Although I’m not a mad-keen fan of the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies (to be honest, I still get Dumbledore and Gandalf mixed up), I’d heard Hobbiton was worth the visit, even for those who have never seen the movies.
I love the idea that these hugely popular trilogies were made right here in our own backyard and that a little of that magic still lives on for us all to experience.
A very famous farm
Hobbiton is hidden away on Buckland Road in Matamata, about 45 minutes east of Hamilton. There’s plenty of dedicated motorhome parking, just drive in and head to the back of the carpark.
You can’t see or access Hobbiton from the road without boarding one of Hobbiton’s tour buses that depart from ‘The Shire’s Rest’, which encompasses the ticketing office, a cafe, and picnic spots, plus a gift shop complete with oversized hairy feet and stick-on elven ears.
The real adventure begins onboard the bus with a televised welcome message from Sir Peter Jackson as well as the owner of the farm that is home to Hobbiton, Russell Alexander.
Russell shares a little of the incredible story that started one day back in 1998 when a talent scout knocked on his front door to say that Sir Peter Jackson wanted to use his farm as a movie set.
The film director had spotted the farm during an aerial search, and with its beautiful rolling hills and a large pine tree perfectly placed in front of a lake, it was ideal.
The magic in the details
Arriving at Hobbiton, my first impression was just how big it was—a massive 12 acres in fact. Our tour guide gave us a quick ‘do and do not’ brief (do take plenty of photos, but don’t leave the path or you will get lost), we began at the garden, which is brimming with fresh vegies and fruit trees.
From there, we headed up a winding path dotted with unique and colourful Hobbit Holes towards Bag End.
Each little Hobbit Hole has been intricately finished; the front yards reflecting the life of its owner—pint-sized washing lines air out tiny trousers, little piles of chopped wood are waiting to be carried inside for the fire... every detail reflects the level of thought and effort that went into the movies. And it’s these enchanting extra details that provide the sense of authenticity and realism that brings Hobbiton to life.
The famous oak tree
At Bag End, we were told the story of the famous oak tree that stands above Bilbo Baggins’ home. The tree itself was cut down and transported to its current site where thousands of artificial leaves (brought in from Taiwan) were individually wired onto the tree.
Over the years, many of the leaves have become loose, occasionally floating down to the ground. Our guide told us that if we were lucky enough to find one, it was ours to keep. Needless to say, many visitors spend a good amount of time scanning the ground for a prized leaf (no such luck on our visit).
From Bag End, we continued down Bagshot Row and along the Merry Meander where the view over the lake towards The Green Dragon (the village pub) demanded a moment to appreciate how cleverly this little village was put together.
Onward to the Green Dragon Inn
On most movie sets, you might expect to trip over the lines between reality and fiction. Here, there are no lines. From the moment you step off the bus, you’re in another world.
Case in point, as we were heading down the path, I looked over towards the Party Field and noticed a couple of devout fans—fully kitted out in cloaks and hairy feet—happily re-enacting a scene from the movie.
My guess is this was a ‘bucket list’ item they’d been planning to tick off for quite some time.
At our final destination, The Green Dragon Inn, we were treated with the choice of an ale from the Hobbit Southfarthing range, apple cider, or ginger beer.
Inside, the fire was roaring and the atmosphere was that of an old English country pub. And if you’re a bit peckish, there’s a choice of tasty pub grub from scones and pies to homemade stew and soup.
Our time at Hobbiton had come to an end, but if you’re keen to extend your visit out a bit, there’s also the option of an Evening Banquet Tour, which includes the tour plus a banquet feast of traditional Hobbit fare.
Tips for a Hobbiton visit
- The total tour takes around two hours, so wear comfy shoes.
- Don’t worry too much if it rains, as there are plenty of big umbrellas available.
- It pays to book online in advance on hobbitontours.com.
- Evening banquets are held on Wednesdays and Sundays.
- There’s plenty of parking available. Motorhomes are well catered for with clearly marked parks towards the back of the carpark.