THE SUM UP
What it is: Hobbiton Set Tour – Matamata, NZ
What you get: An adorable tour around the constructed movie set for the Hobbit movie series (essentially the same one as for LOTR, although that original set was burned). Plus, the price of the tour includes a pint at the Green Dragon to finish things off.
What you pay: 75.00 NZD
TL;DR: Go here if you love Hobbits or cats named Pickles. Probably not worth it if you’re not particularly interested in LOTR/film industry.
To say I was excited to see Hobbiton is an understatement. To say I was ecstatic to see Hobbiton gives you a bit better of an idea. Lord of the Rings marathons were a key component of my childhood, and drinking while marathoning Lord of the Rings a key component of my university experience. (Side note: in many ways this series is responsible for Pat and I ending up together, and now we found ourselves in Matamata together.)
Lord of the Rings was also my first real visual introduction to New Zealand. The landscape is practically a main character in the series, with plenty of footage of towering mountains, brilliantly blue water, and expansive grasslands. Getting to see one of the sets for this film was almost too much to handle.
Ok so first off let me tell you that Hobbiton is in this adorably quaint place called Matamata in the middle of the North Island. I’m assuming that the population is mainly curmudgeonly farmers who secretly have big hearts, but I digress. Getting there is a bit tricky if you don’t have a car, but there are some buses that’ll take you there from close by points like Rotorua, so do not despair! Because of being slightly off the beaten track I would recommend booking your tour ahead of time to ensure you can take a tour when you arrive.
While waiting about for our tour to begin, we found a delightful mix of individuals. There were plenty of extremely hard core fans (costumed up and everything) but there was also quite a few tourists who had never even seen LOTR, they were just there to see what all the fuss was about. Like never seen a single film! Or read any of the books!! I was not expecting this, but most of them seemed to enjoy themselves well enough. One man leaned over and told me he had never seen the films he was only here “to make my brother jealous” before he chuckled and walked off. Whatever makes you happy I suppose! If you’re travelling on a budget, however, I would save the money for another adventure if you’re not particularly LOTR inclined, although I would recommend for those interested in the movie bizz. There were quite a few fun tidbits about how they constructed the set, and angles they used to help create the characters. (For example, in order to get that old-lived in look for the set, they covered a bunch of the surfaces with yoghurt to help get things, err, growing on it. The more you know!!)
I should note that Hobbiton was also refreshingly “non touristy”. Well, for a tourist spot, anyway. There were many of the typical ‘tourist trap’ hallmarks: Lots of overpriced merchandise and big tour buses filled with groups, but the overall experience was really relaxed and they stagger the tours really well so you never feel like you’re in too big of a crowd. You explore the set with a relatively small group and your tour guide gives you plenty of free time to wander (read: plenty of time to get those perfect Hobbit shots). The tour is also just the right amount of fun commentary, without being overwhelming or unnecessary.
Has anyone else been to Hobbiton? More importantly, did anyone else meet Pickles the cat that lives on the farm?? Feel free to tell me all about it in the comments!