Sorry for yet another Lord of the Rings/Hobbit reference but it simply can’t be helped with this one. One of the main things to do in NZ and a must-do on our list was to go to the very place where they filmed Hobbiton in the films.
On a farm outside Matamata, which lies about 70km or so south of Auckland on the North Island, is a the tourist attraction of Hobbiton.
We got into Matamata after making the nice 1.5 hour drive from Matata and before making another small drive to the film set, we had a cheeky KFC and had a little stroll about. The i-Site in the town centre has been neatly made into a Hobbit looking house so we popped in just for completeness sake. It does get your juices flowing a little if you’re Hobbit-mad like we are!
A small drive away from Matamata takes you to the farm where the films were shot. You can’t see anything from where you park apart from a ticketing office, souvenir shop and a cafe. Once we’d got our tickets we had a short wait until a large ‘Hobbiton bus’ came to pick us up and take us down to the set.
You watch a bit of a short into vid whilst on the bus featuring Sir Peter Jackson…. thanking you for coming and lining his pockets with gold and all that jazz.
For the Lord of the Rings they actually built a full Hobbiton set and then dismantled it soon after. However when they filmed The Hobbit they decided to keep the whole thing a feature so people could pay for tours around the place. The guy who owns the farm came up with the idea to Sir Peter Jackson (the director of the movie) and now they own the tourism business 50/50. The farm is still going on all around the tour park.
As soon as you pass through the passages (the one which Bilbo runs out of with his contract near the start of The Hobbit) the whole place opens up to you and we were just like little kids – wide eyed and jaws agape.
There are 44 Hobbit holes built into the land and they each have their own character. One is the Artists’ hole, one is the Fisherman’s. One is the Gardiner’s and one is the Butcher’s. We pranced about like Hobbits (with cameras) as if it was our own neighbourhood. Unfortunately though, there isn’t much behind any of the doors; just small little rooms with a bit of decoration – just in case they got in a camera shot.
Right above Bilbo Baggins’s house is a tree, which you can see in the films, and its entirely artifical. For the Lord of the Rings they dug up a tree in nearby Matamata and stuck it on top but for The Hobbit, the tree needed to be smaller (because The Hobbit pre-dates Lord of the Rings) so they created an entirely synthetic tree, which they sewed 200,000 artifical leaves on to. We did want to nick one of the leaves as a keepsake but Milly wouldn’t even though I double dared her.
You walk around the field where Bilbo threw his 111th birthday in Lord of the Rings and we found some stilts here. The guide, who was lovely, offered to get me an extra beer if we could actually walk on the stilts. However I have the balance of a newly born deer and had no chance.
At the end of the tour you end up in The Green Dragon an actual Hobbit pub! Where they give you a free drink of your choice. They brew all the ales especially for The Green Dragon, you can’t get them anywhere else. I went for a golden ale whilst Mills chose the apple cider. Sorry Rob, we didn’t manage to swipe one to bring back for you.
We had a snoop around the place and marvelled in its authenticity and fantasy allure and saw that you can even get married there! Milly, jumping the gun quite a bit, went about asking the staff the price and availability! Parents, if you’re reading this make sure you get saving!
As ever, you exit through the gift shop and, as ever, being the stingey gits we are, we stumped up just enough money to buy a magnet.
Anyway, just like Frodo (Mills) and Sam (me) we had to leave the shire to go on another adventure. Our adventure wouldn’t be taking us to Rivendell unfortunately, but to somewhere nearly as nice, The Coromandel. We didn’t actually have enough time to reach The Coromandel in one though so we had to settle for a stop-off in Thames which was about 60km away.