HOBBITON: The Immersive Lord of the Rings Experience
Alright, I admit it. I’m a geek. I love fantasy, magic and adventure, and I’ve known about the little place in New Zealand called Hobbiton for a long, long time. And it was on my bucket list for just as long a time.
I am a bit late in posting this (…ya know, only by like a year), but I wanted a momentary change in scenery from all my recent beach photos. Revisiting and sharing my memories of New Zealand seemed like the perfect route to go.
For those who don’t know: Hobbiton is where a significant part of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was filmed. The location is easily one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions. Arguably, it might even be the only reason why some know New Zealand exists! All this is for good reason though, of which I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking.
After doing some internet research, I decided to book the earliest tour of the day. Most people say it’s the best experience because you’re the first group in and there won’t be any people ahead of you.
My photographer’s opinion: Given the opportunity for a re-do, I would book it for a later time. The sun is too harsh in the morning. Unwanted shadows happen on everything from the detailed signs to the hobbit houses.
Never-the-less, we arrived bright and early in the little town of Matamata. The drive to Hobbiton was scenic with rolling hills and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep (albeit this is normal for New Zealand)!
Upon arrival, we checked in and had a short wait before boarding a bus with our guide and tour mates.
The bus ride itself was the perfect prequel to the adventure. Little clips and behind the scenes details from Lord of the Rings were played. The soundtrack in the background really helped set the scene and fuel the immersion.
I don’t want to spoil all the fun, so I’ll just say you’ll learn the answers to:
• Why and how Peter Jackson’s team chose the location (Alexander Farm).
• Length of time it took to build The Shire.
• How many people visit Hobbiton each year.
• Where from and how some of the Hobbit extras were chosen.
• The whopping number of sheep on the farm (and the sad reality that not a single one of them made the cut to star in the movies – even though there were indeed (imported) sheep in the films!).
Barring no sheep roadblocks, you’ll arrive at The Shire precisely when you’re meant to!
The real magic starts the moment you step off the bus. You’re in the middle of nowhere. Ahem, or should I say you’re in Middle Earth. No power lines, no signs of civilization. Just a well maintained path and a perfectly detailed sign that leads the way.
Once you pass these gates, your two hour adventure begins.
Our tour guide was amazing and patient. She was full of knowledge and history about both the grounds themselves and the actual films. Additionally, she was extremely patient, allowing enough time for everyone to get ample photos before moving on.
Although there are 44 hobbit-holes in total, I loved that every single one was unique. It made for so much to see and admire at every turn.
Our guide continued to point out extra fun facts during the whole tour, too. Did you know the details on the mailboxes aren’t just for decoration? They’re actually clues that hint at what each Hobbit does for a living and what their hobbies are!
Oh, and the landscaping of the Hobbiton grounds is not to go without mention. The whole place feels enchanted, as if the Hobbits themselves might pop out of the bushes at any given moment.
Though these hobbit-holes have so much detail put into them that they appear like real houses, the majority of them are little more than closet sized on the inside. Sadly, they are also all gated and off limits for visitors to enter…
…Except, for the one.
This is easily the spot where most selfies are taken. People spend time posing inside the house and the guide even took on the role of photographer for a minute, offering to take everyone’s picture. I hung back until everyone finished up their glamour shots, then entered “the closet” to get that one iconic photo peering out the hobbit-hole.
By this point, we had ascended pretty well up the hills and had a very scenic overlook of Hobbiton.
And that view is exactly what makes Bag End the most luxurious and desired hobbit-hole in the Shire.
Personally, my favorite hobbit-hole was just down the hill and around a bend from Bag End. The vibrant flowers and blue door made it feel like the most fantastical house of them all. I’m pretty sure I could live here happily!
Alas, all good things must come to an end. But, there was one last stop to make on the itinerary.
The Green Dragon Inn
Across a stream, beyond Ted Sandyman’s Mill and over the stony bridge, rests the meeting place for all residents of Hobbiton.
The Green Dragon Inn is where the Hobbiton tour comes to a close. Before you leave, you’ll get to indulge in a beverage of choice, which includes ales, ciders, ginger beer and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. (The cider beyond exceeded expectations, and I’m picky about my drinks!)
Even at the end, no attention to detail went amiss.
I mean really. Just look at these cakes. Can you believe they’re NOT real?! I seriously just wanted to take a bite out of them, even knowing that wouldn’t have ended well!
I know two hours is a generous amount of time for a tour, but honestly, I could’ve spent an entire day there. And then, I could’ve done it again. And if I get a chance to go back to New Zealand, another visit to Hobbiton is absolutely in the cards! Hopefully my photos have inspired you, too, without spoiling too many details!
So if you’re wondering if I would recommend a visit, the answer is 100% yes. Go and enjoy every magical moment of it! It is worth every penny.
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