The Hobbiton movie set: visiting the Shire

For any Lord of the Rings fan, it goes without saying that a visit to New Zealand absolutely must include a location tour of some sort. Having been to New Zealand twice before, I had already done the self-explorer tour, driving to locations using the ring symbols on New Zealand’s AA road atlas, and had also taken an organised tour in Wellington.

Hobbiton movie set

Hobbiton movie set

My last visit to the land of Middle Earth had me explore what I had missed out on twice before: the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata. At just a short drive from Rotorua, Matamata is not far off the more frequented visitor routes on the North Island. The iSite, where the tours leave from, is easily spotted – just drive to the centre of the small town and look for an earthy, welcoming Hobbit-style building with round doors and a big “I” on it!

Hobbiton movie set hobbit house

From the fence to the sign post, everything at the Hobbiton movie set was made to look uber real

After a 20-min bus ride from Matamata, you reach the Shire. Looking out of the window you are gradually introduced to Middle Earth by the rolling green hills of the Shire, complete with fluffy little white sheep.

Hobbiton movie set sheep farm

The cutest Hobbit sheep at the farm near the set

The bus comes to a halt just moments away from the set, where the group is met by two guides. After a short introduction, we are no longer kept waiting and are off on a small path towards the first Hobbit hole, passing tall trees and funny shaped hedges.

Hobbiton movie set pink bush

The prettiest Hobbit front yard around!

The first Hobbit home has cameras clicking straight away, as it reveals itself around the corner of the hedge, with a gently groomed shrub, pink flowers, a chair and a bright blue round front door. I witness several people unsuccessfully trying to restrain themselves from oooo-ing and aaaw-ing, such is the intensity of cuteness overload. Our guide quickly emphasises that this was only the first of 42 Hobbit holes we would see on our 2-hour tour, which seems to slightly calm the scrambling, and the shutters.

Hobbiton movie set Bag End

Bilbo’s house on the hill

Our guide goes on to tell us about how Peter Jackson came to use this specific property as the set for the Shire. Apparently he was scouting plenty of ground from a plane until he spotted this working sheep farm, and the big tree right in the middle of it, that should become the party tree. Good thing the owners hadn’t cut the tree down like they had planned to do!

The most amazing part though, is that on this particularly stunning early spring day, it really felt like I was in the Shire, not just on a movie set. Partly because the houses were perectly sized for my height, but also because there weren’t any signs of it being a working set, such as cables, lighting or other filming or stage design equipment. It seemed a “real” Hobbit village.

Hobbiton movie set wind charm

The attention to detail is just mindblowing

Walking through the Shire, stopping at one Hobbit hole after the next, the attention to detail was mindboggling. The lichen on the tiny little fences were not just painted on. They looked as real standing a metre from it as they did in the actual movies. I learned they were blobs of yoghurt mixed with something else that were splased onto the fences, left to dry, and then painted.

Hobbiton movie set Hobbit hole

Is that lichen real? It sure looks real.

It’s details like this that make Hobbiton seem like a proper village rather than a fake set; in the spirit of staying as true to the books as possible, Peter Jackson had the trees changed from plum to apple trees, by stripping off the original blossoms and having apple blossoms attached, by hand. Every single one of them. What an effort!

Hobbiton movie set Bilbo's house

Where good old Bilbo lives 🙂

Down at the other end of the village, our guide points out the mill and tells us we are about 6 weeks too early for the pub that is about to be opened. Yes, a real working pub, in Hobbiton! The Green Dragon will welcome visitors and provide a nice little place to rest and  recharge after the 2-hour tour, with ginger beer, apple cider, and real Hobbiton beers on its menu.

Hobbiton movie set mill and guest house

That guest house will soon be a working pub!

Hobbiton movie set for Hobbit movies

The new Hobbiton – 2nd part of the Shire, built for the Hobbit movies

 

Visiting the Hobbiton movie set:

  • Don’t forget spare storage for your photos – you will be taking a lot of pictures!
  • There’s enough time to take plenty of pictures, so no reason to rush around the set.
  • You get to visit Sam’s home, Bag End (Bilbo/Frodo’s house), and many random homes.
  • The Hobbit homes are just facades – there is nothing inside them. However, one hole has a bit of depth and you can enter and have your photo taken.
  • You can get to the set by either driving to the Shire’s Rest cafe yourself, or taking a bus from the iSite in Matamata.

