Last Trip, Tolkien Style

We saved our trip to Hobbiton for our last adventure. Epic movies, epic adventure, and a must-see in New Zealand.

We packed up the apartment and said goodbye to Whangarei early in the morning. Three hours later, we arrived at the Shire’s Rest Cafe and purchased tickets for the Hobbiton tour.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Photo courtesy of Hobbiton Movie Tours

From the ticket office, we boarded a bus that took us to the movie set.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

There were buses everywhere! Not only were the buses shuttling people to and from the set, the buses were also used to pick up ticket holders in surrounding cities. Despite the number of buses, they all seemed to be running on a smooth schedule. I can’t imagine how hectic this place is in peak season; hats off to the owners/managers for running a tight ship.

Our tour guide provided a few movie tidbits during the drive. The location of Hobbiton is a privately owned farm, the Alexander Farm, which is home to over thirteen thousand sheep. Despite this, not one of the farm’s sheep was used in the film. The farm’s sheep were, in Peter Jackson’s opinion, too modern-looking for the Shire, so he imported blackface sheep from Europe. This guy must have lost his return ticket home.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

The Alexander Farm was gorgeous…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Our bus ride ended at the Hobbiton entrance.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

The set was originally built for the three Lord of the Rings films. Like most sets, it was built as a temporary structure; the whole town was made of untreated wood, Styrofoam, paint and glue. The most “real” piece of the set was the vegetable garden. Gardeners maintained the garden throughout the year. When they went to work, they were asked to walk to and from the hobbit dwellings to create natural pathways throughout the Shire. As for the garden itself, there’s no rhyme or reason to how the produce is planted. According to the guide, “hobbits are not organized people, and there’s no reason their gardens should be organized.” The garden is still maintained for the purpose of the tours.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

After the trilogy finished filming, the set was torn down. Locals were able to find the location of the Shire thanks to the mountain range in the backdrop. The landowners allowed people to ride through the farm and quickly realized the value of their property as more fans sought out the film’s locations. When the set was rebuilt for the Hobbit trilogy, the landowners made a deal with the film company:  The new structures would be permanent. The exception was the Green Dragon, which the landowners built themselves once filming was complete.

There were over 40 hobbit holes, and I got a photo of each one. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just show you the best ones. Look closely. The detail is incredible!

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

There was one hole that had an interior and a door that actually opened. The inside was just big enough for the four of us…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

We eventually arrived at the most famous hobbit hole…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Bag End was a work of art. The home wrapped around the hillside, offering its imaginary occupants, and quite real visitors, a 180° view of the Shire.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

The famous oak tree overlooking Bag End was a real tree…as in, it used to be a real tree. It was cut down in a nearby city and transported to the set in several pieces. Once reassembled, fake leaves were wired on the branches. Could’ve fooled me…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

We reluctantly left Bag End and followed the path along the hillside…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

…down to the field where Bilbo celebrates his eleventy first birthday. Playtime!

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

After recess, we continued our journey into town…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Lucky for us, the Green Dragon was open…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

hire 3. edit

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

We enjoyed cold mugs of Southfarthing Ale, while we rested our hairy feet.

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

The walk out of the Shire was just as pleasant as the walk through, and we saw a few more homes along the way…

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

Hobbiton, Matatmata NZ

After a magical day in the Shire, we boarded the bus, bought a handful of souvenirs at the gift shop, and headed back to Auckland to spend our last day in New Zealand.

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