In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the endhs of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Comfort, an easygoing lifestyle, numerous parties, pipe-weed and up to six meals per day – who wouldn’t want to live like that? Ever since I became a Tolkien fan, I could easily picture myself living happily in that quaint village called Hobbiton. For those not aware, Hobbiton is part of a wider region called The Shire and it’s described as a peaceful and hospitable piece of land, home of the little folk, known as Hobbits. Bright-eyed and red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter and delighted in presents, Hobbits are not in the least interested in world politics or the matters of man. Well, I guess places like this only exist in fairytales, right? Apparently not; your dream of visiting Tolkien’s fantasyland can be fulfilled with a two-hour guided tour of Hobbiton Movie Set.
Hobbiton can be found in New Zealand – the closest anyone can find to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Amidst a region of rolling grassy hills, you are able to marvel at the scenery from “The Hobbit” films and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and wonder between hobbit-holes in varying sizes, shapes and colours. It’s all there – the Old Mill, the Green Dragon Inn, the famous Party Tree and, last but not least, Bag End. What this place is only missing is actual Hobbits; though I found it really hard to convince myself that I wouldn’t be seeing Frodo running and leaping onto Gandalf’s cart at some time.
Roaming around the Hobbit-holes in a living Hobbit village
“Welcome to Hobbiton, home to those amazing creatures called Hobbits”, our tour guide said and excitement started setting in.
As soon as I entered the hobbiton village I instantly recognised Bag End further up the hill and the gigantic party tree, where Bilbo shot his final stunt before setting off for his adventure. Numerous hobbit-holes were all around me, each one with its own garden, ponds and colourful flowers adding to the already picturesque scenery. It definitely felt chaotic; it was too much to take in at first.
After the initial shock, I picked up on the incredible attention given to detail. Lichen growing on the fences, cute little picnic setups by the lake, laundry lines with miniature costumes hung up to dry, fruit stands and hobbit-sized wheelbarrows – the set is so authentic and looks like you’ve stumbled upon a small but real breathing village.
All 44 hobbit-holes are purposely made to look aged as they have been there for years, with extreme details like moss and numerous other touches that reflect the occupation or everyday life of the actual hobbit living there. For example, it was easy to tell the hobbit-hole of the cheese maker due to several huge rounds of cheese spotted in a window. Another hobbit-hole definitely belonged to a family with two children since a pair of tiny hobbit clothes were hung out on the clothesline to dry. A florist and a baker were also on the scene with their detailed gorgeous little shop stands right at the front of their properties. Meanwhile, a hobbit decided to take advantage of springtime and spend some time on the lake making sure to let everyone looking for him know by placing a “Gone Fishing” sign next to the door. It’s amazing how each individual structure on the Hobbiton Movie Set has its own colourful colour, theme and unique decoration – gardening tools and brooms dropped on cabbage gardens, honey pots, little picket fences, butterfly catchers and hand-painted mailboxes awaiting the morning delivery. Those adorable details really add up to the surreal setting – I was literally expecting a Hobbit party to explode at any moment.
One thing you’ll notice is that not all hobbit-holes are of the same size. Some of them are full human sized while others are much smaller. Our tour guide explained that they had to create these different scales for filming to create perspective between the Hobbits, Gandalf and the Dwarves. There is such a rich collection of weird facts and stories about the making of Hobbiton Movie Set; hopefully, we have collected almost all of them in one article.
Sadly enough the hobbit-holes are just facades with all the interior filming done at a studio in Wellington. Nevertheless, the whimsical landscape of Hobbiton will help you a great deal to immerse into Tolkien’s amazing fantasy world of tiny creatures and magical rings of ancient power.
Hint: The best season to visit is spring – the whole village is full of colourful plants and blossoming flowers tidied up in immaculate gardens and grassy paths.
Bag End – The most luxurious hobbit-hole of Bagshot Row
The entrance to Bag End was a perfectly round green door featuring a brass knob in the centre. The entryway was a tube-shaped hall with panelled walls and a tiled floor, furnished with carpeting, polished chairs, and an abundance of pegs for the hats and coats of many visitors. […] The best rooms were those on the left side of the passage for they had deep-set round windows with a view of the garden and meadows beyond down to The Water.
At the top of the Hobbiton Hill lies the most famous and elegant hobbit-hole, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Bag End. Truly remarkable, a highlight of the whole tour, it holds the best view over Hobbiton – the party tree, the Old Mill, the double-arched stone bridge leading to the Green Dragon; you can spot everything pretty much easily. The elaborate dwelling features a perfectly round weathered green door with a yellow brass exactly in the middle, waiting to be knocked. The iconic hobbit-hole is surrounded by flowers, a giant pumpkin and Bilbo’s renowned “no admittance – except on party business” sign still nailed to the front gate.
Having the chance to visit Bag End and peering out at the hobbiton village, just like Bilbo and Gandalf did so while smoking the pipe-weed and watching the sunset is purely priceless.
Tip: The oak tree overlooking Bag End is artificial, made from fibreglass. To make it look alive, hand-painted silk leaves from Taiwan were imported and glued to the tree one-by-one.
A Hobbit-hole you don’t want to skip
He faced far greater […] and terrible foes than he ever should have had to face, and did so with courage. He went alone into a black and terrible land, stormed a dark fortress, and resisted the most terrible temptation of his world for the sake of the friend that he loved. That in the end, it was his actions and his actions alone that made it possible for light to overcome darkness.
