Hobbiton, the Village From the Lord of the Rings.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day in the Village of Hobbiton.
- 2A Journey in the World of Tolkien.
- 3The Origins of Hobbiton.
- 4The Most Beautiful Film Set in the World.
- 5Enjoy a Beer at the Green Dragon Inn.
- 6A Must-Do in New Zealand.
A Day in the Village of Hobbiton.
While traveling by train in the North Island, the director Peter Jackson suddenly realize that New Zealand's landscapes evoke the Tolkien universe.
Upon his return, he tries to convince many Hollywood studios to finance the crazy project to adapt "The Lord of the Rings" to the cinema as a trilogy.
What is truly unique in New Zealand is the vast diversity of landscapes condensed within a same territory. The decisive argument to convince producers is precisely the possibility to cut costs by filming the entire project within a same country. Even the special effects were all produced in Wellington.
There is no need to introduce the "Lord of the Rings", the second masterpiece written by J.R.R Tolkien, following "The Hobbit".
The first trilogy is released in theatres between the years 2001 and 2003. The worldwide success of the trilogy owes much to the quality of its special effects and its beautiful sets.
Thanks to a flawless realism, they invite the viewer into a complex universe which manages to be wonderful without being too childish.
It is no exaggeration to say that these films have more contributed to the promotion of the country than any other advertising campaign (the immigration services even created a "Middle Earth" stamp for the passports). And because the public demand remains strong, the "Hobbit" is also brought to screen between 2012 and 2014. The fans welcome the prequel with enthusiasm and the studios earn a billion of dollars!
Elijah Wood on the set of the Hobbit.
Today, we are going to explore the Hobbiton film location in New Zealand.We will discover how Tolkien imagined the village of the Hobbits, and how Peter Jackson's teams succeed to transpose the author's vision into the real world.
A Journey in the World of Tolkien.
Prior to visiting Hobbiton we must remember that The Shire (its original name in Tolkien's book) was inspired by rural England of the Middle Ages. This is the kingdom of the Hobbits, also called Halflings who are living from agriculture.
A peaceful world, in total isolation which is nearly a utopia if not a heaven on Earth. Tolkien had drawn up an accurate map with an area of 55 000 km2, 193 km wide and 241 km long exactly.
The village of Hobbiton was invented by Tolkien for his novel called The Hobbit in 1937.
The average height for the Hobbits is about three feet and they do not wear shoes to cover their hairy ankles. Their favourite activity is to organize fairs between neighbours, which contrast with the perilous adventures coming later in the story.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Hobbiton is one of the many villages scattered throughout the shire where homes have the appearance of holes dug into the hillside. The most beautiful of these strange houses arouse jealousy of everyone: Here is Bag End, the residence that Bilbo bequeaths to Frodo at the beginning of the “Lord of the Rings”.
Peter Jackson has decided to recreate this complex world in New Zealand, but time was running short! The challenge goes far beyond the realization of a single movie set. There was back then an entire village to build, and nobody knew how to start.
The Origins of Hobbiton.
In 1998, Peter Jackson flies over the North Island of New Zealand by helicopter, seeking filming locations when an isolated farm holds his attention. Almost desert, the place is just few kilometers from Matamata and is not connected by any modern road, buildings or power lines that might affect the beauty of the landscape.
The vision of J.R.R Tolkien is strictly observed. It is almost too good to be true.
It is also necessary to seek permission from the owners of the place. You can imagine the surprise of a farmer’s family who had never heard anything about Tolkien's books before.
Once the authorizations granted, the construction can begin. But if the location corresponds to the desires of the director, there is still an entire Hobbit village to build!
The design team creates all the preliminary sketches and even a reduced model of five square meters. Nothing is left to chance on such a big project.
The production gives the authorization to start, and even the New Zealand army is mobilized to assist the film staff to clear the ground. In March 1999, more than 5000 m3 of soil is displaced to create 37 hobbit holes in the hills.
While the security services are keeping away the curious fans, the decorators are giving life to the village with a lot of polystyrene and paint.
The stone bridge and the windmill are soon completed, but a tree is supposed to be above the home of Bilbo! But is not a problem for the team! An oak of 26 tonnes is uprooted twenty kilometers from there, and replanted in the right place with fake leaves being glued one by one!
Meanwhile, gardeners have begun to sow the grass which must be ready to welcome actors and 400 technicians. The village scenes are filmed during only three months and the dismantling begins immediately after. Only seventeen hobbit holes will escape demolition, but all the beautiful decorations are removed.
Hobbiton has become a ghost town in ruins and history could have ended there.
