New Zealand – Hobbiton / Matamata
The story is that Peter Jackson was flying a helicopter over NZ when he spotted the Alexander sheep farm. He insisted that it needed to be the filming location for the Shire. The farmers allowed him to insert some temporary buildings for the first set of films and then the farm was restored to it’s original state. But the movies became a super hit and the fans started flowing through to the farm so that they could visit the filming location.
When Jackson came back asking the farmers for permission to reconstruct the Shire for the Hobbit movies, the farmer agreed but insisted that the building become permanent.
Thus Hobbiton the tour stop was born!
GETTING TO THE SHIRE
The town nearest the Shire is Matamata, a quaint little place that caters to visitors who hope to see some Hobbit homes. About a two hour drive from Auckland, Matamata could be a stop along a day drive or an overnight stay. Much longer than that and you might be a little bored.
LODGING NEAR HOBBITON
There aren’t a ton of lodging options, but we found a cute little motel. We stayed at the Tower Road Motel in Matamata for just one night. We got in around noon, did our hobbit tour, and headed out the next morning for an early drive towards Taupo.
The rooms aren’t anything fancy, but are spacious and have a small “kitchenette” area. We were able to buy groceries in town and have dinner and breakfast in the room. No oven, but there is a large sink, cutting boards, coffee maker, mini fridge, and microwave. There is also a grill out front!
You won’t be sharing a wall with anyone, and the place is a couple blocks away from the main downtown strip so it feels wonderfully remote and peaceful. The wifi isn’t stellar but strong enough for us to stream Lord of the Rings on iTunes.
It's impeccably clean and the hosts are wonderfully responsive and helpful. We'd definitely stay again!
FOOD FOR THE HOBBITSES
We stopped for lunch downtown on our way in. I was pleasantly surprised by the EAT Cafe - so many delicious vegan options. We enjoyed our raw vegan meal and took a couple gluten free vegan cookies to go!
The grocery in town, The Countdown, had all the essentials to make an easy meal at our hotel.
The café at Hobbiton, the Shire's Rest, was crowded and a little on the pricey side, but got a nice almond milk latte before our tour.
ACT LIKE A HOBBIT
A couple tips:
(1) Buy your Hobbiton tour tickets online in advance: They are timed tickets so you don't want to have to wait around too long. There is a cafe and gift shop, but not much else to do at the farm before your tour starts.
(2) Wear walking shoes: Nothing hikey-climby, but I wouldn't do heels either. A bus takes you to the entrance of the Shire and from there you walk around the dirt roads to see all the adorable Hobbit homes.
(3) Save time (and space) for a drink: The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn and your first drink is included!
WALK LIKE YOU HAVE HAIRY HOBBIT FEET
To get in the spirit, check out the Golem statue in the center of town as well as the visitor center (adorable thatched roof building which looks like it came right out of Middle Earth).
From downtown, the Shire is about a 20 drive through farmland of beautiful green hills spotted with sheep. There is a large parking lot near the visitor’s center. This is where you can pick up tickets, buy souvenirs, have a bite to eat at the café, and where you wait in line for your bus. The tickets are timed, so there is no need to start lining up for your bus before it arrives.
The bus tours drop you at the entrance to the Shire, and from there you start on your walking tour. You get two hours to stroll amongst the dozens of hobbit homes. It's amazing, you really feel Frodo Baggins will be right around every corner.
So, slight disclaimer, the hobbit homes are just décor… not real homes. You can go slightly inside of one and get a cute photo though! But the gardens are real and you might see people tending to the flower beds and veggie patches.
The tour ends at the Red Dragon Inn, which is also real! They make and serve exclusive beverages for the bar- choose between an amber ale, a darker English ale, hard cider, and ginger beer. Hurry in and snag a seat in the big comfy chairs by the fireplace. One drink is included with the tour.
The bathrooms here are cute as well. Near the wall by the entrance to the bathrooms, you’ll notice some hobbit clothes hanging on a hooks on the wall. You can try these on for some silly cute pictures.
For anyone that enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, I say Hobbiton is a must see. I really enjoyed it!