Being Tolkien fans since a long time back, both Mat and I were really looking forward to coming to New Zealand and seeing all the beautiful scenery. So one of the things on our list of things we wanted to see and do, was of course The Shire, or as it is officially known, Hobbiton.
We made our way to the little town of Matamata, made famous from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The I-Site, they’re the information centres they have across New Zealand in every town, they are very comprehensive and full of all the information you may need as a tourist, the staff are always very helpful and friendly and they can help you book anything that you need. So anyway, the i-Site in Matamata has been built to look like a Hobbit house, very cute! We booked our tour and left our camper van in the parking lot for the day, jumped on the bus that took us out to the Shire. The bus driver told us a bit about the history of it, how Peter Jackson had been flying around scouting for the perfect area to film the Shire, when he came across this large farmland area, with the perfect rolling hills and it even had a little lake at the bottom. The area was well secluded from the nearby roads, which was of course very important as the filming for Lord of The Rings was very secretive. So Peter Jackson found out who owned the land, he basically knocked on the door and asked the farmer if he could have a look at the land and explained that he was interested in renting it from them. The farmer gave them the ok, not knowing what would happen in the next 15 years. They are now 3 brothers running the sheep farming and they also run the company for the Hobbiton tours.
Our bus from Matamata came to what is call The Shires Rest, where we changed bus and were taken along a private narrow gravel road, along rolling hills of farmland full of sheep. We were a bit apprehensive though, as all the hills were dried out from the extremely dry summer they’ve had, we thought that the Hobbiton village might look a bit dry too. But we were pleasantly surprised when we came around a corner and down a steep hill to see how lush and green it was.
We followed our tour guide and walked along a small bendy gravel path with cobble paved walls, just like you see in the film and you come around the bend and there it is in its full glory. And it really does feel like stepping into the film. And if you’re anything like me, that is loving anything in miniature, you would love Hobbiton. And I remember thinking the first time I read Lord of The Rings, how I wished that I could experience The Shire in real life and here I was seeing it, being there in real, I was in heaven and so was Mat!
The attention to detail is incredible, they really have thought of everything and made it all look so real. They have the very small Hobbit holes, which were made for filming the normal sized humans walking past them, to make it look good and in scale to the camera and you have the larger Hobbit holes and doors where they filmed the Hobbit actors, so that they looked small. The gardens are just phenomenal and so is the vegetable patch and the fruit trees that are growing there. It’s all real and they have so many full time gardeners working there all year round to make sure it all looks perfect. The only thing that isn’t real is the oak tree on top of Baggs End, well the tree itself was a real oak tree that was taken down and dismantled from another place in Matamata, then transported over to Hobbiton whilst they were building the set, they screwed all the branches back into place and the leaves were ordered from Taiwan and each leaf was wired onto the tree by hand.
The village was originally built up for Lord of The Rings and a lot of it was then taken down when filming finished. They then rebuilt the whole set for The Hobbit, but this time it was built to last with the intent of having the tours. They also built up The Green Dragon pub, which opened to the tours in 2013, so part of our tour was a drink in the pub. You could choose from cider or ale that has been brewed exclusively for the Green Dragon. I must say that the cider was delicious and the ale was pretty good too. You can even hire the place out for events and when we were doing the tours they were busy preparing for a wedding the following day!
The only criticism I would have of this tour is that they don’t give you enough time, 1,5hrs to go around the village and to have your drink is not enough. Especially if you want to take photos. I think that when you pay as much as you do for the tour you should at least get 2 hrs for the whole thing. I also think that if people had more time at the the Green Dragon, they would spend more money whilst there. Although both Mat and I loved the tour so much, it was definitely one of our highlights and I want a Hobbit hole in my future garden!