Earlier this year I was lucky enough to tag along with my Schnucki and his parents to the Hobbiton Movie Set whilst on our road trip around New Zealand – and what fun it was! This was somewhere that I’d wanted to visit since its completion and I was so excited to finally go there. So let me take you on the grand tour of Hobbiton!
The Hobbiton Movie Set is located on farmland nestled between the rolling hills of Matamata in the North Island. Driving into the tiny township of Matamata, you would never guess a world famous movie location was nearby until you’ve followed the signs and turned a corner on a hilly country road and then BAM! You’re suddenly faced with a noisy explosion of tourists, buses and cars out of the middle of nowhere.
What many people don’t realise about Hobbiton is that you can’t just waltz in there on your own terms – you have to book a tour time in advance. The tickets are surprisingly expensive at $79 NZD per adult and $39.50 NZD per child/youth, but well worth it if you’re a big Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit fan.
The Hobbiton village is built on private farmland which you can’t enter unless you’re on the movie set buses, so you’re expected to wait for your bus at The Shire’s Rest Café, which is a café/restaurant in a converted wool shed. The souvenir shop was also located there, which was packed full of official LOTR and The Hobbit merchandise.
Once it was time for our tour, we hopped on our big green bus which took us across the road onto the Alexander family’s 500 hectare property, which they have owned since 1978. Peter Jackson and his crew found the farm during their location search for Lord Of The Rings and after getting permission, built a temporary film set there in 1999.
The original film set was made out of plywood, scaffolding and polystyrene and was taken down after filming was finished. In 2011, Peter Jackson and his crew were back to start filming for The Hobbit trilogy and this time the set was rebuilt using permanent materials. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand.
Our bus drove through farmland and gates for 20 minutes while the driver told us facts about the set and then we were finally dropped off in Hobbiton. A tour guide was waiting for us as we got off and took us and about fifteen others on a walking tour through The Shire, telling us behind-the-scene facts and stories along the way.
The Shire was spread out and took up a lot more land than I expected, but the real stars of the show were of course the hobbit holes. Every hobbit’s home was designed and painted differently with everything aged and faded to look like it had been there a long time. The whole village was overgrown and bursting with flowers and vegetable gardens (the proud work of the Hobbiton full-time gardeners), with props abandoned as though the hobbits had abruptly left to hide from us Big Folk.
Everything was small, cute and so homey. It was all set up for practical and comfortable living – nothing was overdone – exactly the sort of humble life hobbits would live. The landscape was beautiful and so peaceful that I could imagine myself happily living in a cosy hobbit hole in The Shire (I’d be small enough for one too!).
The attention to detail and design really blew me away. You could tell the occupation of hobbits by the props outside their doors like fish of the fishmonger, cheese of the cheesemaker, honey of the beekeeper and sculptures outside the clay maker’s place. Every letterbox, garden and gate was of a different design – I really envied the set designers that got to make this world come to life. It would be so much fun!
We started off at the bottom of the hill where the ‘poor’ hobbits were said to live and their hobbit holes were plain with not much decoration. The further up the hill we went, the hobbit holes had more detail and more luxuries, with the biggest and most luxurious hobbit hole at the top of the hill of course belonging to Bilbo Baggins.
We also got to see Sam’s hobbit hole – the one that is in the last scene of the last LOTR (although this one is a reconstruction). Some of the hobbit doors can be opened but even if they do, there’s nothing inside (sorry to shatter your hopes).
We went on a lovely Summer’s day in January, which was in their peak season that attracts a lot of tourists – I could hardly believe we were in rural New Zealand with the amount of people around when we went. Autumn or winter would probably be better times to go, in terms of crowds and people walking into your photos. It took real effort and timing to take photos with no one in them!
After getting photos taken in the human sized hobbit hole which we could pose in, we were finally at Bilbo’s hobbit hole. I bought a replica of the classic ‘no admittance’ sign ($20 NZD) at the souvenir shop, which is hanging up in my room right now.
Unfortunately, the front gate was as far as we could go in front of Bilbo’s hobbit hole and our group took turns getting photos taken in front of it. The oak tree above Bilbo’s home was man-made (which you would never have guessed by looking at it) and the leaves were shipped in from Taiwan and put on the tree one by one.
After Bilbo’s, it was time to go down the hill and across the lake and water mill to The Green Dragon Inn. This was a fully functioning pub with food and drinks, which sold South Farthing beer – an original Hobbiton brand. This was also where our tour ended and we got a free ginger beer on arrival and a place to sit down and relax.
The Green Dragon is a replica of the one used in the films and behind the building was a huge marquee tent that was based on the one at Bilbo’s birthday party. The tent seats over 200 people, and can be used for events, functions and even weddings.
Just imagine having a wedding in The Shire! (I’m sure it would cost megabucks to hire the place, but still, how magical would that be.)
The Hobbiton tour lasted about two hours and after resting at The Green Dragon, we were free to meander back to our bus in the car park.
All in all, the home of the halflings was a picturesque, magical work of art and I’m so glad I got to see it! I think one visit is probably enough (especially with that price tag) but I’m happy to wait for the day where there will be a human-sized Hobbiton village where I can live in my comfy and warm little underground home with a round door.
So, did you enjoy my Hobbiton tour?
Is this somewhere that you would like to visit?