There and Back Again: A Day in Hobbiton

It was a rather windy and rainy start to New Year’s day and our last day in New Zealand. I was a bit worried that it would start pouring while we were in Hobbiton, but trudged on with hope. We quickly ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant (see review for more details) and started off on the drive south.


Introduction: Christmas in Hong Kong, and New Year in New Zealand
Cathay Pacific First & Business Class Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific Business Class (Reverse Herringbone) SFO-HKG
The Conrad Hong Kong – Harbor View Twin Room
The Intercontinental Hong Kong – Harbor View Room
The Sights and Sounds of Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge HKG Airport
Singapore Airlines Business Class HKG-SIN-AKL
Arrival in Queenstown & The Rees Queenstown Luxury Hotel Apartments
Queenstown Day 1: Milford Sound
Queenstown Day 2: Glenorchy
Queenstown Day 3: Crown Range Road & Wanaka
The Hilton Auckland & New Year’s Eve
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Emperor Lounge @ Auckland Airport (via Priority Pass)
The Park Hyatt Sydney – Opera View Deluxe King Room
Virgin Australia Business Class SYD-LAX
Virgin America Lounge – The Loft at LAX


Hobbiton Movie Set
501 Buckland Road
Hinuera, New Zealand
www.hobbitontours.com
Phone Number: +64 7-888 1505

Tour prices from the Shire’s Rest

Adult   (17+)                          79.00 NZD

Youth  (9-16yrs)                    39.50 NZD

Child   (0-8yrs)                      Free with full paying adult

 

Tickets to the Hobbiton Movie Set tour should be bought online well before arriving at Shire’s Rest Cafe, where tours start off. Unless you are staying nearby in Hamilton or Matamata and are just trying for tickets since you are there anyway, you could very well be out of luck during the peak season without tickets. In December, I found the tickets to be fully booked even a week out despite the uncertainty of weather. My trip was planned out to the day, so I took the risk and just booked the tour tickets a month before. I wasn’t going to go home without visiting Hobbiton!

HobbitonMap

Hobbiton is located near the town of Matamata, New Zealand, which is a ~2.5 hour drive South of Auckland depending on traffic and road conditions. For those of us driving in from Auckland and other cities, the tour started out at the Shire’s Rest Cafe on Buckland Road. The drive to Hobbiton is actually is one of the few fairly unremarkable drives in new Zealand all the way up to the point where you take the turn down Buckland Road. By this time the weather had remarkably improved and warmed up, despite the multitude of gray clouds still lurking around.

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From the point where we made the turn onto Buckland Road, we were met by some of the most beautiful rolling green hills, sporadically littered with a few trees. The cloudy nature of the day made some of the hill tops look like Weathertop (you know where the Nazgul stab Frodo) rather than the Shire, but it was still fantastic scenery.

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A sign board pointed us toward the Shire Rest Cafe where there was a sizeable lot for free parking. We picked up the tour tickets inside the Shire’s Rest Cafe and had a few soft drinks and snacks at the Cafe upstairs, while we waited. A note about prices: I thought they were very reasonable and pretty much in line with those of Starbucks back home. However, there was an overpriced souvenir shop attached to it. You are definitely better off picking up Lord of the Rings gear online.

 

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The actual Hobbiton set can only be accessed by a designated tour bus from the Shire’s Rest cafe. The ride takes about 10 minutes and the tour guide tells the story of how Peter Jackson found the location for Hobbiton. Once we get off the bus we were met by the path seen below. Just before entering the village, there is are a couple of bins for grabbing an umbrella, in case it’s raining. Luckily for us, the rain was staying away for now.

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As soon as we walked through the gate, we could see the entirety of the set and it’s layered organization. The Baggins Family of course lives at the top of the hill, being as affluent as they are. I was a little alarmed at this point to see the large number of tour groups walking around. My plans to take plenty of landscape pictures seemed to be shot.

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And then there was the first hobbit hole, with a garden, and a rocking chair. Perfect place to retire, right? 😀

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As we worked our way through the village, I kept to the back of our group to avoid people getting in the way of taking pictures. This seemed to work well because there wasn’t a tour group immediately behind us. I honestly could care less about what our guide said about the set because I was pretty sure I had heard most of it before.

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I was obligated to take a picture of myself with my elven cloak at this point. I’m not sure whether I was trying to be Strider or one of the Nazgul. I’ll leave that to you to decide 🙂

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As we reached the top of the hill, I got my first glimpse of the Green Dragon Inn from a distance.

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And then we finally arrived  at magnificent Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. I patiently waited until everyone finished with their pictures before getting my shot at glory.

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Since the door was open, maybe I could sneak in and find Bilbo……. It turns out that there is no chance of that because the inside of the house is empty. Jackson seems to have looted it a long time ago 🙂

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We then made our way back down past the party tree to arrive at the bridge to the Green Dragon Inn. This time I ran ahead of the group to take the picture seen above. The Green Dragon Inn is pretty much where the tour ends and the tour guide leaves you to enjoy a drink or snack while taking in last minute views of the Shire. If you are on one of the tours which includes a meal, this would be where you get to eat.

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Inside the Green Dragon, there were some free drinks on offer. There was a choice between an alcoholic apple cider and some kind of juice. I of course didn’t listen to the tour guide and elected to get the apple cider. Needless to say my reaction was epic when I took a sip, I could barely keep it down. I guess I am out of touch with how apple cider is made these days. The alcoholic kind is definitely not something I will ever try again!

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While most of the group was still inside the Green Dragon, I stepped out to take a picture of the Old Mill. The mill is by no means fake, it apparently generates electricity for some of the lights in Hobbiton. This is definitely one of the best spots for a picture in Hobbiton. 

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Another 10 minutes or so later, we were all pushed along back to the tour bus. This was the last view we had of Hobbiton before leaving:

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Now our journey through Middle Earth had truly come to an end. The time of the land down under was swiftly arriving.

Bottom Line: Peter Jackson truly went all out  when he built the permanent version of Hobbiton. I don’t think I need to say more about why Hobbiton is perhaps the must visit attraction on the North Island of New Zealand. The drive here is definitely worthwhile though it may not seem that way while you are driving on Highway 1. At times the tour can be a bit crowded, but if you wait patiently enough, you will get your chance to take your picture.As a big fan of Tolkien’s work and having already known a lot about the set, I wasn’t too entertained by the guide’s information. If you want pictures, just stay ahead of the group or behind so that people don’t interfere.

I do wish that at some point in the future, they give certain groups the option to walk around the village freely. The tour guides can just serve as guards to make sure no one tampers with the set. But that’s just what it is, wishful thinking.