Ever since I had caught Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movie, I have always been intrigued by everything to do with the trilogy. So during my recent trip to New Zealand (NZ), I decided to pay my famous friend Bilbo Baggins a visit, at Bag End, Hobbiton.
Hobbiton is on a Private Farm
Hobbiton is actually located on a working sheep farm near Matamata, which is roughly a two and a half hours drive from Auckland City.
This private farm belongs to the Alexander family, who amazingly, had never heard about LOTR when they were presented with the contract to have their farm used as the LOTR movie set.
Today, there are a total of 44 hobbit holes built on the farm, including the most famous one of all – the home of Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Frodo.
The set was first constructed in March 1999 and demolished after the final LOTR movie had finished. But it was later re-built for The Hobbit films in 2011 – and this time, the movie site is a permanent fixture on the farm.
A Hobbit Hole Welcome Sign
The minute I reached Matamata, I was quite tickled by their welcome sign – instead of welcoming visitors to the town, it actually said, “Welcome to Hobbiton.” As a LOTR enthusiast, I posed for a few pictures next to this cute looking sign.
The information centre was also shaped like a hobbit home, complete with little round doors. When you walked inside, the first thing that greets you is a hissing statue of the scheming Gollum – a character totally consumed by the One Ring in the trilogy.
A 20 Minute Drive from Matamata
Hobbiton is about a 20-minute drive away from Matamata but it took some efforts to locate – by car.
However we eventually spotted the brown tourist signs pointing visitors to the farm. I could barely wait to set foot into The Shire.
At Hobbiton, the first building greeting visitors is The Shire’s Rest. This is a small café where visitors can grab some light refreshments before or after their tour. Below The Shire’s Rest is the ticketing counter and souvenir shop.
Sheep and More Sheep
At The Shire’s Rest, we boarded a bus to take us to see the hobbit dwellings. I could barely wait.
The bus trip itself wasn’t long – about three kilometres away. But on the way, I was actually wondering whether I had come here to see the movie set or to take a look at the sheep – NZ’s famous export. The only thing that I could see for miles around, were sheep and more sheep – reared for their meat and wool. No wonder they always say that NZ has more sheep than people.
Walking Through The Shire
The bus soon stopped and we got off. I was so excited and eager that I could barely contain myself!
And when I got off the bus, I was completely awed by everything. It was extremely amazing! The movie set was so realistic that I really felt as though I was in The Shire itself and that hobbits would be coming out anytime now, to welcome me. The hilly landscape was so picturesque and pretty too. The hobbit dwellings, which had been created by digging up the hills, looked as though they had always been part of the landscape.
Unfortunately, we could not enter these hobbit homes though, because they had been built with just the exterior only. According to our tour guide, the scenes depicting the inside of Bilbo’s house in the movies were actually shot at a house in Wellington, which is a seven-hour drive away from where we were.
I couldn’t help myself and kept on taking pictures of the beautiful scenery of The Shire. It was really an amazing experience. But where were the hobbits? Perhaps a few actors could have been employed to dress up like them – to inject some more realism into the movie set.
Roughly about halfway into the tour, we passed by Bilbo Baggins’s house. It was the one at the very top of the hill, sheltered by a huge tree. Before the tour guide mentioned it, I immediately recognised it, because of the huge sign outside that said, “No admittance except on party business.”
Seeing this house immediately brought back to me, nostalgic scenes from the LOTR books that I had read and the LOTR movies I had seen. I remember Bilbo celebrating his eleventy-first birthday here and the wizard Gandalf crashing the party on his horse.
Before leaving, I took a few pictures outside Bilbo’s home – unfortunately visitors weren’t allowed to enter this house. I regret that I could not see where Bilbo ate his meals.
We were shown the inside of some of the other not-so-famous hobbit dwellings, though. However, there wasn’t much inside, except maybe a wooden bench for visitors to sit down and pose for pictures – and to proclaim that they have been inside a hobbit house.
The Green Dragon Pub
Before leaving the movie set, we paid a visit to the Green Dragon pub – this was the last stop on the tour. Unlike the hobbit dwellings, it had been created to be a working pub, complete with drinks galore. This had not been the intention of the movie directors – it was actually set up for tours. Guests were entitled to a complimentary drink of their choice (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic) as a farewell gesture. Additional drinks were priced at NZ$6 each.
As I slowly sipped my ginger beer, I walked around the Green Dragon Pub and it was really amazing. There were cosy fireplaces to keep guests warm during the cold winter months, as well as sofa seats and chairs to make yourself comfortable.
Moreover, everything was built in the shape of a hobbit dwelling, so it really kept up the charade that I was in The Shire. In fact, it was so realistic that I found myself thinking that a hobbit would just step through the door to greet me.
Fabulous Tour Guides
The tour guides here were extremely good. They were really knowledgeable about the four movies, the books and the LOTR movie set and were even able to spit out quotes from the books.
They also cracked a lot of jokes and funny comments that really made me laugh. They were definitely another reason that made me thoroughly enjoy the tour so much.
If you have read the LOTR books and/or have watched the movies, it is highly recommended that you visit Hobbiton, when you are in New Zealand.
Admission fees cost NZ$75 per adult.
Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm Tours
The Shires Rest Cafe
501 Buckland Rd
Hinuera, Matamata 3472
Ph: +64 (7) 888 1505
For booking and other information, check out their website.
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