“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I visited Hobbiton on November 13th. I took so many photos that it has taken me nearly two months to narrow them down to a somewhat appropriate amount for this post.
I’ve been wanting to share this adventure since the moment I arrived at Hobbiton. Those of you who follow me on Instagram @ninaclapperton will have seen that I almost immediately posted a photo of me in a Hobbit Hole.
Now, that I’ve got the photos down from triple digits, here’s all you need to know about Hobbiton and why it is 100% worth a visit!
What is Hobbiton?
Hobbiton is a film set used in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies. It is known as “The Shire” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Peter Jackson chose the location in 1998 while flying around New Zealand looking for the perfect spot. Upon seeing what was a sheep and dairy farm, he knew he had found it. From the cresting green hills to the mountains in the distance, it fit the role. The iconic party tree was even in place, a towering pine that looks onto what would eventually be Bag End (Bilbo’s home).
The Alexander family now work together with Peter Jackson to operate Hobbiton tours.
Temporary structures were built for the first three Lord of the Rings films, which were then removed once filming was complete. People started coming to the farm and asking to see the location. The Alexanders started operating small tours to the then white cardboard remains.
When Peter Jackson came back in 2009 to film The Hobbit trilogy, the Alexanders agreed only if he would make the Hobbit Holes permanent. This led to the now 44 permanent constructions that make up Hobbiton and to the official tours that are now run.
Three years later, the Green Dragon Inn was added as a location for guests to have a beverage at the end of their tour.
Why is Hobbiton so Popular?
Hobbiton is a popular tourist attraction, even for those who haven’t seen or read any of the Lord of the Rings. The draw of the colourful round doors of the Hobbit Holes attract everyone. These photos are all over Instagram.
Touring Hobbiton provides a lot of inside information on the filming process. As someone not in the film industry, I’m always fascinated to learn how they do things.
Those who love Lord of the Rings (like me!) come for their devotion to the series. That was definitely my reason for booking a Hobbiton tour – although the pretty photos were a great bonus.
Where is Hobbiton?
Hobbiton is located in Matamata on the North Island of New Zealand.
You can get to it by driving or book a ticket that includes pick up and drop off. Hobbiton will get you from the Matamata I-site or Rotorua for an additional fee.
Numerous tour companies offer day trips to Hobbiton that would include transfers.
To visit Hobbiton, you must go on a guided tour. The tour costs $84 NZD for adults and lasts about two hours. This price includes a bus ride from the entrance down to the Hobbit Holes, the guided tour, and a free specially brewed (or non-alcoholic) beverage at the Green Dragon Inn. The beverage options are between two ales, a cider or a non-alcoholic ginger beer. (To get an alcoholic drink you must bring your passport for ID. New Zealand does not accept foreign drivers licenses or other forms of ID from tourists.)
There is an option to add-on a meal. For $36 NZD you get a buffet lunch in the Party Marquee.
Tours run from 9am to 3:30pm daily. Book well in advance to ensure you get a spot. This is a popular tourist destination, so it fills up fast.
The Gift Shop
One of the hallmarks of Hobbiton is it’s unique gift shop filled with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings memorabilia. From mugs to stuffed Golems, you can find it all! Prices range from reasonably to insane. They had a handsewn Gandalf outfit and staff for about $1,000 NZD.
The gift shop is sort of odd in that it has a lot of T-shirts and posters, but no rings. I would have expected a lot of “one ring”s to be featured around the store. Apparently, they are more common in the nearby town.
Apparently, a rich man once paid tens of thousands to have a custom Lord of the Ring ring made, only to drop it in Mount Doom (an inactive volcano) via helicopter. Since the volcano is inactive, it is likely still sitting there.
… maybe that’s why they don’t sell rings at the Hobbiton gift shop.
Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s fun to look through!
Starting the Tour
The Hobbiton tour is well worth the cost.
The tour begins with selected movie scenes played on the bus to help people recognize the set. Peter Jackson and the Alexanders then speak via pre-recorded message to welcome visitors to Hobbiton.
Make sure to take a moment to appreciate the rolling hills dotted with sheep on the drive. They’re part of the reason this location was chosen in the first place.
The bus journey doesn’t take very long. Between the videos and the amazing scenery out the windows, you barely notice any time has passed.
Getting to Info and the Photos
You have to stick with your tour guide as you make your way through The Shire. Don’t worry: they take you through all of Hobbiton! And they give you plenty of time for photo ops. I’m pretty sure 1 hour of the tour is information and the rest was time for us to snap as many photos as we could.
Our tour guide was extremely well informed. He noted every major moment of the movie that occurred in The Shire and allowed us to recreate it. From Bilbo yelling “I’m going on an adventure!” to Gandalf’s arrival in the first Lord of the Ring movie, we got to be a part of it all. And, unlike my hike to see Mount Doom, we knew what it all was.
Discovering the Details
Each Hobbit Hole is different. They are often designed to represent their resident. Some have fishing poles, others have gardens. Some are replicas made to be different sizes. This is to play with perspective so that Gandalf looked bigger than all of the Hobbits.
Every element is uniquely thought out to complete the overall effect.
Even the vegetables and fruit growing on set had to be specific. Crops not native to New Zealand were brought in to be true to the books. Specific fruit trees were planted to make the actors appear smaller.
Amongst all of those real plants, the iconic tree above Bag End is actually fake. It was constructed for the movies. When Peter Jackson first saw it, he required all of the hand painted leaves be redone to fit the season of the films. I wouldn’t have been able to tell it wasn’t real if he hadn’t told us.
One of my favourite facts was that the small pond in The Shire had to be dredged of frogs. The animals were so noisy that they couldn’t film around them. Sure enough, they often tried to drown out our tour guide with their croaks. After removing them, the frogs managed to find their way back to their home to sing for thousands of tourists.
The Magic of the Movie Set
I was completely enthralled by the whole tour. I asked friends to take photos of me at every possible point. I climbed inside Hobbit Holes, posed in gardens and wished I could live there forever. (Honestly, I think an overnight camping experience needs to be created!)
The tour winds through The Shire, up to Bag End and down to the Party Tree. You even get a chance to see Samwise Gamgee’s house! You can snap some final photos before heading past the Mill, over a bridge to the Green Dragon Inn for your complimentary drink.
Drinking at the Green Dragon
The Green Dragon Inn has a guest book in the corner that was signed by the original cast. It is kept in a smudged glass case, so photos aren’t easy to get, but it is worth seeing.
As you enjoy your beverage, you can try on some traditional Hobbit attire, walk by the small lake or sit down at the inn. We chose to sit outside where one of our friends regaled us with a traditional Hobbit drinking song. If you have the ability to, definitely sing a Hobbit drinking song at Hobbiton.
Follow him on Instagram @lorcanoftheburgerkingdom
Ending the Tour
All to soon we had to leave. Unfortunately, you can’t mill about at the Green Dragon Inn endlessly. The tour technically doesn’t end until you are back at the entrance.
The bus journey back featured more Lord of the Rings scenes and a final farewell from Peter Jackson.
Everyone drifts to the gift shop after they get off the bus. Many people buy bottles of the alcohol we got to have at the Green Dragon Inn. No one bought the luxury Gandalf cloak.
Hobbiton is a New Zealand must do. It is on almost every top 10 list for the country. Even if you aren’t interested in Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Holes and film knowledge are worth the trip. Besides, where else are you going to be able to climb into a Hobbit Hole?
What movie set do you wish you could visit?