But the incredible success of the “Lord of the Rings” in theaters changes everything. In 2011, Peter Jackson and his team are back to Hobbiton to film the long-awaited prequel, “The Hobbit, an unexpected journey”.
Rebuilt in wood and stone, now open to the public with all its decorations, Hobbiton is here to stay. Let's start our visit without delay!
The Most Beautiful Film Set in the World.
“The Shire” is a charming construction, faithful to the spirit of the world of Tolkien. This is also a souvenir shop, a café and the reception center for the Hobbiton's visitors. You can relax and enjoy a coffee while I fetch our tickets.
The trip Hobbiton is passing through fields covered by sheep and is only a 15 minutes’ drive. The bus driver is an old kiwi nicknamed "Big John" who knows everything about Peter Jackson's trilogies and will reveal you some secrets about the filming.
Contrary to what I hoped before coming, we are not allowed to circulate freely in the village.
Because of the thieves who were robbing decorations, we must now consider Hobbiton as an open-air museum with a defined path to follow.
Five gardeners are working full time to keep the village beautiful, so please do not touch anything and stay on the path!
One must see the bright side of things, the guided tour helps to understand how the movies were created and the whole artistic process. The guide presents the main village places and the moment when they appear in the film. This proves to be useful because the village was expanded between the two trilogies, and it now possesses 44 different hobbit houses.
Wooden doors are painted in different colours, and Sam Gamgee's is yellow. Wooden fences, mailboxes and every of objects seem to be here for centuries. The eye to detail is striking, and I would not even be surprised to see a Hobbit at the bend of a trail.
And the best is yet to come! You will immediately recognize “Bag End”, Bilbo's house, topped by an oak. Accessible by a small stone staircase, the house overlooks the entire village. This is the exact place, on the wooden bench, where Gandalf and Bilbo are smoking during the preparations for the party, at the beginning of the Lord of the Ring.
It all fits perfectly, the green door is half open and we perceive the beginning of a corridor. But do not expect to go further, all the interior scenes were filmed in a studio in Wellington, capital of New Zealand.
Don't worry, you will have the opportunity to explore the interior of a house today. First I will take a picture of us in front of Bag End, then we'll pay ourselves a drink at the Green Dragon Inn!
Enjoy a Beer at the Green Dragon Inn.
We descend the hill to reach a small lake where black swans swim. We find ourselves in the party field where Bilbo uses the magical power of the ring to disappear during his birthday.
Impossible not to be moved when crossing the stone bridge that Gandalf borrows at the beginning of the first film.
Right after the watermill you'll find yourself in front of the splendid landscape that appears in “The Fellowship of the Ring”.
The Green Dragon Inn figure can be seen during the first part of “The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey”, but all interior scenes were in fact filmed in a studio. Considering the success of the village's visits, the production decided to recreate the entire inn on site for real.
The atmosphere is just amazing, I even dare to say that I prefer this place to the rest of the village. The interior is even more impressive than the exterior. Our tickets include a free drink. You have a choice of beers, ciders or ginger beer, all served in mugs that I would be happy to bring back as a souvenir.
If the two large and comfortable rooms can host one hundred guests, we are, alas, only allowed to stay here twenty minutes. Another group of visitors arrives, and our guide is already waiting for us near our bus. What a pity, I would be so happy if the Green Dragon could become my daily pub.
For the lucky ones, Alexander Farm will be the last stop on the tour. Bottle-feeding a cute lamb is a moving experience and this could be one of the best memories of your trip in New Zealand.
Henceforth, the farm is not always open to the public, and it is necessary to request permission to visit. Given the growing popularity of Hobbiton, I cannot unfortunately guarantee anything and the attraction might disappear at any time.
One could expect a significant souvenir shop but "The Shire Store" turns out to be a real disappointment. I advise you to keep your savings for thevisit of Weta Cave in Wellington. Nevertheless, they sell a nice map showing the Hobbit filming locations in New Zealand which proves to be a good souvenir even if a bit expensive.
A Must-Do in New Zealand.
Ultimately, I have found Hobbiton far better what I had imagined. You will have noticed that there are no costumed Hobbits here, and that's a very good thing. Even if it is indeed a tourist attraction (there is nothing wrong with this), the producers have resisted the urge to make an entertainment park of it.
The film set was almost completely dismantled after the filming of the “Lord of the Rings”.My first visit of the village in 2010 was more a kind pilgrimage than anything else. But this time, with the complete renovation of the decorations, Hobbiton is a unique experience and worth the trip.
One must admit that the visit of 2 hours is quite expensive. However, even at $75 this remains cheaper than the majority of the activities in New Zealand.
