There and Back Again: A Tourist’s Trip to Hobbiton

We went on an adventure! We departed our Hamilton AirBnB at around 7:30 in the morning, after a night of not nearly enough sleep. We stopped in Hamilton briefly for some gas and then drove straight through to The Shire’s Rest, a cafe at the entrance to the Hobbiton movie set. It took us about an hour to get there, but our tour didn’t start until 9:00. This gave us just enough time for some much needed coffee and scones at the cafe. We had left in such a rush that morning that we hadn’t had time for first breakfast, let alone second.

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The farm and a few of it’s inhabitants could be seen right across the street from the cafe.

We checked into our tour and boarded a bus that took us to the actual movie set. As we drove towards the set we passed rolling green hills filled with sheep. I forget the exact  number, but the bus driver mentioned there were over 10,000 sheep on the farm. It was a beautiful day and we had a great tour of the set. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the farm and the filming. It really was a fantastic experience. The further in you wandered, the more immersed in it all you became. The atmosphere was very light and festive. It felt surreal, almost magical… I read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books so long ago that I can’t really remember what I imagined the places would look like before I saw the movies, but I’d say they’ve done a great job of preserving a piece of Hobbiton for tourists and fans to enjoy at the farm.

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Right in the front here we have the real vegetable garden. The giant fantasyesque looking tree in the back left is real. The much smaller tree on the hill on the right is fake.

There were forty something unique hobbit holes on the set. Each one had a set of props outside that pertained to the profession of the hobbit that lived there (for example, bread outside of the bakers). The holes are built at different sizes so that they could film Gandalf next to the small holes and the hobbits next to the big holes.  You can stand in the doorways of some, but none of them have interiors. Those scenes were all shot in a studio in Wellington. There is a real garden in the middle of the set that is tended by the employees.

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This is about as far inside as you could get.

There is only one fake tree on the set, and in my opinion it was one of the least fake looking trees there. Apparently it was the sight of the big “birthday tree” under which Bilbo gives his 111th birthday speech, next to the pond, that Peter Jackson spotted from the air and decided that this would be an ideal location for the set. The tree is really big and peculiar looking enough that at first I though it had to be the fake tree. But it turns out the real fake tree is a much smaller one on top of Bag End (that’s where Bilbo and Frodo live).

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Fun fact: There is a scene where Gandalf and Bilbo sit smoking pipes on the steps of Bag End watching the sunset. However the entrance to Bag End faces east so they had to shoot the scene early in the morning and then reverse the footage of the sun.

At the end of the tour you are treated to a free drink at the Green Dragon Inn, which was a nice little giveaway. You could also buy food and drinks there, but being the thrifty types Alana and I contented ourselves with the freebies. They had a big tent and I think they rent the space out for special events and the like for big bucks. After our tour was over we hung out for a little, just soaking in the middle earth atmosphere before we headed off to Rotorua, our next destination.

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Here is Alana outside Sam’s hole. This was the only hole built fully to scale because of a longer scene that was shot right out front here.

If you thought this was cool, stay tuned for our upcoming journey to Mount Doom!

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