WAIKATO

Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Shayne For­rest

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.

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