling green hills on New Zealand’s North Island is the Hobbiton Movie Set, used to film the “Shire” scenes in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (“LOTR”) movies.  I’m a fan, so a visit to the real Middle Earth was a must-do on our first trip to New Zealand.

In Search of the Shire

Our view flying into Auckland.
Even before our flight landed in Auckland, we thought New Zealand looked perfect for the Shire.

The Shire is a charming country village in Tolkien’s fictional Middle Earth that is home to the hobbits. Although Tolkien was inspired by locations in Switzerland and England, Peter Jackson would be filming LOTR in his native New Zealand. Finding the right location for the Shire was vital, as it represented the good in the world worth fighting for.

In 1998, LOTR location scouts were doing an aerial search when they came upon the Alexander family’s 1250 acre sheep and cattle farm just outside Matamata, which looked perfect for the Shire.

The Alexander farm and location of the Shire at the Hobbiton Movie Set.
The idyllic setting of the Alexander farm, and location of the Shire at the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Matamata is a rural farming town about 2.5 hours southeast of Auckland, near the base of the scenic Kaimai Mountain Ranges. Peter Jackson himself went to the farm to seek permission from the owner, but was told to come back after the rugby game he was watching ended. Mr. Alexander had never heard of LOTR, but apparently his sons had and they persuaded him to allow the filming on his farm.

Homes for Hobbits

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

For LOTR, 39 hobbit holes were created from untreated wood and polystyrene. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was transported in and artificial leaves were wired onto the tree. Filming began December 1999 and continued for three months, and that was going to be the end of the set. The Shire set was not built to last but fans of Tolkien and Lord of the Rings flocked to the New Zealand movie locations.

In 2009 a rebuild of Hobbiton began for the filming of The Hobbit, this time using permanent materials. The process took two years to complete and Hobbiton is now a permanent attraction with 44 hobbit holes, gardens, a bridge, mill and The Green Dragon Inn. The Shire scenes for The Hobbit were filmed in only 12 days, but today it’s one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions, with more than one million visitors. Each hobbit hole is unique, with details like picnics laid out on a table and hobbit clothes hanging on the line.

Our New Zealand Visit to Middle Earth

The Hobbiton Movie Set tour begins with a short narrated bus ride through the farm down into the valley where the hobbit holes are found. In the photo below is the most famous hobbit hole, Bag End, which was the home of Bilbo Baggins, then of Frodo Baggins, and eventually of Samwise Gamgee and his wife Rosie Cotton. The Lord of the Rings opens with Bilbo preparing for his 111th birthday party, and as the sign indicates, he was busy with preparations.

Bag End, home of Bilbo Baggins.
Bag End, home of Bilbo Baggins, who was busy preparing for his 111th birthday.

Bilbo’s birthday took place in a field dominated by a large “party tree”, so a magnificent tree was needed for the movie’s party scene. As you can see the Alexander farm also had the perfect “party tree”.

the party tree
The party tree.
The hobbit holes have unique details in the windows and gardens.
No filming took place inside these hobbit holes, but there are still unique details in the windows and gardens.

This is the cozy home of my favourite hobbit, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee and his wife Rosie. Sam was Frodo’s companion and one of the most courageous and honourable hobbits.

The home of Samwise and Rosie.
The home of Sam and Rosie is especially lovely as Sam was a gardener.
Details of each hobbit hole give clues to the relative wealth and occupation of each resident.
Details of each hobbit hole give clues to the relative wealth and occupation of the resident.

In LOTR The Green Dragon Inn was the local meeting place for hobbits, and stopping for a pint is part of the Hobbiton tour experience. Interior scenes of the Inn were filmed in Wellington studios, but the interior has been recreated. As part of the Hobbiton tour, guests receive a complimentary ale, cider or non-alcoholic ginger beer, brewed locally for the Hobbiton Movie Set. Food such as scones and meat pies are also available for purchase.

The Green Dragon Inn
Stopping for a pint of ale at the Green Dragon Inn.
Inside the Green Dragon Inn
Feeling like a part of Middle Earth, inside the Green Dragon Inn with a cider and a scone.
Our New Zealand visit to Middle Earth
The property is still farmed today by the Alexander family, with approximately 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle.

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings this Middle Earth tour is a New Zealand must-do. Even if you aren’t familiar with the books or movies, the Hobbiton Movie Set is still enjoyable both for the behind-the-scenes stories, and its idyllic setting.

“Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.”

Recited by Bilbo upon his return to the Shire.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


How to Visit Hobbiton Movie Set

  • Book your Hobbiton Movie set tour in advance.
  • The only way to visit is via a two-hour guided bus/walking tour. Your guide will escort you through the twelve acre site, with stories of how the movie set was created and used.
  • Address: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata, New Zealand
  • Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Prices – Adult (17+): $79.00, Youth (9-16yrs): $39.50, Child (0-8yrs): Free with adult.
  • The walking portion of the tour is easy, but sensible footwear is recommended.
  • Check online for discounted pricing, especially if you need transport to the Hobbiton location. (I found discounted pricing on Expedia.)
  • There is a cafe and a souvenier shop onsite at the Shires Rest entrance.
  • Hobbiton is about 2.5 hours by car from Auckland, or about 45 minutes from where we were staying in Tauranga.
  • Visit the Hobbiton Movie Set website for more information.

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Have you been to Middle Earth?