Hobbiton Movie Set
Visit New Zealand and not pay homage to Middle Earth? Not a chance! After a fun morning of zorbing and racing luges, we left Rotorua and went back onto the road towards Matamata, about 1 hour northwest of Rotorua. We arrived at Shire’s Rest, which was a nice name for what was effectively a staging area to organize the endless tours to the actual movie set location. There was a ticket booth for checking in, a small concession stand, and a gift shop. We were a little early, so we bought the kids ice cream to cool them down from the sun while we waited for our tour.
Once it was time for our tour, we loaded onto an air-conditioned tour bus that took us to the movie set location, which was only 5 minutes across the road. The tour guide on the bus was excellent, providing interesting context behind the creation of the movie set without the usual cringe-worthy jokes that are usually synonymous with bus tours.
As a long-time fan of Lord of the Rings – books first! I read the Hobbit in Grade 5 – being able to see Hobbiton and Bag’s End come alive was simply amazing. But it was equally enjoyable for Anna and the kids who did not read the books… they equally enjoyed the tour, with each unique hobbit home with their colorful round doors and beautiful gardens. For a movie set, the location was a lot larger than I expected the 12 acres took about 90 minutes to tour. Based on some reviews, I was a little concerned that the tour guides would be strict in moving the group along and limiting good photo opportunities, but it wasn’t the case. We had ample opportunity to slip back from the group a little so that we could take photos without a crowd in the frame.
At the end of the tour, you were treated with a drink at the Green Dragon Inn – I had an ale while the kids had some non-alcoholic ginger ale. There is an option to have a medieval type dinner at the Inn, but with our picky eaters we decided to head back to Auckland for more modern fare.
All in all, the Hobbiton Movie Set is a must visit for the Auckland area, and marked a wonderful conclusion to our brief but eventful visit to New Zealand. A “must do” for LOTR fans, it is still a wonderful tour even if you’ve never read or watched the fantasy series.