Given the enormous cultural impact of the Lord of the Rings books and films, I’d say visiting Hobbiton (aka the “Hobbiton Movie Set”) is pretty much a New Zealand must-do. Here’s a bit of our tour experience visiting Hobbiton and my top tips for planning a visit of your own!
Hobbiton is nestled in the gorgeous Waikato countryside, not too far from the town of Matamata. Whether you drive yourself or take a bus from Matamata, be sure to look out the window to enjoy the scenery!
The film set itself is located on a private farm quite a way back from the road. Beyond the exquisite rolling hills in every direction, there’s no real inkling of The Shire proper until you’re being driven in a bright green ‘Hobbiton’-emblazoned bus from the entrance (where the car park and shop are located), across the road and past lots of farmland and sheep.
Planning your trip
You don’t need to be a Lord of the Rings fan
I should say at this point that I’m not a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I’ve seen all the films and love the world that they created for them, but I’ve never been as crazy about the movies as others. At this point I hadn’t even read any Tolkien.
I mostly wanted to visit because I enjoy anything film related, and I thought it looked incredible from what I’d heard and seen online. I wasn’t wrong! In my view, if you think it looks like something you might enjoy, go ahead and visit. You definitely don’t have to be a huge fan of the books or films to appreciate such a magical place!
Choosing your visiting time
We visited in April, so made sure to book according to the weather forecast. We also reasoned that we should try and get on the first tour of the day (9am) so as not to have any tour groups ahead of us and in our photos. I’m so glad we did this and would highly recommend it!
The tours come thick and fast once the day gets going, and everywhere felt much busier once we returned to the entrance after our tour. It was worth dragging ourselves out of bed to experience the peacefulness of being some of the first people of the day to lay eyes on Hobbiton itself.
Where to buy tickets
If you’re happy to pay by debit or credit card, you can easily book online. We didn’t want to face the conversion fees from £ to NZD so we booked in person at the hobbit-themed Matamata iSite (see photo above!).
If you’re unfamiliar with NZ, it’s basically the equivalent of tourist information. They have a little shop inside too, if you fancy a preview of the goodies that await you at Hobbiton itself!
Experience the movie magic!
How to describe it…well, it was absolutely as magical as I’d hoped. Maybe I’m biased – I’m someone who is completely captivated by anything to do with movie/TV sets. (One day I’ll have to write about that time in Ghent, where we stumbled upon location filming for Emperor, or about my undying love for the WB Backlot in LA, or the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford…)
This was just as delightful as those experiences. It’s got all the interest of a living museum. Only better, because this is like walking into something better than reality ever can be – deliberately crafted to be quaint, charming and sanitised. You can really feel a sense of child-like wonder and charm around every corner.
I loved hearing the ‘behind the scenes’ information from the tour guide, like how they had to produce two different sizes of hobbit hole to give the illusion of different heights for the actors. (Gandalf would stand next to a tiny hobbit hole, to appear taller, whereas Bilbo would stand next to an equivalent larger one to look like he was hobbit height. Genius!) Or how they bought and hand-stitched artificial leaves onto the large oak tree behind Bag End.
By far the best part for me, though, was marvelling at the level of detail. Each home had varying size, colour and shape of doors and windows and different collections of objects on their doorsteps, windowsills, or in their front gardens.
Little things like honeycomb, woodworked animals, paint equipment, drying herbs, lanterns, pottery, pretty letter boxes, pine cones, picnic tables (complete with food) and stalls selling what looked like mini bundt cakes…the list goes on! I haven’t even mentioned how adorable the hobbit laundry is, all tiny scarves and waistcoats fluttering in the wind.
As I made my way further uphill and took in the wider whole-village scene, my mind’s eye had no problem placing diminutive hobbit folk in this serene little place. Pushing a wheelbarrow full of vegetables, bringing up water from a tiny well, selling slabs of cheese from a front door…I am not exaggerating when I say I want to live here. Assuming I could have a few skylights, of course – I have a feeling hobbit holes get very dark!
The tour guide was very encouraging with photography – volunteering to take photos of people in various situations herself. There was one particular hobbit hole with the door slightly ajar that’s set aside for photo opportunities. (Sadly none of the hobbit holes had an interior as those scenes were filmed on a sound stage. Some of the doors opened, but none went back very far into the ground!)
The Green Dragon pub
After strolling through the main residential parts of Hobbiton, we passed through the village green, garlanded with bunting and coloured lanterns, past tents sheltering piles of fat pumpkins and past Samwise’s pretty yellow-doored house, down a little track signposted for the Green Dragon, Hobbiton’s pub.
I’ve never been a pub person. If only they were more like the Green Dragon, though, I’d be converted! It’s decor is all heavy beams and stone-flagged floors covered in folky rugs, with old books on the mantel and a cat curled up asleep on an armchair by the fire. The effect was basically an all-encompassing warmth and sense of homeyness!
You get a free drink with the tour, too (some delicious ginger beer for Ben and me) and you can choose from a small selection of paid food (scones, muffins etc.) to accompany it if you like.
The exterior was just as pleasant. Picnic tables under the canopy of a willow tree, surrounded by overflowing flowerbeds, bunting and lanterns. The instrumental folk music they play is perfect, too. My favourites included beautiful pieces from Duck Baker (The Blarney Pilgrim) and Calum Stewart and Lauren MacColl (Rise Ye Lazy Fellow) if you want to enjoy a little slice of Hobbiton from home!
Travel tips: Hobbiton
Choose the earliest tour to have fewer people around and in your photos.
If driving: drive into Buckland Road from the west if possible (to the east it’s a rather bumpy gravel road).
For public transport: choose a tour that departs from Matamata or Rotorua.
I’d recommend Brocks Place – it’s such a bargain. It has beautiful views, good facilities and is very close to The Shire’s Rest.
Definitely give the Shire’s Rest Café a try. There’s also an outdoor stand that does delicious hobbit-themed milkshakes. (Ben is still talking about that milkshake!)
Over to you
Are you a Lord of the Rings fan? Is Hobbiton the kind of place you’d visit?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Pin the image below!