Tolkien imagined it, Sir Peter Jackson captured it, and we got to experience it. Whether you are a fan of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (LOTR) or a clueless visitor, Hobbiton is sure to captivate you.
It’s hard to believe only two decades ago, during the pre-Hobbit and LOTR craze days, my friends and I bypassed Matamata to places like Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui when traveling from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty. Never once did we mention Matamata. No one actually visited Matamata unless they were visiting relatives or going for a farm stay.
This trip was different. My friend Edith and family were taking us on a road trip to Rotorua from Auckland that included a visit to Matamata, to the Hobbiton Movie Set that is.
The Hobbiton Movie Set is like a theme park. Purchase your tickets at the ticket counter and start queuing with the crowd at the Shire’s Rest. Loads of tourists transported by tourist buses from Auckland and Rotorua were already being dropped off at the pick-up point in front of the tickets and souvenir shop.
Uniformed clad tour guides came around to the queuing crowd and directed us to the green buses after only a 15-minute wait. On the bus with about 30 visitors, the guide and driver started telling stories of the rolling hills, valleys, the movies, and the sheep. I began to think about the Alexanders, the owners of this 1,250-acre sheep and beef farm in the middle of nowhere. By luck or an answered prayer, possibly, had led to the location scouts and Sir Peter Jackson to pinpoint his plot of land and say, “YES, that’s Middle Earth!”
The farm's natural rolling hills and valleys were so perfect for the creation of the first 39 Hobbit holes. The Shire’s gardens, bridge, mill, Green Dragon Inn and even the artificial oak tree (Party Tree) fit seamlessly in the farm, as if they were meant to be there naturally. Every Hobbit hole has its own character showing the occupation of the occupant. The cheese maker had cheese all around his hole and the carpenter had his tools in the shed. And of course, the jam-maker and baker too, all seemed so lived in and alive. 'Freshly washed' clothes hanging on clothes lines and garlic was not in short supply for the night's supper as a bunch of garlic was seen hanging from the ceiling.
In the gardens were artichokes, cabbages, herbs, and a scarecrow.
There was a chance to try out Hobbit games before crossing the bridge, passing by the water mill to the Green Dragon Inn.
Hobbiton Movie Set guided walking tour lasted one and a half hours and ended as we entered the Green Dragon Inn for complimentary Hobbit ale. That was the only place in The Shire that you can actually enter and take a seat.
The Hobbiton tour is not exactly cheap but it is worth it. You get to trot through the paths taken by Gandalf, Frodo, Samwise, Bilbo Baggins and Sir Peter Jackson. It’s a place where the world of our imagination meets reality.
Location: 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata 3472, New Zealand.
Price: NZ$75 (Adult) NZ$37.50 (Children 10-14) NZ$10 (Children 5-9)
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ticket from the Hobbiton Tour Company but that does not affect the way I feel about the tour. We were a party of eight touring The Hobbiton Movie Set.