Disclosure: I received the Hobbiton tour free of charge, but as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you to Tourism New Zealand and Hobbiton movie tours for a magical experience!

 

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  16 comments for “The Hobbiton movie set: visiting the Shire

  1. 4 December, 2012 at 03:53

    You know, I’m not a huge LOTR fan, but the landscape of New Zealand is so stunning, I would do this tour in a heartbeat!

    • Christina
      29 December, 2012 at 18:21

      Hi Ellen – I think the tour is perfectly suitable for non die-hard fans of LOTR as well. You don’t need to be a Hobbit aficionado to enjoy these works of art in the beautiful rolling green hills. It’s just so gorgeous, and the attention to detail and effort put into those gardens, just unbelievable.

  2. 3 January, 2013 at 03:27

    When we visited there wasn’t a hole you could go in. And with the recently opened pub.. I need to go back!

    • Christina
      5 January, 2013 at 11:19

      So do I. Of course they opened the pub just weeks after I was there… 😉

  3. Ignacio
    8 February, 2013 at 23:56

    i’m going just for one day to NZ and would love to visit Hobbiton. Would you recommend to drive to Matamata or take a tour from Auckland?

    • Christina
      9 February, 2013 at 18:42

      Only one day in NZ? Wow, that’s a shame. But anyway, It’s only a 2-hour drive to get to Matamata. If you’re that pressed for time, I’d say just take a tour. All you have to do is show up. But renting a car, driving there on your own if you’re not used to driving in NZ, etc. might not be the most convenient thing to do. Plus, when you get to Matamata, you’d have to stop at the iSite (visitor centre) anyway and get on a tour bus.
      Hope you enjoy your Hobbiton trip! Let me know how it goes – I certainly didn’t regret it, it was a stunning place. Try a hobbit beer at the pub 🙂

  4. Hemanth
    28 April, 2013 at 05:04

    which is the best time to visit Matamata

    • Christina
      30 April, 2013 at 07:30

      Hi Hemanth, I think you’d probably find the scenery best in spring and autumn. I went there in springtime and it was fantastic. Also given summer is high season you’d probably be wandering around the set with tons of others.

  5. yann
    11 June, 2013 at 00:34

    May i visit Hobbiton movie set by my self by taking the local bus? Please advice

  6. abby
    7 October, 2013 at 20:41

    wow I am a real big fan of Lord of the Rings.

    • abby
      7 October, 2013 at 20:43

      and it would be really nice to visit.

  7. malcolm
    8 September, 2014 at 06:31

    hi im a huge LOTR fan and im dying to find out more about the different places where they filmed the movie.My party and I are visiting the north part of new zealand and we would like to know wheter there is a must-try tour group for the LOTR visit?Or is most of it around the same?:)
    also if its not too much trouble,is it possible to list out the names of the places where the movie was filmed?it would greatly help us^^
    thank you

    • Christina Hegele
      11 September, 2014 at 14:21

      Hi Malcolm, thanks for stopping by. There are lots of LOTR locations all around New Zealand, so there’s no one region to rule them all 😉 If you’re only on the North Island, I’d definitely recommend visiting the Hobbiton movie set, it’s well worth it. One thing to be aware of is that this is the only set remaining – all other locations were returned to their original state, i.e. you won’t see any evidence of filming. However, on the North Island you should check out Tongariro National Park and re-enact some Mordor scenes on Mt Ngaruhoe and Mt Ruapehu, and if you make it as far south as Wellington, take a LOTR tour there to see where the Hobbits hid from the black riders, and the River Anduin near Rivendell.

  8. Toby
    30 January, 2016 at 10:12

    Hi wondering when the best time is to be able to see hobbiton while it is really green and lush and then be able to ski in the South Island around the same time?

    Thanks

  9. Chantelle
    1 December, 2016 at 02:48

    When did you visit? I’m dying to go next year but can’t narrow done which month. I love Hobbiton photos with all the flowers though 🙂

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