Here I am, in New Zealand. Currently I’m based in Auckland, but yesterday I ventured off to visit Hobbiton, the iconic location known from the movies Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Hobbiton is located outside the town of Matamata. I took the bus out there, an approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes ride from Auckland. The price including a two hour guided tour is $149. I’d say it’s money well spent 🙂
It took a big group of workers nine months to construct Hobbiton back in 1999. Even the New Zealand army had to be involved, as a 1,5 km road had to be constructed to reach the location. The crew was trying to keep the filming a secret, and even though the area is quite remote, a fellow from a neighbouring farm started asking questions what the army was doing out there. When he was told that the army was simply practicing on building a road in case of war, he accepted that. However, when soldiers later went down to the local pub and had a few drinks, the actual reason for their activity slipped out. It didn’t take long before word spread all over New Zealand what was going on outside of Matamata.
The result of the activity though, is quite stunning. Hobbiton really gives you the feeling of taking a step into Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The level of detail is impressive, as is the size of the set.
On a normal day, Hobbiton has about 2.000 visitors, so this is quite a tourist machine. I’ll give creds to the guides though for being quite good at managing the groups. Furthermore, people were nice and gave each other space to take photos, and we also took photos of each other.
As mentioned the tour takes about two hours. I found that a bit too short, an extra half an hour would definitely be preferable, as we were rushed a little at times. After all, Hobbiton is supposed to be a very relaxed place. For instance, it’d be nice to be able to spend some more time at one of the highlights, Bilbo and Frodo’s home Bag End.
It should be noted that Hobbiton is an outside shooting location, meaning that filming of the inside of the Hobbit homes was actually done in Wellington. So you can’t explore the inside of for example Bag End at Matamata, you need to go to Wellington for that. In total, 158 locations all over New Zealand was used to film Lord of the Rings. Quite an operation!
The tour ends at the tavern the Green Dragon. Here you can actually go inside, and you’re treated with a beer and have the opportunity to try on Hobbit costumes. A nice touch of the tour 🙂