New Zealand Oceania

A Day in Middle-earth: Exploring the Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand

Written by Gia Kristel Algie

Who doesn’t want to step into the real Middle-earth? New Zealand boasts some of the most dramatic filming locations in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. If you’re a LOTR fan, there are many sights to explore in New Zealand that will take you to this magical world! Jon and I had the chance to experience Mordor when we did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing a few years ago. While we didn’t have the time to visit Hobbiton then, I was certain we would get to visit sooner or later.

My family’s recent visit for our wedding in Central Otago was a perfect opportunity to show them the sights of New Zealand. They are huge fans of theme parks and are quite familiar with the Lord of the Rings movies so we made sure to include a visit the Hobbiton Movie Set in their itinerary.

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Gandalf’s Cutting

The magic of Hobbiton began as we entered Gandalf’s Cutting. If you are familiar with the Lord of the Rings’ movies, this is where Gandalf walks towards The Shire, the home of the Hobbits at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring (maybe it’s time to re-watch the LOTR trilogy?). I’m getting goosebumps just remembering that moment!

Hobbiton’s Hobbit Holes

A visit to Hobbiton is like being transported into The Shire. Apart from the lack of real Hobbits and the occasional tourist in the way of your photos, everything looks so real! There are a lot of Hobbit holes to explore, which come in different sizes (small, smaller and smallest) with doors of different colours – there are 44 in total (no, we didn’t count them all)! These Hobbit holes were rebuilt and made permanent in 2009, when they used the Hobbiton Movie Set for The Hobbit trilogy.

Like people, I suppose, each Hobbit has their own style which is reflected in their homes. I found it very entertaining to guess the jobs of the Hobbits that lived in each home. There appeared to be bakers, blacksmiths and garden-enthusiasts! It’s all great fun to explore but we did have to rush a bit with some of the stops for the photos (there is limited time in each stop of the tour).

Some Hobbit holes are better than others and not all of them had doors for photos. There is only one Hobbit hole where you can step inside. The tour guide gave each of us a bit of time to get a photo in the hobbit hole so it was all good. It would have been ideal if we could spend longer in each stop but there is high demand for Hobbiton after all.

Apparently, wealthier Hobbits have more windows and lived higher uphill. Can you guess whose hobbit holes we found next?

The Bag End

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ house, which is the most recognizable in the movies is the largest among the hobbit holes at Hobbiton. It also has the best location, overlooking most of Hobbiton. You can’t miss the “No admittance except for party business” sign here too! I think this is the best among the hobbit holes in Hobbiton! Another famous Hobbit hole in Bag End is Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton’s house.

The Finer Details

It’s not only the Hobbit holes that will impress you with your visit to Hobbiton, the whole setting and the attention to detail is incredible. In the Hobbiton movie set tour, they explain how they put it all together too (it sounds like Peter Jackson is a very pedantic director). They give you some secrets to the movie like how they scaled the trees to match the Hobbits (They used fake fruits!) and how they maintained the colours of thousands and thousands of artificial leaves of the oak tree on the hill (They were all hand-painted! Imagine the work involved in that).

The Mill

After going through a few more hobbit holes, we passed through the water-mill of Hobbiton, another impressive structure in this magical world.

The Green Dragon Inn

Finally, the tour ends with a visit to the world-famous Green Dragon Inn, a meeting place for all residents of Hobbiton. Here, we enjoyed a refreshing free beverage (which is included in the Hobbiton Movie Set  tour) that is traditionally brewed right in Middle-earth, New Zealand! The Hobbit Southfarthing range, which includes beers, cider and ginger beer is only available from the Hobbiton Movie Set. It’s a great way to end the magical tour. The Green Dragon Inn has an intricately detailed interior that visitors will surely appreciate.

Hobbiton Movie Set

I’ve always loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set was on my list of must-do experiences in New Zealand. How often can you step into the movie set of your favourite film?

Located in Matamata, the Hobbiton Movie Set was converted from a 12 acre farm owned by by Craig Alexander. It was selected as the shooting location for Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in 1998 and in 2009, the set was rebuilt for The Hobbit trilogy. This time, it was done so on the condition it would be permanent.

The Shire’s Rest

All the tours starts (to get the official guide on board) and ends at the Shire’s Rest, where there is a gift shop and a cafe. They sell a variety of cool memorabilia including posters, fake swords and hobbit hole figurines.

Travel Tips for Your Visit to Hobbiton

Do You Have to be a Fan to Enjoy Hobbiton?

Even Lord of the Rings’ fans can be a bit skeptical at how good the Hobbiton is. With a steep entrance fee of $84 NZD (which includes a compulsory guided tour and a free drink at the end), most people would usually ask, “is it worth it?” After going through the whole two hour tour, I would definitely recommend a visit whether you are a fan or not. Hobbiton itself really swept me off my feet. It is a fascinating tour which can be enjoyed by everyone – locals or tourists, Lord of the Rings fans or not. There are, of course, alternatives to the Middle-earth experience if you are not into visiting movie sets or don’t want to shell out that much on entrance fees.

How Do You Get to Hobbiton?

Tours to Hobbiton start from The Shire’s Rest, Matamata I site or Rotorua.

How Much Does the Entrance Fee to Hobbiton Cost?

A tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set tour costs $84 for adults, $42 for children aged 9 to 16 for, and free for children 8 and under, accompanied by an adult. Each tour includes a drink at The Green Dragon Inn. If you want to include the Marquee Festive Feast, it’s an additional $36 for lunch and $26.00 for breakfast. Check out all the options here.

There are also options for an evening banquet tours, private tours, and you can even hire out Hobbiton for events and functions. Just imagine what a Middle-earth wedding would be like!

The tour takes roughly two hours overall from The Shire’s Rest. The standard tour includes about 20 or so people to 1 tour guide, which is reasonable enough considering how many people want to see the place each day. Imagine the chaos if people didn’t have a time limit for each Hobbit hole!

When is the Best Time to Go?

Hobbiton is open all year round (except Christmas Day), with extended hours in summer. It’s advisable to book in advance, as tours can sell out. Make sure to take travel time into account though! Hobbiton tour tickets are also available at the Matamata I-Site and at The Shire’s Rest. There’s also the International Hobbit Day, which is be celebrated with an event at Hobbiton Movie Set every 22nd September.

What are the Other Attractions Close to Hobbiton?

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Do you have plans to visit New Zealand? Have you been to the Hobbiton Movie Set? Let us know. 

About the author

Gia Kristel Algie

Currently based in New Zealand, Gia grew up in Manila, lived in Singapore for three years and travelled the world for nearly two years. From watching sunsets to hiking mountains, she loves the outdoors. She enjoys living in big cities but takes pleasure staying in quaint, small towns. An aspiring photographer and budding writer, she is the voice behind Mismatched Passports, a travel blog dedicated to the journey around the world with her husband, Jon.

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