For Lord of the Rings fans, Hobbiton is one of the must see places in New Zealand (although ironically a good number of their visitors have never seen the films or read any of the books) and it was pretty high on James’s wishlist of places to see. Conveniently located between Waitomo and Rotorua it was a good place for us to stop off for a few hours and take the tour.
Hobbiton is the only film set from Lord of the Rings which is still in tact (the director made an agreement with the government to leave everything as it had been found) and that’s only because it was rebuilt for the Hobbit films and then kept open as an agreement between the director and the farmer whose land it was. It is incredible the lengths that are gone to in order to keep it looking the same each day. A team of gardeners look after the set and plant produce in the gardens. As there is no use for this food other than to make it look as though crops are growing (a wasted opportunity in my opinion) the gardeners are allowed to take home the produce that they have grown.
The first view of Hobbiton was pretty magical as it really is just like being on a film set, and the location has been brought to life. I was particularly interested in and impressed by all the small details and quirks that made each Hobbit hole unique. From a tray of seedlings sitting outside a door, to washing hanging on the line, they all had small details which gave each one its own character. Disappointingly there was only one hole you could go inside, and you could see then that they were effectively dressed shells rather than having a set behind the door. However this made it more amusing that some of the chimneys had smoke coming out – fires are lit just for this effect to add atmosphere.
For the tour itself you are taken by bus from the shop and café through farmland to the actual set. On the way you are told a little bit about the farm, and how it was transformed whilst the filming took place. Once you actually arrive in Hobbiton you are taken round by a guide who gives you interesting pieces of information and allows you to ask questions. There is time to take photos but the whole tour of the set ended up feeling quite rushed as there is another tour group only five minutes behind you. Depending on how many photos the people in your group (and you) want to take, it can feel as if they are on your tail the whole time which adds to the feeling of being rushed through. If the tours were every 15 minutes rather than every five this could probably be avoided but then fewer people would be able to visit each day.
The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn where everyone is treated to a drink which is only available from Hobbiton. We also opted for a steak and ale pie for lunch which was smaller than I had expected but it was very tasty. We had longer in the pub at the end than anticipated which was nice as it meant we didn’t feel rushed to finish our drinks, but in a way I’d have rather have had that extra time going around the set.
I’d have been disappointed if we hadn’t gone to Hobbiton but I probably wouldn’t go again (unlike the Harry Potter Studio Tour where more is constantly being added). If you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan then you could easily leave it out of your itinerary and not miss out on much. However as I found the way the set had been dressed quite interesting, I’m now keen to go to Weta Cave in Wellington to see and learn about more of the props.