A lake, a party tree and a dressed up barn
We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of... Middle Earth! We woke up early and made our way to a place called the Shire’s Rest, just outside of a small town called Matamata. Due to our excitement we did arrive a little early though, about two hours early to be exact.
After twiddling our thumbs for a while the rest of the (obviously not as great) Lord of the Rings fans turned up and we were ready to set off on the tour for Hobbiton, home of the Hobbits (what else?!) in the Lord of the Rings films and the soon to be released Hobbit film trilogy. So we clambered on up into the tour bus and were taken through the sheep farm that surrounds the set. The scenery that composes the sheep farm and the film set is simple yet stunning with small, rounded, rolling, hills covered in the most luscious green grass that is dotted with flecks of white as sheep go about their daily business. Waxing lyrical, imagine if you will a beautifully deformed snooker felt with the balls under the cloth, complete with chalk marks.
We pulled up and just after disembarking were told by our tour guide that it was the only fully fledged outdoor film set left in place by a film studio. As such we sadly couldn’t play on any of the swings, sit on any of the benches, or do our own exploring. Still, we could at least take photos which we did with gusto recording every blade of grass to electronic memory. There is a very simple reason for the volume of photos we took and it is this; Hobbiton is breathtaking. The amount of work and craftsmanship that has gone into each buried Hobbit-hole is mind-boggling, not to mention that this feat has been repeated forty or so times over. Each is made to look like it is over one hundred years old and so each has a faded paint job; some even having fake fungi and it really does look like it could have been there for the last century as opposed to just the last decade.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either; it is supposed to be reminiscent of the English countryside and so each garden is planted with an array of natural English herbs and plants specially shipped over and cared for. Reeds were cut for the two thatched roofs, a pond dug, roads and paths laid, a bridge built, and a variety of animals brought in. Bearing in mind that all of this was done in complete secrecy makes it pretty impressive. All this effort and time spent building and perfecting the set only for about half an hours screen time spread across two films! Even more astounding than this is that all of the time, effort and beauty was to be destroyed after filming due to a clause in the contract stating that any land used had to be returned to its original setting. Luckily for us heavy rain delayed the demolition until after the first film hit the screens and so Hobbiton was saved by mass outcry from all the newly converted Lord of the Rings fans. So with some restoration to the few Hobbit-holes already targeted by the wreckers Hobbiton was laid out for tourists to see.
Our guide led us around the gently meandering lanes to see the amazing sights, all the while filling us in on facts and titbits about the films. It was a thrilling experience, even for a more passive Lord of the Rings fan like Alex. We’d love to spill all of the film fact gems and funny stories that we heard whilst making our way around the set but that would just ruin it for anyone who is thinking of going (and if you are just go!). Both of our fav parts of the tour were on Bag End with Rach’s highlight being able to peek through the door and see the first two feet of interior. Alex’s was seeing where Bilbo and Gandalf share a pipe and blow smoke rings looking over a view with a secret to hide.
There really was so much more than we have described above and all packed into two hours. Although having said that, we could’ve quite happily spent the entire day roving around Hobbiton just gawping open mouthed at the set pieces. The location was stunning, the tour amazing, and the sets mind boggling. So it was with heavy hearts that we departed and set out for the hotspot that is Rotorura.
Rex’s Rules of the Road
- We saw some tours for $235 for Hobbiton and all they included as extra to the regular $75 tour was lunch! Don’t go through independent operators for this one, the cheapest way to do it is direct through the company Hobbitontours.
- If you want to dress up, go ahead, you definitely won’t be the first, even if you choose to dress in just your birthday suit.
- Visit after Dec 2012 as they should have the Green Dragon Inn fully operational and working as an actual pub by then.
- Rach has done a review of Hobbiton here.