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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not, Hobbiton is a bucket list attraction that you can’t miss out if you’re travelling to New Zealand. This film set is a perfect reconstruction of the Hobbiton from Sir Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise. It’s now become a top attraction in New Zealand, bringing in almost a million visitors a year.
I have to confess, I’m not a *huge* Lord of the Rings fan but visiting Hobbiton was one of the highlights of my New Zealand trip. Everything about it, including the glorious weather, seemed to be pulling out all the stops to create a truly memorable moment. A lot of attention and care has gone into Hobbiton, almost giving you the illusion that you’ve stepped inside a real-life picturesque village. From ticket prices to what to expect, here’s everything you need to know about the Hobbiton Movie Tour in New Zealand.
What is Hobbiton?
Hobbiton is a film set from the Lord of the Rings franchise of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation. For those who don’t know, it’s based on the village of Hobbiton, where the hobbits live. A hobbit is a small fictional humanoid character with hairy feet that lives in a home built out of the hillside.
In 1998, the first Lord of the Rings film was beginning to get underway in New Zealand and Sir Peter Jackson’s location scouts were looking for the perfect spot to bring the world of Hobbiton to life. It was then they discovered the Alexander farm in Waikato and it couldn’t have fit the vision better.
The majority of Hobbiton was torn down after the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been filmed but 17 plywood facades were left behind. In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson returned to film the Hobbit trilogy and his crew packed up and left they decided to keep the 44 permanently reconstructed hobbit holes that make Hobbiton today.
Pro tip: Want to know what it’s like to travel solo around New Zealand? Check my ultimate guide here.
Where is Hobbiton?
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours is located in the small agricultural town of Matamata in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island. Tucked into the base of the Kaimai ranges, the attraction is about a 2-hour drive from Auckland. Hobbiton does offer coach transfers from different locations at an additional cost. You can find out where you can get them from here.
Hobbiton entry fee and tour
You can’t actually visit the movie set without going on a guided tour of Hobbiton. The general Hobbiton Movie Tour costs 89.00 NZD for an adult (age 17 and above), 44.00 NZD for a youth ticket (9-16 years) and children from 0-8 go free accompanied by a full paying adult.
The tour lasts two hours and starts with a free coach transfer to the movie set itself. A guide then leads you through the village, sharing fun facts and tidbits about Hobbiton and the Lord of the Rings. You also get plenty of opportunities to take photos. The tour ends with a pint of your choosing in the Green Dragon Pub and a browse in the on-site gift shop.
You can book your Hobbiton tickets here!
Hobbiton, New Zealand: what to expect
Myth: you’ll only enjoy Hobbiton if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, seen the films or read the books.
The common misconception about Hobbiton is that you have to know what it’s about to be able to appreciate it. I can’t deny, having a basic understanding of its background certainly helps to put it all into perspective but you can still have an amazing time and be blithely unaware of the Lord of the Rings franchise.
The Hobbiton Movie Set is just so magical and impressive all on its own. You can still be amazed at all the details and craftsmanship that went into designing this set without having a clue what it’s about. Visiting Hobbiton is like stepping inside a real-life working village in the New Zealand countryside.
From the moment you’re inside Hobbiton territory you’re transported into a world of rolling emerald hills that rise and fall over the landscape. I was lucky enough to get sunshine during my visit and it bathed us all in a cosy warm glow despite it being the winter season.
A coach picked us up from the Shire’s Rest (the entrance to the Hobbiton tour) and we trundled through the farm on a bus to the sound of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Like any good film music, it left you buzzing with anticipation as Hobbiton began to emerge over the hillside.
What makes Hobbiton so much more than a film set and so fun to explore is the careful attention to design and detail. No two hobbit holes are the same. Each one is entirely unique and reflects a particular character in the village.
Each hole is nestled in the hills, noticeable by its bright round painted door. The colours and props determine the hobbit character, whether it be the village baker, the beekeeper, or the resident drunk. You only have to look at the hobbit hole to feel like you’ve met its inhabitant personally. This painstaking attention to detail is what brings Hobbiton to life.
Despite not actually being inhabited, the makeshift village is a hive of activity as hoards of visitors wind through it. You can also see gardeners and members of the maintenance team working tirelessly to keep the place looking picturesque. Even the hobbit’s gardens are real with some of them containing actual vegetable patches. The gardeners are allowed to take the produce home with them so nothing goes to waste.
It’s easy to believe that Hobbiton is real but the biggest giveaway is that some of the hobbit holes are significantly larger than the others. Different sized hobbit holes are incorporated into the village simply to work with perspective when filming the characters depending on what size they would be. For example, an actor playing a hobbit would stand in front of a bigger hobbit hole whereas a wizard would position themselves by a smaller hole. Pretty neat, really!
The perfect end: The Green Dragon pub
As you wind your way through Hobbiton you eventually arrive at the Green Dragon, a small pub by the lake. Better yet, it’s in operation and you can go inside and be treated to a mug of beer, cider or soft drinks. You can enjoy your beverage of choice in a squashy armchair by a roaring fire as jolly music is played from a speaker somewhere overhead.
A brief guide to other Lord of the Rings filming locations
Tongariro National Park
You might recognise Tongariro National Park as Mordor with Mount Doom towering over the landscape. This desolate-looking terrain is actually a popular hiking location and it’s home to a stunning pair of emerald lakes that make this place truly unique.
Mount Victoria is the hill above Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Here, the hobbits hid from the ringwraiths in The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s easily accessible from the city and if you keep going to the top you’ll get stunning panoramic views as far as the eye can see.
Weta Cave & Workshop
The Weta Cave & Workshop are also in Wellington. It’s not a filming location as such but a lot of the props and costumes were made here. You can also go on their Lord of the Rings tour and find out more about where each film was filmed. If you just fancy a nosy then there’s also a free short documentary about the studio. It’s been involved in some pretty major Blockbusters!
Tawhai Falls is located in the beautiful Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island. This particular spot is well-known for being the scene where Gollum perches on a rock to catch fish while Faramir and his men aim their arrows at him. It has since become known as Gollum’s Pool.
Mount Gunn was one of the locations where the beacons were lit between Gondor and Rohan. You can actually see this stunning view from the Franz Josef Glacier access track or you can take a scenic flight.
Save me for later!