The Shire, home of the enchanting hobbits that have warmed our hearts and made us smile. These delightful people with whom we have shared adventures in the place that started it all. The Hobbiton movie set, a definite must see when travelling to New Zealand and the site where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed.
Constructed on a the spectacular private Alexander farm near Matamata, this spectacular 1250 acre sheep and beef farm was the perfect setting for the Shire. Now Hobbiton is a (tourist) site not to be missed! It is a beautiful and eloquent journey as you are drawn into the magic of Middle Earth.
This 2 hour guided walking tour, whisks you away as soon as you board the bus to go down to the set, becoming immersed in the lush green rolling hills, literally descending into a part of Middle Earth. Entering a magical world, where you expect hobbits to be present, running, playing and tending to their gardens.
Originally the Shire, when constructed for the first trilogy, was made of cardboard and styrofoam, (as it was not intended to remain there permanently) and was actually dismantled afterwards. But with the revival of the set for The Hobbit, it was decided that the set would be built into a more permanent structure that would last for years to come.
39 Hobbit holes were created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene. Eloquent little houses distributed throughout the Shire. Complete with Bag End and the large oak tree that overlooks it.
I was super impressed with what they had created and the attention to detail in the set, from hobbit holes to chimneys and accessories, like wheel barrels and lightposts. Most of the Hobbit holes you could not actually enter and were used for outside shots only, but there were a few that you could step in through the door, turn around and get a sense of what it would be like looking outside at Hobbiton from inside your own little hobbit hole.
The houses were just the right size for Luke and Chloe, who were peeking in the windows and asking where all the hobbits were, as they certainly expected them to be there. We kept telling them they were out for lunch and would be back. Of course, they kept asking when.
Our tour guide was fabulous, a wealth of information, sharing how some houses were built to different percentage scales (sizes), making it feasible to get the shots they wanted in the film, with the humans being the ‘right size’. I did find though that even with two hours, our tour guide moved a little fast for me, telling us to take our time and take as many pictures as we wanted, yet moving on ahead and not waiting for the entire group to catch up before he started talking about the next part. I understand he likely had to do this because of time, but it would have been nice if he told us, so we could choose what was more important, pictures or information!
There is so much of the set to see and enjoy, or even just spend time soaking up the atmosphere, sitting on a bench and imagining. You really feel like you are there, and avid fans can picture scenes as you wander by and what was happening there. My favorite had to be the festival field, where Bilbo Baggins birthday celebration takes place as well as the Green Dragon Inn. The Green Dragon is very well done, and you can enjoy a bevvie or a bite to eat, while sitting by the cozy fireplace for a bit soaking up the atmosphere. Or even book it for your own private function! Part of your tour includes a complimentary ginger beer, Strongfarthing ale or cider, so there is an opportunity to sit and enjoy, for at least a little bit.
Near the end of our tour, we walked back from the Green Dragon to get a peek at three new Hobbit holes, not yet seen on film but may be appearing in the third Hobbit movie. (And we got to see them first! Love having the inside scoop!)
We boarded the bus back to The Shire’s Rest, where all tours begin, feeling satisfied and like we had definitely been part of something unique and magical.
The price of the tour itself I did find a little steep, $75 for adults (with reduced rates for youth, children and infants). But when we knew we were going to New Zealand and planned to go to Hobbiton we looked ahead online and absorbed our shock at home, having time to plan and digest the cost. We decided we were going (there was no question) so we accepted that’s what it would cost to go and went, we weren’t missing it!
It is not the most interesting tour for children, especially if they have not seen or have no concept of the The Lord Of The Rings books/ films. But it’s doable. I would also say it really depends on your children. I thought mine would be fabulous and attentive as we had gone on tours before, but on this particular day we were having a bit of a rough bout, and all of them were acting up. But once they became more engaged with looking for Hobbits and checking out the props (Chloe using the wheel barrel and sweeping, Luke and Matthew ‘chopping’ wood) they became more entertained and tolerant of moving and then stopping and listening to the information. They also loved peeking inside the houses looking for Hobbits and of course, really enjoyed their ginger beer towards the end of our tour.
It is a very busy place and a big tourist attraction. With tours running every half hour between 9 am and 3 pm daily. You can show up on site and book your tour, or book your tour in advance. There are also combo tours offered with evening dinner or tours including transport from Matamata or Rotorua. If you want to amp it up a little you can find some lovely farmstays nearby which include fabulous New Zealand fare as well as a tour of Hobbiton.
However you design your visit to Hobbiton, there is no doubt that you will be drawn into the magical world of Middle Earth and the eloquence of the Shire, looking around for Hobbits yourselves.