Bucket list item #15: Go to Hobbiton
If you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings, then Hobbiton is a must-see when visiting New Zealand. The whole country has multiple areas that was featured in the movies, and you can even go on tours designed specifically to see these places. Having watched the movies, and seen photos of the movie set, it was a no brainer for me. This definitely had to go on my bucket list. I may not be a die hard LOTR fan (I'm probably more a Harry Potter fan to be honest), but I have always been fascinated with how the movies were filmed. The imagination and creativity that has to go behind building characters and other worlds has always been something I have been envious of.
Hobbiton is located a few hours south of Auckland in a place called Matamata. You can easily drive down there and buy tickets for a day tour, or pass through the area on your way to the South Island. I opted to book a tour from Auckland which included the transportation, entrance to Hobbiton, a two hour guided tour through the shire, and a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. It ended up being just me and another solo female traveler from the tour company that drove us to Hobbiton, so the ride to and from Auckland was very comfortable. Message me if you want more details on which travel agency I booked with.
The story behind Hobbiton:
It was actually during an aerial search in 1998 that Sir Peter Jackson's team found the rolling hills that would eventually become Hobbiton. The place, known as the Alexander farm, is actually 1,250 acres of sheep farm land. They ended up using only 12 acres for the set and built 39 temporary Hobbit Holes by 1999 with the help of the New Zealand Army. When they completed the filming of The Shire, only 17 of the Hobbit Holes remained and these empty shells eventually led to the opening of Hobbiton to the public in 2002.
In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson came back to film The Hobbit, and left behind the movie set with 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes. The Green Dragon Inn was the last addition to the tour when it was opened to visitors in 2012. This is where guests can end their tour of Hobbiton with a refreshing beverage.
The morning starts off with everyone at the main ticket office building before a group is loaded onto a tour bus that crosses the street and into the Alexander farm. The tour guide with you begins by explaining the background behind how Hobbiton was formed, and a little on the farm itself. Five minutes into the farm, and you're instructed to get off the bus and start on a pathway to where the Hobbit Holes are located.
I felt the two hour tour was just enough time for you to go around and see everything. The guide even took the time to take photos for you if you asked them to. It also wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be, but that might be because I was on the first tour group of the day. I was told that more people come towards lunchtime, so I would suggest going early to avoid the influx of tourists. It did rain a little bit, so I would also recommend checking the weather ahead of time as the whole area is in an open space. Bring an umbrella if needed.
I thought it was fascinating. Though the whole movie set isn't actually that big, hearing about the history on the place and how they used the different sized doors to film height perspectives was amazing. There was even one tree in the area that they had to hand make in order to keep the details of the story in check. The number of hours, dedication, and hard work that was put into making this set beautiful, I think really brought J.R.R. Tolkein's vision to life.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed that the hobbit holes are empty. Except for a few that had a few tables and chairs inside, it's mainly just gathering dust. Can you imagine how cool it would be if they furnished a few of these Hobbit Holes and actually turned it into a little bed and breakfast? It might not be possible with how they are built, but it would have been nice to have had at least one of them furnished inside so we could see what they would have looked like. It's in my understanding however, that the parts filmed inside the Hobbit Holes were actually filmed on movie sets in a completely different location.
Would I recommend Hobbiton?
Well, if you've seen the movies, and you want to know more about how it was filmed, then yes, I would definitely recommend a little trip to Hobbiton. For those that aren't very big LOTR fans, there are so many other activities and things you can do nearby that might interest you more. Nevertheless though, the place makes for a cool side trip, and the photos look amazing. Maybe you'll have fun. I thought it was a good way to kill a few hours for the day, though probably not a place I would go back to again.