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Middle Earth Must-sees: Experience the Shire Hobbit Style

by Claudia Looi

October 28, 2016

4 minute read

Less than two and a half hours south of Auckland by car is the rural town of Matamata. The road to Matamata cuts through dairy farms and ranches of grazing cattle and sheep. Prior to 2002, few people – myself included – had any desire to visit this almost deserted part of New Zealand.

It’s all different now.

During my twenties, I lived in Auckland, New Zealand for three and a half years. After working in travel agencies in Auckland and traversing extensively in both the North and South Islands, I thought I had seen it all. When I verbally made that claim during a dinner (on my recent trip to New Zealand) with some of my old Kiwi friends, they were quick to point out my blunder.

“You haven’t been to Hobbiton, have you?” one of my former roommates inquired.

She was referring to the Hobbiton Movie Set just outside of Matamata. It is the site where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy were filmed and now is a major tourist attraction.

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Hobbiton is a 12-acre site located in a 1,250-acre sheep and cattle farm which was discovered in 1998 by Sir Peter Jackson and his film location scouts, who deemed it the perfect setting for The Shire and hobbit holes. Today, the farm, known as Alexander Farm, is still fully operational, with acres upon acres of green grass for sheep and Angus cattle.

Hobbiton tours begin with a scenic drive through Alexander Farm to the entrance of The Shire. From the moment you step off the bus, you’ll notice that Hobbiton looks just as described in the novels, down to the very details. Visitors from all over the world pay NZ$79 (per adult) and NZ$39.50 (per youth 9-16 years) for this Middle Earth experience.

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What stood out about the Hobbiton Movie Set was that there were no commercial buildings or billboards along the way through the farm. The whole area looked like a farmland in its original state up until we arrived at The Shire Rest and car park. Everything was kept in its unspoiled natural environment.

Every 30 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. a Hobbiton tour guide loads up visitors onto a tour bus at The Shire Rest headed for The Shire. He or she will tell facts and tales as you walk the same paths Frodo, Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and Sam trotted along. The Shire captured the essence of Tolkien’s mystical 17th century English village. For most of the tour, tourists must stay with their guide.

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My heart skipped a beat when I walked with the tour guide to the first hobbit hole with a round door and a small garden. The whole place was designed to capture our imaginations – picturesque, every detail was well taught out. To-scale hobbit clothes hung on the clothesline. It felt like a happy place – the real Shire!

Every hobbit hole is unique. They are tiny hobbit holes with beautiful facades and the only a few you can step inside like Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole, which is larger than the rest. You can tell the hobbit’s occupation by the things outside. For example, the fisherman had smoked fish outside of his hobbit hole, the cheesemonger had cheese wheels, the baker had baked goods, and the sundry shopkeeper had honey pots.

In the middle of The Shire is the Party Tree where visitors can try games played by the hobbits. Walk along the gardens, on the bridge to the Watermill and stop by The Green Dragon Inn for a complimentary pint of Hobbiton ale.

The Hobbiton Movie Set is one tourist attraction not to be missed when visiting North Island New Zealand.

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