Compared to other filming locations of the trilogy, there is no need to use the imagination to recreate the magic of the movies.I recommend, however, to see the “Lord of the Ring” and “The Hobbit” before coming here. This will help you to recognize many more details, and the immersion in the universe of Tolkien will be even stronger.
The quality of the reconstruction outranks all movie sets I have visited. I imagine Tolkien himself would have loved visiting this village and his best fans will be happy no matter the price. But even if you have not seen the movies, this is a visit you should consider seriously.
Hobbiton is not a theme park, and that's great!
You should avoid coming at midday during the summer school vacations. There are more than 2000 visitors per day at this period of the year.
If you do not enjoy the group visits, you can sign up for a“Private Tour”, but you will pay twice the price while there is a simple solution.
I have noticed that the majority of tours are booked between 11am and 4pm.
Outside this period, attendance drops dramatically and the visit won't be rushed by a guide perhaps a bit tired of repeating the same explanations again and again.
Taking pictures without having anyone in your camera's field will be easier.
If we do not count the duration of the bus ride, I would say that the visit of the village occupies about one hour and a half.
Because Hobbiton is approximately at 1h30 drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you can combine both activities during the same day.
The “Lord of the Rings” is far from being the only film to have been produced in New Zealand.
Visit the beach of Cathedral Cove which can be seen in the “Prince Caspian” from the second movie of the “Narnia Chronicles” trilogy.
If you have more questions, I invite you to read the Q&A section of our friend Ben the Kiwi. Please remember that our team would love to receive news from your New Zealand trip. If you come to Hobbiton, don't forget to send us your best pictures, we will publish them on Kiwipal!
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? People always ask me if Hobbiton is the real village of the films, or if it is an original creation built after ... But I confirm that it is the real village of the film!
- All topics ... 18 answers in total
- Times, Prices and Reservations 5 answers
- Transports 4 answers
- Conduct of the Visit 3 answers
- Weather 2 answers
- Restaurants 2 answers
- Trivia 2 answers
Times, Prices and Reservations
- What are the opening hours?
The tours take place every half hour from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
- How much does Hobbiton visit costs?
It costs $75 per adult and $10 per child.
- Do you have to book well in advance?
This is essential in summer and you will find the grid of availability on the official website.Hobbiton booking
- Can we book the tour online?
Yes, and it is even recommended.Hobbiton news
- Can we cancel a reservation?
If you cancel more than 2 hours before your schedule, you can be refunded 100%. Otherwise, you will only get a half refund.
- Which address to enter on the GPS to go to The Shire?
The address is 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata, Waikato.
- How long does it take to get there?
From Auckland, it takes 2 hours to reach Matamata via the SH 27. Rotorua, Hamilton and Tauranga are 45 minutes away. It takes about 1h10 from Waitomo and 1h30 from Taupo.
- Can we drive directly to Hobbiton?
No, you are obliged to take the Shuttle of the Shire.
- Can we come by bus?
The main bus companies serve Matamata from where you can reach a shuttle bus to The Shire where the reception is located.Hobbiton Schedule
Conduct of the Visit
- How about the private tours?
Unlike normal visits, the number of participants is limited to eleven. The rest of the attraction is identical. The basic rate is $450 for four adults. Additional participants pay the regular rate without extra charge.
- Is the visit accessible to people with disabilities?
A part of the visit is not accessible to people with disabilities. For this reason, the tariff will be reduced by 50% for these people.
- Are there any toilets on site?
You will find toilets at The Shire and at the Green Dragon Inn (in the Hobbit's style!)
- What is the ideal season to come?
The visit is possible all year round but is ideal in spring and summer when the grass is watered daily so as not to turn yellow. The ideal is to come on a sunny day, which is not rare in the region.
- Do you recommend a visit in bad weather?
Umbrellas are distributed free of charge at the descent of the bus when it rains, but also in summer. Enjoy it, because there are few places to shelter from rain or sun.
- Can we eat at the Green Dragon Inn?
You can buy sandwiches (rather good) and drinks with or without alcohol. Alas, you will rarely have more than twenty minutes to taste them on the spot.
- Is it possible to have lunch at The Shire?
Yes, you can even order the "second breakfast" in the Hobbit fashion.
- How was the location kept secret?
Access to the filming area was prohibited, even the overflight by plane were suspended. Producers reportedly sued recalcitrant pilots to have their licenses canceled.
- Where to find other filming locations in New Zealand?
I recommend that you read the considerable guide written by Chronomundi which reveals the exact filming locations of Peter Jackson's trilogies.Chronomundi Blog
On the Country Map
The village of Hobbiton is near Matamata in the Waikato region of ??the North Island.
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