The road goes ever on and on and we too would continue down it heading north through New Zealand but now our trip was coming to a close with the grand finale…Hobbiton! This mythical, magical town of halflings offers tours!
The movie set for Hobbiton in the Alexander Farm has a long-storied history. The farm was first spotted by Peter Jackson when doing a helicopter recce of New Zealand for a place to set up Hobbiton. The hilly terrain of the Alexander’s Farm caught his eye and he approached the Alexander Family asking for permission to use the 1250-acre sheep farm to build the set. A deal was struck and the movie set for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was made. Years later when the crew returned for the Hobbit trilogy, Mr. Alexander said that they would have to make Hobbiton in a permanent fashion so that he could open it up for tours, so that is what they did. Nowadays they offer various types of tours and we would be going for the ‘Evening Banquet Tour’ which includes a full tour, a hobbit-style feast, followed by a lantern-lit tour of Hobbiton under starry night sky.
Okay, enough history. Hobbiton is one of the places that I have always wanted to visit so this was a dream come true and I loved every second. The day started with a drive into Mata-Mata where we would be staying that night. Tour companies also provide buses from Auckland and Rotorua to the ‘Shire’. Anyways, we arrived at Hobbiton after a short drive from Mata Mata and checked in for our tour, they provided us with an information booklet and our tickets, then ushered us into the gift shop. The gift shop had some of the greatest LOTR merch I had ever seen including a life-size replica of Gandalf which was incredibly cool looking. Honestly the grey wizard had never looked more majestic to me. I was really tempted to get a Mini Epic but, in the end, I resisted which I now regret.
After a while two people called us over and introduced themselves as our guides. They moved us into the buses which would take us through the Shire and show us the rolling hills that had first attracted Sir Peter Jackson to the place. Over the drive they showed us a video about the founding of Hobbiton featuring Sir Peter Jackson and Russel Alexander current owner and operator of Hobbiton. It included scenes and music from the movies and generally looked amazing.
Soon we arrived at Hobbiton and were ready to explore. After a quick rundown of the rules and the grabbing of umbrellas we set of into the town of Hobbits. The first thing we came across was the triangle surrounded by some Hobbit holes. This we later found was the spot of the iconic ‘I’m going on an adventure!’ scene from the first Hobbit movie where Bilbo went running off into the woods following the dwarves as they headed off to the Lonely Mountain. The hobbit holes around the area were kind of basic but they each told a story, the amount of attention to detail was ridiculous. The village drunks house even had slightly longer grass and a generally unkempt look. Each and every house represented the person that lived in it to the T.
The guides were really funny and told us about all the hoops set designers jumped through to make sure that the town was true to the books. One of the biggest feats they pulled of was the creation of the tree that grows above Bag End. It was artificially made and each of the leaves was sewn on individually.
The amount of effort the set designers had put into this was mind-boggling and my mind was completely boggled. The guides would let us explore section by section and then ask if we knew which house belonged to who based on the artefacts or general feel. The winding alleys took us around the hobbit holes over small hills into new areas for us to look around. Later they stopped in front of an open door for us to click some picture as if it is ours. There wasn’t much inside the hobbit hole, just some props set up inside the windows to add to the overall effect created. The indoor scenes were shot in studio sets.
Of course, when we were there, we were shown a site where they were constructing hobbit holes with rooms and inside which would let visitors explore the way hobbits lived. The two houses next to Sam Gamgee’s were being redone but all three facades would remain. The guide explained why it was like this in a brilliant manner. If visitors had the choice to enter Sam’s house or any other one, they would definitely choose Sam’s and it would get too crowded hence the other two hobbit holes get interiors. The yellow façade of Sam’s house would remain. The unfortunate part of this is that due to timings we missed the interior hobbit holes but hopefully they will look good. If anyone does visit after December 2023 let me know what they are like please.
I really can’t do this blog in a narrative way because it ruins the tour and it is way more interesting to see the great things they did as opposed to how my experience was.
Back to the town. The paths were at times a bit narrow sometimes but everything you saw along the way was an integral part of the experience. The whole time I was blown away by the attention to detail and I know I just said this but it was stunning. They even had little things in a money pouch that would clink together! It was never even shaken in the movie but it was there none the less. Hats off to everyone who worked on this.
The guides were incredible, the way they spoke about the creation and all the fun stories they had to share about the filming at Hobbiton. One of my favourites was about how they managed that much excitement at the party scene. It was all done by serving 1% abv beer, the placebo effect and sugar. The guide especially told the tale in a funny way.
The final hobbit hole that we visited was…Bag End! Bag End was a large hobbit hole that looked exactly like it was in the movies. The bench outside even had a pillow of the same colour and a pipe and book rested on it exactly how Bilbo had left them in his mad dash. We clicked pictures standing next to the gate of Bag End but truly looking around it was undoubtably Bag End and from Bilbo’s spot overlooking Hobbiton we saw all the beauty of the wonderous town. This was the culmination of the first part of our tour and though my feet were a little tired every step was worth it.
The tour ended at the Green Dragon Inn where one can enjoy some Southfarthing Beverages only available in Hobbiton, as a minor I could only try the ginger ale but it was quite good with a nice depth of flavour but it was low on the ginger. After settling down and enjoying our beverages we moved over to the banquet tables.
The tables were overflowing with delicious food. There were too many things on the table to eat. A whole roast chicken, Roasted salmon fillet, Beef casserole, Slow cooked lamb shanks on bubble and squeak with gravy, sausages with tomato relish, selection of roast vegetables, Garlic and thyme roasted potatoes, Kumara mash, Garlic braised mushrooms, Roast Pumpkin and a fresh salad. That list was taken from their website and I tried every single thing. No notes, by the end I might have been very stuffed with the amount of food I ate but they were easily the most delicious I’d ever eaten. All I have to say is WOW! I absolutely loved it!
When the meal was completed, they took us back out to the pub section where we could sit by the fire, enjoy some coffee, tea and try out authentic hobbit costumes. In the meantime the tables were being reset for dessert while we checked out the hobbit costumes and signed a ledger. There was a similar ledger in a glass case with the signature of the actors that went to Hobbiton. Soon enough the tables had been set. This time we had some pavlova, strawberry coulis, Bakewell tart, Sticky date pudding, seasonal fruit, Bake apple crumble, butterscotch sauce, honey and cinnamon yoghurt, vanilla custard. I did have a bit too much of the Bakewell tart but it was too good to resist! In the end that bit came back up but let me skip ahead.
Finally stuffed to the brim my family sat around the fireplace and relaxed. After a while the guide called us up and talked about the construction. He apologized for the inconvenience and handed out complimentary steins (one per person) to take back home and lanterns 1 per 2 people to use as we walked back in the dark. The steins are really cool looking with a nice blue and white gradient and the logo of the Green Dragon inn on the side. Armed with our lanterns everybody headed back down the path. The place looked even more spectacular at night with lights shining from each hobbit hole.
We stopped in front of the party tree for the guide to tell us about the party scene where I got the story about the party from before. Above us in the night sky was the most beautiful we could make out not just the constellations but also the milky way. It was easily the most glorious thing to behold.
We continued on the walk trying not to freeze into our clothes but after we made it back to the buses, I experienced the return of the excess Bakewell tart. The guide were most helpful about the accident and had me sit up front with him. We returned to the Shire rest stop where we had parked our car.
Hobbiton is a fantastic place for everyone especially LOTR fans to visit. I loved it and I’m sure you will too. Thanks, and again if you do go after December 2023 let me know what the hobbit hole interiors look like.