Feel at home in Hobbiton.
Where: Hobbiton (Matamata), North Island, New Zealand
What: A set location for 6 blockbuster films
When: April 2017
As soon as I began planning my New Zealand adventure, Hobbiton was firmly on the ‘must do’ list. The set location for the hometown of Frodo et al in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, Hobbiton is simply a masterpiece surely admired by anyone who’s watched the films (and if you haven’t, seriously?!).
I booked my tickets from the movie shop in the town of Rotorua where I was staying, and on the day of the tour we headed out nice and early on a bus branded up with The Hobbit logo and images (literally travelling in style) on the two hour journey to Hobbiton. Our driver provided amazing commentary, talking everything from New Zealand history (and obviously population numbers) to production of the films, so I felt totally clued up by the time we arrived.
Visitors to the attraction, unfortunately, aren’t given the freedom to roam. Instead you become a part of a group and tour the movie set together. My tour began in the on-site store, where there are lots of cool choices for film fans to pick out some movie themed merchandise. There’s a café onsite too, but in the 15 minutes we had I didn’t have time to pick up any refreshments, but for those who make their own way to Hobbiton it’s probably a much-needed stop on a warm day (and you’d obviously have more time in the shop too!).
We then gathered back on the bus and drove on to Hobbiton. Here our tour guide, who took us around the village giving great insight into the planning and production, greeted us. (My favourite fact – the gardeners were on set two years before filming began there to plant the flowers and veg, giving Hobbiton an authentic, lived-in vibe for the films.) There’s plenty of opportunity to admire the intricate and thoughtful detailing – there’s a fishmongers, florist, cheese maker, candlestick maker, and alcoholic who all have their home in the village.
Bilbo’s house is the last of the Hobbit holes (being the wealthiest hobbit, his hole is right at the top of the hill), and is a hard-fought photo stop, but it’s great to catch a glimpse of the house where it all began (I keep having to remind myself it’s not real). Also this was the point where I finally managed to shake off another girl on the tour who was constantly grabbing me (and a few others) to take picture after picture after picture of her at every Hobbit hole (she would literally grab your arm and drag you to her chosen spot, go through how she wanted each picture and insist you take at least 10 with only a varying degree of pout between each picture). *Top Tip*: if you fancy yourself as a top model, take your own photographer and your fellow tourists will unknowingly be oh-so grateful.
Next on the tour was the party field, but this is a hardly a highlight in comparison to the final stop: the Green Dragon pub. From the party field (May pole included), you get great views of the lake, of Hobbiton and of the Green Dragon. The pub itself is ye olde England at its finest, nestled by the lake and the water-wheel I was getting a strong sense of pre-industrial middle-England, and I loved it. You can have one free drink as a part of the tour and take a seat whilst you enjoy your surroundings.
Ultimately a visit to Hobbiton is a pricey photo opportunity, but if, like me, you love the films it is a true delight to see. Whilst going around in a group means you’re kept to a schedule there is enough time to see the village and learn some great facts about the set and the films from the super-knowledgeable tour guides. It’s also fascinating to see, how all the years later how many people still flock to Hobbiton – and I’m so glad I got to be one of them!