Driving through Matamata’s grassy hills and counting sheep, you would never believe a multi-million dollar motion pictute was filmed here, but that it was in 1999 and again in 2011. Hiding out in this farm town is Hobbiton, better known as “The Shire” from Lord of the Rings.
Yes, it actually exists and not in a movie studio.
During an aerial search of places to shoot the film around New Zealand, Peter Jackson spotted Alexander Farm and approached them about using the farm in his film. Imagine getting that knock on the door. The owners agreed and site construction began.
Enlisting the help of the New Zealand army and a massive film crew, an entire tiny village was brought to life complete with Green Dragon Bar, mill and of course Bag End.
Before the film’s release in 2001, the set was kept secret and extreme measures were taken for it not to be exposed. People behind the film went as far as taking away the licenses of any pilots trying to sneak a shot from the sky. However, after the film’s release, they couldn’t stop fans from making pilgrimages to Hobbiton.
While the set was meant to be completely destroyed, the farm owners approached the studio about keeping it intact for tours. They agreed and it came in handy as the set was used again last year for Lord of the Ring’s prequel, The Hobbit. Parts of the set were destroyed after the first Lord of the Rings, but tit’s been restored for The Hobbit.
Today Hobbiton runs seven tours daily to visitors from around the world. Starting across the street, people are taken by bus to the film set, which is hidden very well. One could be on the other side of a hill to Hobbiton and have no idea it was there.
Guides point out where makeup and wardrobe tents once were and talk about the farm on the way. Once on set, the tour goes on foot for a 90-minute guided walk around the village, which gives visitors plenty of time to take photos.
On the tour, groups see several Hobbit houses, The Green Dragon and mill, the road Gandalf rides in on, The Party Tree, Sam’s home and Bag End, which is at the top of a hill, complete with an oak tree growing above it. Our guide was very friendly and great at pointing out which places were featured at what point in the film.
What I liked most was learning about all the thought that went into create the film set. Everything from making moss using yoghurt and other products then throwing is on random spots to make the town look older to shipping in an oak tree to go on top of Bag End. It was really amazing to see all the detail to the film set and hear how much work went into perfecting it.
Unfortunately, they did not create actual Hobbit homes here. Most of the homes are just a front, behind their doors, only dirt. Two homes that could be entered, but only as far as their doors would open, were Frodo Baggins’, though not by people on tour, and a random Hobbit home, which tour members could stand in and take photos.
The Hobbiton tour costs $66 and runs seven times daily. The last tour is at 5:20 p.m. People can purchase tickets online or at the farm’s front office. Located next to there is The Shires Rest, which serves breakfast and lunch items, including “Second Breakfast”. People can also feed and pet the farm’s sheep on their visit.