When planning our trip to New Zealand one thing was set in stone - Hobbiton™ visit. I don't consider myself a "the Hobbit" or "Lord of the Rings" fan, but I do enjoy re-watching both trilogies. I just like the combination of a fairytale feeling and a picturesque set.
While working on the movies Peter Jackson transformed New Zealand into a huge filming stage, so no wonder that traveling around the country very often I thought "Hmm, this looks familiar" - in this part of the World Middle Earth is always nearby.
But after the movies were shot and actors went back home all the sets were removed due to copyright reasons. Only one remained and opened it's doors to the public in 2002 - the Hobbiton™ Movie Set. And more than that - you'll be lucky to see it in the same fantastic detail seen in the movies.
I'm not going to convince you whether you should visit the set or not - it's up to you to decide. But let me share with you some random thoughts from my visit which may help you make up your mind.
1. You will enjoy it even if your are not a Tolkien Fan. Even if you are not into hobbits, goblins and Gandalf, you will still enjoy your visit, I'm sure about that - the premises of the Hobbiton™ Movie Set and the whole area around it are simply gorgeous and consist of green rolling hills filled with cows and sheep, beautiful unique trees and sharp rocks. Located next to the little town of Matamata, it is this part of the North Island which lacks mountains, but substitues them with greenery.
2. What you really need to know is that you can visit Hobbiton™ Movie Set premises ONLY on a tour. It is advisable to book the tickets well in advance, especially during high season. It can get very busy in this part of Middle Earth with buses full of visitors leaving every 30 min from t he Shire's Rest aka Hobbiton™ Visitors Center. Those of you with little time can organise tours from major neighrouring cities: Matamata, Rotorua or Auckland for instance. Over here you can check all the tours available. We did the "Hobbiton™ Movie Set" tour - the basic tour most visitors do.
3. You have to stick to your group. The area of and around movie set is private - owned by Alexander family, so there is no chance of sneaking inside - you won't come further than a closed gate over the street from Shire's Rest.
4. Sorry for the spoiler here, but you can't go inside hobbit holes for one simple reason - there is nothing behind those cute doors, just earth and plywood. All the scenes inside the holes were filmed at the Wellington Studios. There is just one hole where you can walk in and take a photo, but there is nothing pretty inside of it waiting for you. The facades though are full of details and are as adorable as hobbit holes can be.
5. You will not be the only visitor. The tour (we are talking about the standard tour most of the visitors take) lasts about 2 hours and even though it may seem long you will be surprised how fast the time flies. Tour groups are following one another, so there won't be time to stop and appreciate a quiet moment. If you want to take photos - be fast and take them on the spot. If you want to hear stories - walk in front. If you want to take photos - be the last one in line. If you want privacy - go for a private tour.
6. Dragon Inn is real. It is the only building in the whole Hobbiton™ which was properly built and left untouched and it also serves as a actual inn, where you can get a drink (one drink is included into ticket price). You can even take photos in hobbit clothes there - just grab them from a hook. An Evening Banquet Tour also takes place inside the Dragon Inn.
7. Be sure to book your tickets in advance. Especially for the Evening Banquet Tour, which is held only twice per week. When we were visiting in the beginning of October banquet tour tickets for 2017 were sold out.
8. If you are traveling with kids leave your stroller in the car. You can't walk to the Hobbiton™ Movie Set - all tour groups are brought to the premises by bus, just so you know. But bus is no problem for a stroller (there is enough storage), the real problem starts when you have to walk steps, climb narrow paths and squeeze in between people (personal experience here). So if you can, don't take it with you on a tour - better take a sling or a backpack to carry you kid, or someone strong to help you.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the most important thing - ENJOY!!!