Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The sun always shines on Hobbiton

Nestled amongst the rolling hills of Waikato, near the small town of Matamata, sits the pristine setting that Peter Jackson made famous when he used it as the setting for Hobbiton in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. As we were heading there last Friday, through the heaviest rain that we have experienced since arriving in New Zealand, we questioned our sanity, and had we not already made arrangements to be there, we may well have turned the car around and headed for somewhere indoors and dry. But having spent the last two and a half months coming around corners to announce ‘that is so Lord of the Rings’ and constantly humming the theme tune, we were compelled to achieve a real LOTR experience, so we pressed on, and as we came over the hill and Hobbit Movie Set and Farm Tours base camp came into view, the stair rods parted and the rumbling grey sky looked somehow less threatening.

We booked in for our tour and then headed upstairs to the Shires Rest café for a lamb burger to sate our appetite. The Shires Rest serves tasty food in a somewhat bland environment, so discovering that they are currently developing the Green Dragon Inn from an on-set façade into an all singing, all dancing pub and venue was music to my ears.

Hobbiton is set on a working farm with approximately 14000 sheep and a few hundred black angus cattle; as we waited for the bus to arrive to take us on the short journey over the hills into Hobbiton valley, we watched cows being herded and petted the four tiny lambs who were doing a good job of commanding visitors attention just by looking cute, and scoring top marks from our little hobbit.

All together now 'ahhhhhhhh'

The bus appeared, and Danny, our tour guide, started his spiel as we headed through a couple of gates and into the picture perfect valley. Looking around, it was immediately evident why Peter Jackson had chosen this site as he scoured the countryside from the air. Not only was it hidden from any sign of modern day life, but it held a magical, timeless quality which screamed of everything you would expect of ’The Shire’ of  Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Over the hill and far away - it's hard to believe that Hobbiton is just over the hill

Jumping down the steps of the bus, I noticed that each and every hobbit hole in view was bathed in a sunny glow, and only one or two fluffy white clouds adorned the bright blue above us - a far stretch from the sky that had frowned down menacingly just an hour earlier. As we walked around the set, marvelling at every tiny detail from the miniature tools to the pint sized washing lines, Danny explained the reasoning behind the wide variety of hobbit hole sizes - those which would feature in a shot with Gandalf were smaller, to make him appear bigger, whereas others were bigger, to make the Hobbits appear smaller. I was astounded by each minute detail - the lichen on the fences was man made, as was the tree that sits above Bilbo Baggins house at the top of the hill - the Littlest Hobo took great pleasure in the souvenir fake leaf that Danny handed to her as we headed back down the hill. I suspect that her miniature stature and, curly haired-ness gave her extra kudos in Hobbiton, even without furry flippers.

Mummy, is this our new holiday house?
We worked our away around the set, posing in the miniature doorways for photographs as Danny told stories from filming and explained how everything worked. We were asked not to touch the props, and most of the hobbit hole doors stayed firmly shut, but there were one or two which we were allowed to open - although there wasn’t much to see on the other side (as the inside filming took place down in Wellington), it was good fun to pose as if you were just emerging from your hobbit mansion.

Bilbo Baggins hobbit hole - a veritable mansion at the top of the hill, looking down over the rest of Hobbiton


The coming year has to be the time to visit the Hobbiton movie set - not only has it been permanently rebuilt for the recent filming of The Hobbit trilogy (they were partially deconstructed after the initial trilogy was filmed, save seventeen hobbit holes which were rescued by a big storm which came through and halted deconstruction - this time they’re here for good), but the embargo has also been lifted, so you are free to take photographs too. I’m sure the completion of the Green Dragon will just be the icing on the cake. For now, we just settled for feeding the baby lambs with bottles as we basked in the bright sunshine when we returned to base camp, which wasn’t a half bad ending to our trip to Hobbiton at all.


  1. Now that looks like so much fun! I love the idea of seeing behind the scenes of a movie - especially when its so well set up! Love the round doorways :)

  2. Awesome pics! What do you think is the best time to visit Hobbiton? Morning or afternoon? Thanks.

  3. i kinda have the same question as draide:) im not sure which tour timing to book that will not be so crowded. the timing that you went seems pretty empty. was it in the afternoon?