Ever wanted to visit The Shire and see a real village where little Tolkien’s creatures – hobbits – live? Well, you can! As real as it gets The Hobbiton in Middle Earth is open to visitors all year round. We recently visited The Hobbiton Movie Set and absolutely liked it. In this article I’d like to share our experience and everything you need to know when visiting The Hobbiton in Middle Earth (also known as New Zealand).
Even if you are not a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien you must have at least heard about Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies that are based on Tolkien’s novels of the same name. One of the most known filming locations – The Hobbiton – located in the Waikato region of New Zealand. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit books or films then a visit to The Hobbiton Movie Set is a must experience in New Zealand for you.
History of The Hobbiton Movie Set
Before 1998 the current location of The Hobbiton was not more than a big livestock farm owned by a New Zealand family. But it all changed when the filming director Peter Jackson and his team discovered this beautiful piece of land. They thought it was an ideal location for a hobbits village to film The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
In 1999 The Hobbiton was built with more than 30 hobbit houses (or Hobbit Holes), gardens, a bridge and a mill. But the movie set was not built to last and after filming of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has been finished they demolished most of the constructions. Only few plywood facades of the hobbit holes were left behind.
Visiting the remaining of the movie set became very popular amongst The Lord of the Rings fans. It was so popular that in 2002 guided tours to this location were started.
When in 2009 Peter Jackson and his team started working on The Hobbit trilogy they decided to build The Hobbiton more permanently this time. The movie set was completely rebuilt, with new hobbit holes, gardens, fences and many other little details built to last.
Nowadays you can visit The Hobbiton Movie Set with a tour to enjoy the very realistic and charming atmosphere of hobbits village. You can even finish your visit with a drink at The Green Dragon Inn (a place where hobbits used to gather).
How to get to The Hobbiton
The Hobbiton Movie Set is located on the North Island of New Zealand in Waikato region. It’s located on private land and can only be visited as part of a guided tour.
Guided tours to The Hobbiton depart from ‘The Shire’s Rest’ café and souvenir shop, located at 501 Buckland Road, Matamata.
Note: Previously they also had tours departing from Matamata, but these were not operational when we visited. Check their web site for up-to-date information on tour departures.
‘The Shire’s Rest’ is located at approximately the same driving distance from Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua. Thus can be easily visited from any of these cities.
The drive from Auckland is longer – about a 2-2.5hr drive – but it’s still doable to visit within one day. We drove from Auckland leaving at around 9:30am, spent 2-3 hours on a tour and just hanging around the souvenir shop and the café. We drove back the same day returning to Auckland some time after 5pm.
Once at ‘The Shire’s Rest’ location park your car (there is plenty of parking space on the site) and get your ticket at the counter of the souvenir shop. The tour bus departs from the outside of the souvenir shop. There is a café on the location with tables inside and outside to relax while you wait for the tour.
If you don’t want to drive yourself then you can use one of the transfer options available from Auckland, Tauranga or Hamilton.
Tickets to The Hobbiton
Tickets to the Hobbiton Movie Set can be purchased online or right at the counter at ‘The Shire’s Rest’. There are different pricing options and it’s better to check their web site for the up-to-date information and available tours.
When booking the tour you have to pick a departure time and make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes before that. On arrival to ‘The Shire’s Rest’ exchange your online ticket to the paper one.
Keep in mind that these tours are very popular. The tours are often fully booked especially during weekends and school holidays (and when there are no Covid-related border restrictions). So, it’s better to book online well in advance of your planned visit date.
The Hobbiton Movie Set experience
The bus takes you from ‘The Shire’s Rest’ to the Hobbiton Movie Set. During the short ride we watched a ‘behind the scenes’ video about the movie set and how it was made.
Interesting fact: The road from ‘The Shire’s Rest’ to the Hobbiton was built by New Zealand Army specially for the movie. There was no road to the hills of the farm and it was not easily accessible. So they had to build a road and do some other ground works to be able to start working on the movie set.
The tour guide will tell you stories and interesting facts about the movie set, how it was built and what scenes were filmed here. The walking part of the tour starts at the bottom of the hobbits village, goes around it and up to the Bag End (Bilbo’s house) at the top of the hill.
When walking around pay attention to the little details. A lot of effort went not only into hobbit doors themselves, but to small things too. Like, pots with honey at the beekeeper house, a stall with cheese, clothes hanging to dry and even a smoke coming from one of the chimneys.
Interesting fact: Building of the Hobbiton second time (for The Hobbit trilogy) took around 2 years. While actual filming of The Hobbit trilogy at The Hobbiton location took only 12 days!
You will notice that doors to hobbit houses are of different sizes. Some of them were made smaller to allow filming Gandalf as standing tall and big in front of those doors. Others were made bigger – to allow hobbits to look naturally small near the doors.
There is nothing there behind the doors. All scenes inside the hobbit house were filmed in a studio in Wellington.
According to J.R.R. Tolkien book, Bilbo’s house was located on the hill with a big oak tree on top of it. You will indeed find the big oak tree on the Bag End (where Bilbo’s house is). But look closely – it’s not a real tree but an artificial one! A fake tree was made out of steel and silicon and installed on the hill. The leaves were brought from Taiwan and wired by hand onto the tree.
Interesting fact: Color of the leaves were apparently not good enough when P. Jackson started filming The Hobbiton. So, people were hired to repaint each and every leaf on the tree!
After walking around the village the tour guide took us down to The Green Dragon inn. Passing the mill and an arch bridge we got into the fully functional pub and were offered drinks at the end of our tour. There is a choice of ales, cider and a non-alcoholic ginger beer in the inn. You can also buy a small snack to go with your drink if you’re hungry.
Enjoy your drink in The Green Dragon behind the real fireplace or outside in the garden overlooking The Hobbiton.
It was the finish of our tour and after The Green Dragon we went to the bus to be transported back to ‘The Shire’s Rest’. The whole experience took about 2 hours in total.
What to bring when visiting The Hobbiton in Middle Earth
There are few things you need to know to come prepared when visiting The Hobbiton Movie Set.
First of all, bring a fully charged camera (or phone). There will be plenty of photo opportunities on the movie set and you wouldn’t want to miss them.
Many recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes. But in reality the few walking tracks on the movie set are well maintained. So you can walk there in sandals, flipflops or even barefoot – in a proper hobbit manner!
If you think you’ll get hungry by the end of the tour, or if you have a special diet requirement then bring your own snack. Selection of the snack at The Green Dragon is very limited. Moreover, when I asked the staff about ingredients of the food they couldn’t tell whether the food contained allergens. Just something to keep in mind if travelling with someone with food allergies.
Be ready for a suddenly changing weather. We started the tour on a sunny day and finished it under the light rain. The tour guide said the weather tends to change quickly there and it’s better to come prepared. Wear temperature appropriate layers. Hat and sunscreen are a must during summer months, and a rain jacket if visiting at any other time (but especially in autumn). They actually have umbrellas available that can be used for the duration of the tour in case of rainy weather.
That was our experience visiting The Hobbiton in Middle Earth.
Even though we are not big fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit we have watched the movies and it was really interesting to visit the movie set location to see it all by our own eyes.
Read about other places to visit nearby at 15 photos to inspire you to visit New Zealand’s North Island.