Samwise Gamgee. A gardener by trade with a great love for Elves and a gift for poetry, Frodo’s best mate and a ring-bearer – the only original member of the fellowship to make the journey till the very end at Mount Doom. Surely you don’t want to miss that hobbit’s residence right at 3 Bagshot Row, close to Bag End. Sam’s dwelling with its yellow round door is decorated with colourful flowers – red, purple, yellow, orange. In my opinion, this is one of the cutest hobbit-holes in all Hobbiton Movie Set.
Tip: Sam’s hobbit-hole is featured in the last film of the original trilogy; after bidding farewell to Frodo, he can be seen returning home.
Drinking at The Green Dragon – The only brew for the brave and true
There’s only one Dragon in Bywater, and that’s Green.
Certainly one of my favourite parts of the tour was the Green Dragon, a popular inn, frequented by Hobbits from both Bywater and the nearby Hobbiton. It was exactly here that Bilbo met with Thorin and the Company at the outset of their quest of reclaiming Erebor from the dragon Smaug. And yes, you can actually step inside, sip a chilled pint of beer or cider and enjoy traditional Hobbit delicacies like beef and ale pie, cold pork pie and cheese mousetrap – whatever this last one is.
The area outside the pub is rather scenic. Here, you can find the double-arched bridge along with an operational mill, a little dock with fishing rods and picnic stuff by the lake; there is even some hobbit-themed music playing. Therefore, it’s a great idea to grab your meal and head outdoors. Don’t forget to grab your free pint; the Green Dragon is famous for the brownest ale in all Middle-Earth.
But how is the interior decorated?
Today, the Green Dragon is a replica of what was depicted in the films as it is the sole building in the Hobbiton Movie Set that it’s completely built from the inside out. The wood and stone used in its construction and design along with the earth-like bright colours make it feel welcoming and warm. Some chairs and rustic tables are placed below the rounded windows and a couple of leather armchairs next to a fireplace are tempting you to settle in and relax reading a book by the fire.
The slanted roofs and the round doorways, the replica paintings, the authentic kegs and the aged glass panes will all take you to a different age. Unfortunately, you only have about 20 to 30 minutes to soak up the atmosphere of this whimsical old-world tavern.
Once inside the pub keep your eyes open for hidden gems like the following poem:
A wizard too clever by half,
Lit some fireworks just for a laugh;
But with too little care,
for he singed all his hair
and set fire to the end of his staff!
Tip: Make sure you take some time to read the hilarious signs posted by the bar; job vacancies, lost item notes and announcements.
Where on (middle) earth is Hobbiton Movie Set?
A farm numbering approximately 13.000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle, right into the heart of the Waikato region of the North Island was chosen by Sir Peter Jackson as the ideal bucolic setting for Tolkien’s Shire. The picturesque 1.250-acre property stretches across emerald rolling hills with spectacular views over the Kaimai Ranges – a typical New Zealand countryside.
No matter where I looked, it was impossible to locate, tall buildings, power lines or highways – all I could see was an idyllic farmland landscaped to perfection, white clouds floating by and sheep occasionally finding their way into Buckland road. The setting is still miraculously untouched by the 21st century.
The story of Hobbiton so far…
Construction of the Hobbiton Movie Set for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy started in the distant 1999. The movie set was mostly made of temporary materials like polystyrene and was expected to be torn down after filming. However, as word got out and the location of the movie set was identified, fans flooded in and the Alexander family started running the first tours in 2002. Years later, when the time came to film “The Hobbit” trilogy, Peter Jackson asked for permission to recreate Hobbiton on the farm. An agreement was struck and Hobbiton was re-built, this time with permanent materials so it can be visited in real life and stand the test of time.
How does it feel to visit Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand?
That little special place, located in a remote corner of the world is totally surreal; it’s exactly like Tolkien described and imagined. As I strolled through the pristine setting of Hobbiton with its lush green hills and quaint hobbit-holes, I felt worlds away from reality. I just couldn’t believe that all the magic of Middle-Earth is alive and well preserved in a peaceful operating farm. It’s an immersive experience for both fans and simple visitors alike that will definitely have you fall in love with the scenery and wonder what it would be like to live in one of these fairytale-like and undersized Hobbit houses.
As for me, the dream of setting eyes over the legendary home of the Hobbits was finally realised.
The moment I stepped in Hobbiton I understood why people cross the world to visit; it simply feels like home!
Know before you go
The duration of the Hobbiton Movie Set tour is approximately 2 hours from the time you depart from The Shire’s Rest. The final 30 minutes of the tour is actually chilling at The Green Dragon pub.
Tours depart daily from 09:00 to 15:30.
Depending from where you depart (Matamata, Shire’s Rest or Rotorua) the cost of the tour can range from 84 NZD to 119 NZD. The entry fee to Hobbiton includes the bus trip, the guided tour and a free pint at the Green Dragon.
No, as of today, there are no accommodation options inside the Alexander farm. However, there are several hotels near Hobbiton that you can spend the night at.
The evening dinner tour includes a guided tour through The Shire at dusk. As soon as the tour concludes, you will be taken to the Green Dragon where you will be treated to a banquet feast fit for a Hobbit. The night tour experience concludes with a walk back through the wandering paths of Hobbiton under the moonlight and your lanterns illuminating the way.
Date Visited: October 2018
Type: Walking tour
Duration: 2 hours
Official Website: Hobbiton Movie Set Tours
Location: Matamata, North Island
Booking: Highly recommended
Cost: NZ $80 – $120
A colourful fantasyland dotted with hobbit-holes meticulously manicured within emerald fields and rolling hills.