We’d already made it to Hogwarts when we went to LA so we couldn’t live in New Zealand without stopping at Hobbiton. Even if you haven’t seen the movies you have probably heard of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises. The world was first imagined by JRR Tolkien in his 1937 book The Hobbit and since then the franchise has become recognized and loved worldwide. As the resident LOTR fan in the relationship Richie was buzzing to visit.
Hobbiton is a permanent set from the LOTR and Hobbit movies where all the scenes from The Shire (the village where the hobbits live) were filmed. The 1250 acres of farmland was originally purchased from the Alexander family in 1998. Here the crew led by Kiwi director Peter Jackson built a temporary set which was used for the first three movies of the LOTR trilogy. Once filming completed after three months all but 17 of the Hobbit Holes were demolished. The movies became a global phenomenon and in 2009 when Peter Jackson announced production on the Hobbit trilogy, it was agreed to rebuild The Shire movie set as a permanent feature for fans from all over the world to make the pilgrimage to.
Hobbiton opens daily from 9:30am with tours running every 10 minutes. You can choose from the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, the Evening Banquet Tour or a Private Tour, all of these are fully guided. As part of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour you will accompany a guide throughout the 12 acre movie set to see over 44 Hobbit Holes, Bagend and the Party Field eventually ending at the Green Dragon bar and restaurant where you’ll receive a complimentary non/alcoholic themed drink. The tour isn’t cheap costing $84 for each adult.
The Evening Banquet Tour includes the same fully guided tour through the movie set at dusk ending in the Party Field where you’ll get a full buffet meal, hobbit themed of course. Unfortunately this option was fully booked when we were attending but I have been told by several people that it’s a great night. There are limited food options for vegetarians and vegans as much of the food is meat heavy. This is also a very expensive tour costing $195 per adult attending however for a diehard Tolkien fan it’s probably worth it.
We opted for the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour which lasted two hours from start to finish. We began the tour at the tickets office (Shire’s Rest) where we boarded a bus which brought us the short drive to the heart of the Alexander family farm where Hobbiton is hidden. On the drive we got to see the incredible rolling green hills that enticed Peter Jackson to the area. From here we disembarked and began to follow our guide through the 12 acres.
The tour is well organised and honestly the set wouldn’t work without having a guide. The pathways are narrow and the guides are essential in keeping the tours moving at a steady pace ensuring everyone gets time for photos. We paused frequently at different stops for the guide to give us background on the set being built, facts from the movies etc. He also offered his services as group photographer and was happy to take pictures of anyone at any stage.
As you make your way up the winding hills you’ll be blown away by the attention to detail. Everywhere you look there is something that more than likely didn’t even make it into the films but succeeds in making the set feel like a living breathing village. From smoke emerging from the chimneys and miniature ladders resting by the base of trees to hobbit sized clothes hanging on the washing lines its feels so real that you’re expecting see a hobbit pass you at any moment.
We booked onto the 5:30pm tour which was a great shout as it’s the final Hobbiton Movie Set Tour of the day. This meant that there was no group coming after us and allowed us room to take in everything and get plenty of pictures. As we were leaving and dusk began to roll in the lanterns throughout the village began to turn on allowing us the opportunity to view the set in both the day and evening light.
Yes the tour is expensive and I was hoping it would last longer than two hours but honestly I do recommend it. You can build a set of Harry Potter anywhere in the world and add in fake snow and some animatronics but you can’t fake the incredible New Zealand countryside. The fact that this is a living and breathing set where all of the actual outdoor scenes of the movies were shot, adds to its character. The guides are patient, knowledgeable and keep the tour moving without you ever feeling rushed. Despite over 2000 people passing through the attraction every day it manages to keep the authentic feel Tolkien first created in his books.