The amazing weather recently prompted us to buy tickets to the place highest on our list to visit, Hobbiton, a filming location from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Our journey began by taking a bus from Hamilton to Matamata, about an hour away. Driving in to Matamata we were greeted by this lovely sign (before leaving the U.S. I had found a photo of this same exact sign from when I visited in 2003).
Across the street from this sign is the iSite for all things Hobbit related, particularly buying tour tickets. We had already purchased ours online and just needed to pick them up from the desk. While inside we were able to check out some of the fun souvenirs and admire the Hobbit-esque architecture.
We picked up our tickets and 15 minutes later we were on another bus to the tour base. The Hobbit-green bus was only a week old but the front door didn’t completely close. We all had a nice laugh about the breeze coming in as our driver, a Rhys Darby look-a-like, joked around and gave us some information about our destination.
The base, located on Buckland road has a cafe, picnic area and a gift shop. Once we arrived we waited about 5 minutes for our next ride, a 60s style tour bus to the actual farm where the set is located.
Alexander sheep farm is still a working farm so every hundred meters a guide would have to jump out of the bus to open a gate and then close it after we went through, as to not let the sheep out. During this drive I was able to take some beautiful photos of the lush green countryside.
Finally we arrived and were in The Shire! To enter you walk straight through one of the most iconic locations:
I so wanted to get a picture here but all 30 of us on the tour were walking through and had to keep up with the guide. But it did look EXACTLY like this! See the post behind him? Here is a photo from right in front of it.
And thus we began our journey….
Each Hobbit hole was completely unique with different plants, decorations, and outdoor furnishings. Everything outside of the home should give you a clue as to what that Hobbit’s profession is, for example here is a craftsman and a baker.
The amount of detail lovingly added to each home makes it come to life. It seems as if any second a character could come out an greet you. I was truly amazed with how much work had gone in to creating this town, and it only got better! Here is one of my favorite shots overlooking most of the filming location- you can see the pond, a garden, many Hobbit holes, and an iconic tree.
We stopped here and the tour guide told us some interesting information about this pond. Since there were wild animals roaming the place, they felt the pond needed some life as well and decided to put in some frogs. The frogs however, croaked so loudly that it would cover up the actor’s voices when filming and many scenes had to be re-shot. Another interesting thing they told us, which I never noticed outright about the movies is that they didn’t use the familiar sheep of New Zealand but instead brought in “older” looking shaggy haired sheep from England. After our chat we headed up the hill on a narrow footpath to check out the most famous hole of all, Bag End, home of Bilbo Baggins.
One of the most interesting bits of information I learned is that the tree above Bag End is completely fake, built entirely by Weta Workshop. In this photo you can see one of the branches has lost its paint and is now just bare yellow material. Each of the 20,000 or so leaves was hand glued on to the branches for a total 11 seconds of film time! (And at first the green didn’t match so someone had to go back and spray paint them all with a different shade) Woowee that is a LOT of work. I was definitely convinced though. It totally looked real, even close up.
As we continued our journey we stopped for a photo op at a hobbit hole that was just our size. Pretty sure this would be our Christmas card photo if we were sending one out this year.
We also each found a nice home we enjoyed which showed some movie film scale.
Then we were off back down the hill towards the Party tree, Maypole, and party grounds. We also found a kitty who was included in the films. She was a sweet girl.
Finally we were all thirsty and headed straight for The Green Dragon Inn for some food and drinks. We had to take a nice little walk though the absolutely greenest grass I’d ever seen in all my life to get there.
We had arrived!
It was time for a drink and a refreshment! With your admittance to the tour you are given one free drink of your choosing at the Green Dragon. Your choices are Light Ale, Dark Ale, Cider, and non-alcoholic Ginger beer. I chose Light Ale and Chris chose Cider and both were quite tasty.
We were hungry as well and decided to check out the menu. We decided on a Beef and Ale Pie and a Chocolate Raspberry Scone, very delicious!
We had a seat at a tall barrel and enjoyed our time in the shade. We also got to take in the surroundings like the nice fireplace, even though it was quite warm and the guest book, which was signed by all the actors who have visited!
I was up taking photos of the bar and one of the guides who was passing out drinks from behind it asked if we would like to have our picture taken. How could we pass this up?
Then we left and enjoyed the view from the other side of the lake.
Alas, our tour was finished and we walked back around through Hobbiton once more and boarded the bus back to the base.
We checked out the gift shop and the cafe, where they had photos from when Peter Jackson and his crew were actually filming there.
Overall, this experience is one that I will never forget. It was truly like stepping in to the movies and being transported to a different time.