The Hobbiton™ Movie Set tour is a visitor experience based at the original location where Hobbiton was created for the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. It offers an interesting and entertaining experience incorporating the famous
film set and a special insight into rural life.
When scouting around for settings for Peter Jackson’s epic three movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Kiwi Director found just what he was looking for in the green paddocks of the Waikato just outside Matamata. The bucolic setting for the Shire, home of the Hobbits, was right there.
I was greeted by my guide Benji and we stepped onto one of Hobbiton Movie Set’s big green buses and the journey began. We made our way through the farmland and out of the windows we enjoyed the fantastic views and rolling countryside of the Alexander farm that closely resembles that of Middleearth as described by JRR Tolkien. I can immediately see why this farm was ideal with rolling green hills tumbling into the distance and the beautiful Kaimai ranges framing the landscape out in the distance.
The commentary from our driver ‘Big John’ describes how this location in the heart of the Waikato was found by the film company when scouting for locations for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The location was perfectly placed in the centre of the Alexander property away from any features not fitting Middle-Earth. After sitting down and discussing the details of filming and how the Alexander’s could still operate their working sheep and beef farm during set construction. Site construction started in March 1999 with the help from the New Zealand Army. Total site construction took nine months and as I am told, the set like all locations used throughout the country was built from temporary materials and only meant to last a couple of months.
As we reach our drop off point I can’t hide my excitement as we disembark from the bus. I have always been a big fan of The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit Movies and I can’t quite believe I am about to walk in the footsteps of the Hobbits. We make our way down the stone path and around a sweeping corner and Hobbiton appears before my eyes. This is the path Gandalf
the Grey rode as he came into Hobbiton and is the perfect way to begin our adventure.
I gather with the other guests around Benji as he explains how Hobbiton was constructed and brought to life for filming. At its peak 400 people were on site, including at various times Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Sean Astin (Sam), Sir Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins) and Martin Freeman (Young Bilbo Baggins).
In 2009 Peter Jackson again approached the family to use the property and the set was rebuilt for the filming of the three films based on The Hobbit. Now the set has been permanently constructed and is a joint venture owned by Sir Peter Jackson and the Alexander family and has been established to operate tours to the Hobbiton Movie Set. I can’t quite believe the amount of detail that has been done in creating this movie set. With clothes hanging on the lines and chimney smoke rising into the air, I feel as though I could spot a Hobbit out of the corner of my eye at any minute. I can easily imagine Hobbits going about their daily business, enjoying a second breakfast outside their homes.
I walk with my guide through the 12 acre site, learning fascinating details of how Hobbiton Movie Set was created. Hobbit holes have been made to look as though
they have been nestled into the countryside out here for hundreds of years and the detail in the set is staggering. I spot the very iconic green door of Bag End, home of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins and start to speed up my steps. This is the most famous hobbit hole of them all and is complete with the iconic oak tree above it. This is the highest point we reach on set so we take some time to look out again across the rolling landscape.
It has been a beautiful tour so far and to finish the experience we make our way across towards The Green Dragon™ Inn. The Green Dragon exterior was used for filming and the interior is a replica of what had been created in the studios - fully authentic and absolutely stunning. The Hobbiton exclusively brewed beverages are available at the Green Dragon Inn as you complete your tour. The interior of the Green Dragon is truly a step back in time. I take some time to relax in a handcrafted leather chair in front of the crackling open fire and take in the view across the lake to the Mill and Bag End.
After my tour of the film set we wander back through the village to the bus and return to Shire’s Rest™ Café. I take the opportunity to visit The Shire Store where you can purchase souvenirs (some exclusive) as a reminder of the journey to the Hobbiton Movie Set.
Hobbiton Movie Set is the only remaining set in New Zealand and provides the opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in a landscape that has now become recognised around the world.
A significant number of visitors have not seen any of the films and such is the iconic nature of Hobbiton Movie Set that this is not a prerequisite. The opportunity to stroll down idyllic lanes amidst cottage flowers with the scent of honeysuckle lingering in the air, past hobbit holes that seem to have been part of the landscape for centuries, is an absolute treat.
Tours leave daily from Shire’s Rest™ Cafe, 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera or Matamata and Rotorua Information Centres. Tours run in all weather conditions. Umbrellas are provided in the event of rain however, it is recommended you take comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing.