Sunday, June 4, 2023

Visiting Magical Hobbiton in The Shire, New Zealand

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.

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.

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.

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.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.
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.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.
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.


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