A Mecca To Hobbiton
I will be upfront right now. I absolutely raced through the first week of my road trip out of excitement to get to Matamata. A trip to the famed Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie set has been on my to-do list ever since I decided to move to New Zealand. Not wanting to miss out on the epic grandeur of the Northland region, I made sure to spend a week of exploration up there, but if you’ve been following along I was rushing it. If I could have justified it to myself, I would have sped right to Hobbiton from the get-go. If you read my last post on the Coromandel Peninsula, you would know I only went there for one day. I could practically taste the ale and smell the Hobbiton air from the Coromandel, which is just a short drive away.
Arriving the night before, I treated myself to my first hot meal in seven days at a local pub. After half a beer, I was smiling from ear to ear, sitting alone and munching on a hot pie. I was in heaven.
I arrived at the Hobbiton Movie Set shortly after 9:00 am to hop on the 9:30 tour. Tours depart from The Shire’s Rest at 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata. They recommend setting aside two hours to take the tour. Tickets can be purchased either online or at The Shire’s Rest. If you’re picky about which tour time you want, I would advise booking online.
After getting there, purchasing my ticket, and ordering a coffee from The Shire’s Rest Cafe, I boarded a bus with the other members of my tour. The bus took us through a short ride through the 1200+ acre sheep farm that captivated Peter Jackson and his location scouts back in the day when they realized New Zealand IS Middle Earth. The movie set takes up twelve acres on the farm.
Ticket Prices (NZD)
Adults (17+) $79.00
Youth (9-16) $39.50
Children (0-8) free with a paying adult
On The Tour…
Our guide was a fountain of knowledge. She took us on a journey, weaving through the Hobbiton village. First, she would tell the group all about the particular door or area we were viewing and provide fun snippets of information from the filming that we never would have known. Then, she gave us ample time at each spot to take as many photos as our hearts desired. At some doors, particularly Bilbo’s, everyone lined up individually to get the best photos. At times I did feel like it took a bit of the magic out of it, having everyone constantly snapping away and posing in front of every single thing. But at the same time, I would be damned if I didn’t get some amazing photos of this colorful little village that I’ve only seen on the big screen and envisioned while reading!
Various doors throughout the movie set were built to different scales, so that different characters of different sizes could be filmed in front of them. Bilbo and Frodo were filmed in front of doors built to 100%, while Gandalf and the dwarves were filmed by doors built to much lower scales. I hadn’t realized how large this set actually is! The details on the front lawns of each hobbit hole are immaculate. Each home was crafted with a specific member of the community in mind (ie. the baker, the town drunk, etc.) After walking through the paths along the hobbit holes, we ended up in the area where Bilbo has his 111st birthday. The ale used for filming was made specifically for the crew at a teeny tiny percentage of alcohol so that they couldn’t get too drunk.
Finally, the tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn, the local gathering place for hobbits. The inn appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Reconstructed for the movie set, the Green Dragon is epic. Sadly, we were only allotted a mere fifteen minutes to explore the inn. I could have spend at least an hour enjoying a meal and a brew by the hearth and snapping away at the interior detail of the place. On the plus side, all guests over the age of 18 are given the choice between two Southfarthing ales brewed solely for the Hobbiton Movie Set. The beer is included in the tour.
Then there is the exterior! This is why I was slightly bothered at how short of a time we were allowed to be in the inn. I felt that I basically had to choose between enjoying the interior and the exterior. I imagine it must have been because my tour group took so long at some spots to take photos, we must not have had much time left of the tour when we arrived at the Green Dragon. As it was a beautiful day, I ended up sitting outside with a girl I met on the tour plotting ways to get a second beer.
We hopped back onto the bus toward The Shire’s Rest. I wandered through the gift shop, but was not too impressed with the selection of souvenirs and walked away without a purchase (probably a good thing). I left Hobbiton overflowing with energy that I finally made it to this really cool place. Though the tour is a bit short, in my opinion, and pricey, I definitely recommend for fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I am a huge fan of movie set tours because I love stepping into a world I have read about or seen on screen and being able to see what the actors saw. I think it’s the best way to appreciate the craftsmanship and hard work that goes into building a movie set to make viewers believe that it’s a real place. So I would 10/10 go on this tour again.
Have you visited the Hobbiton Movie Set? What did you think?