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You can visit plenty of locations where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand, but none of them transports you to Middle Earth like Hobbiton does.
On the Hobbiton Movie Set you’ll find the lush rolling hills of The Shire where you can wander past Hobbit Holes and have a drink in the Green Dragon Inn.
I’m not a massive fan of the films and was visiting for Simon’s sake (as he is), but I was won over by the enchanting hobbit village and the incredible attention to detail.
You can only visit Hobbiton on a guided walking tour, but it’s fun and interesting, and you learn lots about the making of the films.
- Background to the Hobbiton Movie Set
- The Shire’s Rest
- The Hobbiton Village Tour
- Should You Visit Hobbiton?
- Hobbiton Ticket Prices
- Where is The Shire in New Zealand?
- Can You Stay at The Shire in New Zealand?
- More New Zealand Posts
Background to the Hobbiton Movie Set
In 1998 Peter Jackson’s team of location scouts were searching New Zealand for the perfect location for Hobbiton, the village where the hobbits live, for the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies.
While flying over the Alexander’s 1,250-acre sheep farm in Waikato, they noticed details of The Shire described in the JRR Tolkien novels: unspoilt green pastures, a rising hill (where Bag End would later sit), and a magnificent pine tree by a lake.
A temporary set was built on the farm and the filming of Lord of the Rings began in 1999 and took three months. Afterwards the set was demolished, but when the movies were released to enormous success, fans were keen to visit the site.
So when Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit trilogy in 2009, this time they decided to build a permanent set of 44 Hobbit Holes and the Green Dragon Inn.
In 2012 the Hobbiton Movie Set opened to the public for tours and became one of the most popular New Zealand tourist spots.
The Shire’s Rest
Hobbiton tours begin at The Shire’s Rest where there’s a ticket centre, gift shop, garden bar, and cafe with beautiful views over the countryside.
We had lunch at the cafe before our tour—tomato soup and toasted sandwiches—and while it was nothing special, it was convenient and perfectly edible.
The Hobbiton Village Tour
The two-hour tour begins with a short bus ride from The Shire’s Rest to the farm. On the way they show videos with behind the scenes footage.
Our group was shown around by Maggie who was bubbly and knowledgeable. The group size was a bit large, and there were lots of other groups on site, but they managed them well and it didn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded.
As we walked into Hobbiton, I was surprised by how large it is. 44 Hobbit Holes are spread over the hillside and there’s lots of green space.
It really does feel like a village, albeit a rather unusual and picturesque one.
I was also struck by how green it is, reminiscent of our English homeland, which it’s thought The Shire was inspired by.
At the end of summer, Hobbiton wasn’t as green as usual, though, due to water restrictions. It takes a lot of work to keep the village so lush—there are a number of full-time workers whose sole job is to water the site.
The Hobbit Holes—the homes of the hobbits that are built into the hillside—are incredibly cute.
Some of the doors are large so that during filming humans looked hobbit-sized, while others are small to make Gandalf the Wizard look tall.
You can’t go inside the houses—the interior scenes were filmed at Weta Workshop in Wellington—but you can peer inside some of the windows (look out for the cheese-maker).
We didn’t feel like we were missing out, though, as there are so many details to explore. Outside each home are props that hint at who lives inside—a chessboard, beehives, sacks of flour, wheels of cheese, a giant pumpkin, pestle and mortars, or an easel.
There’s even a real vegetable patch and orchard, and the fences are aged with authentic-looking fake mould. Colourful flowers bloom all over the village.
It’s difficult to distinguish between what’s real and what’s a prop.
As we wandered up the dirt path towards Bag End, Maggie shared behind the scenes details of the production.
Peter Jackson was so obsessed with getting the set to accurately reflect the books that a crew member spent two weeks turning apple trees into plum trees—and then the footage was cut from the film.
In Hobbiton the wealthier residents live higher up, and at the top of the hill we reached Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
A large tree grows above it—although it looks authentic, this tree isn’t real and it took a huge amount of work to recreate it manually.
Back at the bottom of the hill we visited the party field, home to an immense (real) pine tree and a number of wooden games you can play.
Reaching near the end of the tour, it was time for us to head over to the Green Dragon Inn for a drink. We were left to meander there alone through the woods, past the water mill, and over the stone bridge.
The thatched roof Green Dragon Inn feels like a perfectly-themed Disney restaurant (and that’s a compliment!).
Except unlike at Disney, a drink (beer, cider or ginger beer) is included in the tour price and the fireplaces are real (even in summer). We loved relaxing in armchairs by the fire.
After a final stroll along the lake, it was time to hop back onto the bus and return to The Shire’s Rest.
We didn’t want to leave this magical world.
Should You Visit Hobbiton?
Hobbiton exceeded both our expectations—Simon’s were high while mine were low.
You really do feel like you are visiting The Shire and we loved exploring all the cute homes in Hobbiton. The level of detail is impressive and it’s a magical place to wander in beautiful countryside.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the films, Hobbiton is worth visiting as it’s so picturesque. I do recommend at least watching the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring to see Hobbiton on the screen before your visit.
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, the Hobbiton Movie Set is a must-visit in New Zealand.
Hobbiton Ticket Prices
The Hobbiton Movie Set can only be visited on a guided walking tour. It’s very popular so it’s best to book as far in advance as possible, especially in summer. Tours depart daily at a number of times.
Tickets cost NZ $89 per person for the two-hour tour. You can book the Hobbiton tour in advance here.
Next time, we’re keen to do the Evening Banquet Tour which costs NZ $199, as you can see the village lit up at night after a feast. They currently only run on some weekends—check the Hobbiton website for the latest schedule.
In 2021 they added a new experience called the Second Breakfast Tour which costs NZ $149 and includes a second breakfast spread in their new venue The Millhouse. The tour departs on selected weekend days at 8.45am.
Make sure you wear sensible shoes as the tour does involve a gentle uphill walk on unpaved paths.
Where is The Shire in New Zealand?
Hobbiton and The Shire are located in Matamata on the North Island. To visit you’ll need your own vehicle or you can take a tour from Rotorua or Auckland.
The drive from Auckland to Hobbiton takes 2.5 hours. You can also join a full-day bus tour to Hobbiton from Auckland.
The Shire is 1 hour from Rotorua and 1.5 hours from Taupo, two other popular destinations on the North Island.
Hobbiton is easy to fit in on most North Island road trips—see our detailed North Island itinerary for suggestions.
We only had two days to travel between Wellington and Auckland, and we visited Hobbiton on our second day after staying overnight near Turangi (at the lovely B&B Omori Lakehouse) on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. The tour was a good way to break up the journey.
Can You Stay at The Shire in New Zealand?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to stay onsite at the Hobbiton Movie Set, but you’ll feel like you’re in The Shire in the surrounding countryside of the Waikato region.
You can even stay in a hobbit hole inspired cave at quirky Woodlyn Park Motel. The motel is a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Hobbiton, but it’s close to the Waitomo Caves, which are well worth a visit.
If you’d prefer to stay closer to Hobbiton (especially if you do the evening banquet tour), the nearest options just down the road are Hills Vista Lodge and Ransom B&B. Both have beautiful Shire countryside settings.
There is also plenty of accommodation in Matamata, a 15-minute drive from The Shire. Denchys B&B is an affordable and highly rated guesthouse on the edge of town or De Preaux Lodge is a more luxurious option with lovely countryside views.
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