New Zealand is known as the Mecca for Lord of the Rings fans. Throughout the country you can find filming locations and all kinds of tours. One of the most popular spots is Mount Doom, which you can climb while hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Another one, that’s accessible for LOTR fans of all ages and fitness levels, is the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.
The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is pretty expensive though. Is it really worth a visit? Keep reading to find out.
How to get to the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
The Hobbiton Movie Set is located in Matamata, well north of Lake Taupo, on the north island of New Zealand. You can book tours starting from basically every city in the neighbourhood: Auckland, Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton, and Matamata obviously.
Check out the Hobbiton Tours website for more information.
However, we just booked the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour without a transfer. We were road tripping New Zealand in our rented Spaceships Campervan, so drove to Matamata in our own time. There’s a rather big car park at The Shire's Rest, which houses the ticketing centre, a shop, and a café.
The Hobbiton Movie Set is only an hour away from Rotorua, where we slept the night before. After the tour, we continued our road trip to Waitomo, where we spent the next night. The Waitomo Caves, situated in Waitomo (duh!), are a massively popular tourist attraction that’s often combined with a visit to Hobbiton. If you’ve had enough of the crowds after The Shire though, we recommend heading to the Waipu Caves for a free glowworm alternative to the Waitomo Caves.
What to expect of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour cost us NZ$79 per person (adult, without transfer). We bought our tickets upon arrival at The Shire's Rest, just like a bunch of others. We were visiting in the low season though. Make sure you book your tickets well beforehand when visiting during the high season.
All included, from departure at The Shire’s Rest to returning there, the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour took about 2 hours. A 10 minute bus ride takes you and your fellow tour group members to Hobbiton. The driver will tell you about the discovery of the site, life on the set, and the Alexander Farm that’s been there since before the film fame.
It was a grey and rainy day when we were visiting. That didn’t temper the enthusiasm of our young guide though. She took us on a walking tour through Hobbiton, while passionately explaining us all about the 44 hobbit holes, the party tree and everything there’s to know about the Hobbiton Movie Set. That includes interesting facts and trivia about the techniques used and the astonishing amount of precision and detail Sir Peter Jackson demanded. A little sunshine would have made the experience even better, and the colours of the hobbit holes pop even more, but it was still awesome.
We ended our Hobbiton Movie Set Tour at The Green Dragon Inn with a complementary handcrafted ale. It was a pretty big cup and we only had about 10 minutes in there to finish it, so this last part felt a bit rushed.
The Hobbiton Movie Set
The Hobbiton Movie Set counts no less than 44 hobbit holes: 39 were built for the Lord of the Rings movies and 5 more were added for The Hobbit movies. Some of the houses are themed, corresponding with the job of the hobbit living there: a florist, a cheesemaker, a baker, you name it! The hobbit holes are just fronts though, there’s nothing inside. We’re just managing your expectations here, because we were pretty disappointed when finding this out. Apparently the filming inside the houses was done at a studio in Wellington. The gardens have real vegetables though, which they use in their café.
There is one hobbit hole that’s decorated on the inside (or for 3 meters at least): Bag End, Bilbo Baggins’ home. This was done for just one shot made from the inside of the house with an overview over The Shire. The things they did for a couple of seconds of screen time, unbelievable! The fake tree above Bag End is another example of the great lengths they’ve gone through to add detail and make everything seem as real as possible. Your guide will gladly tell you all about it.
Is the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour worth it?
For us, the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour was definitely worth the NZ$79 we paid for it! We’re not Lord of the Rings geeks, just fans at best. OK, honestly, I’d only seen the movies a couple of days before our visit, under slight pressure from Brecht. It isn’t obligatory to have seen them, but it adds to your experience in our opinion. At least you’ll know what you’re looking at and posing with.
It was an interesting tour, and we loved to hear about the tricks and effort put into the filming of the movie. It wasn’t really busy during our visit (a rainy day in the off season), but I can image it’s hard to look past the hordes of tourists and really enjoy Hobbiton in high season. Anyway, if we had to do it all over, the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour would still be on our New Zealand bucket list!
Have you visited Hobbiton? Do you agree it was worth the money you paid for it? We’re looking forward to reading all about your experience in the comments!
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