New Zealand tourism in no small part has been dramatically affected by the hugely popular Lord of the Rings films. Although the films were shot all over the country, one of the most popular sites for Tolkien Tourism remains the still-standing set of Hobbiton.
Located in Matamata, New Zealand, the set is situated on the Alexander Farm whose family still owns the land to this day. They have capitalized on their good fortune by running regular tours throughout the set on a daily basis.
While the set was originally not built to last, the filming of the Hobbit trilogies in 2010 resulted in a more permanent construction- largely with the set tours in mind!
As a hugely popular destination, its a good idea to pre-purchase tickets to the set. There are several tours to choose from, but I stuck with the classic Hobbiton Movie Set tour, which included a guided walking tour around the 12 acre set, ending in the Green Dragon Inn and offered a complimentary beverage to end the tour. There’s no wandering off or backtracking, so make sure to take all of your pictures as you move along the tour.
While waiting for the tour to begin, there is a cafe where it is possible to purchase food and beverages before the tour- no one goes hungry in the Shire!
A bus picks up each tour group and brings them into the Shire proper as Peter Jackson and the farm’s owner give an introductory speech before the group meets up with their tour guide.
There always seems to be a bit of confusion at the start of the tour, where everyone in the group sort of fights it out for picture of the first Hobbit Hole, but never fear- there are 44 beautiful little doors in total so there are plenty of photo taking opportunities! Sam and Bilbo’s Hobbit Holes were particularly exciting as it felt as though I was literally stepping into the movies.
The set itself is an incredible feat of design. The doors are built at varying scales to help the filmmaker’s cheat the sizes of the actors, and there’s even a human sized door that we got to enter! There was nothing too exciting inside- just a few umbrellas, but our guide explained to us that they always had to check the doors at the end of the day to make sure there were no devoted fans trying to hide away in them.
The lush set is tended to by a team of dedicated gardeners and their skill and devotion is clearly apparent. There’s only one fake plant in the entire set- the tree over Bilbo’s home which is in fact a fake tree adorned with thousands of hand crafted and glued leaves.
The tour ends in the Green Dragon Inn, where visitors are given a complimentary beverage of their choosing- alcoholic or otherwise- and its nice to relax and experience the atmosphere of the Inn and Middle Earth. Once finished the bus again picks up the tour group and they are dropped off (of course!) in the gift shop, where visitors are free to browse before making their own journey onwards at their leisure.