The whimsy and wonder of the Shire comes to life during our visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set during our New Zealand vacation.
Journey to Hobbiton Movie Set
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo said quoting Bilbo “‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.’” This quote rings true when thinking back on our vacation to New Zealand. Director Sir Peter Jackson swept us off our feet with his amazing Lord of the Rings movies. Seeing the grand vistas and of course the magic of the Shire come to life in technicolor glory ensured that we would put a visit to the Hobbiton movie set on our vacation itinerary.
From our base in Rotorua, we headed out on the hour drive to Hobbiton. Our GPS faithfully guided our way as the skies threatened rain. Since the entire tour would be walking in the Shire, we hoped for the best. As we approached the car park, my excitement grew. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien are some of my most beloved books. How could I be anything but excited for a stroll in the Shire? OMG!
Over the hills to Shire’s Rest
We had reserved tour tickets in advance just to be safe. It was a good idea as there were quite a few people when we arrived. Parking and check-in were a breeze at the Shire’s Rest. You can’t actually drive to the movie set. The Hobbiton Movie set provides large tour buses to get you up and over the hills to the actual set.
We boarded the bus with our tour guide Louis. Louis was mild mannered with a fantastic dry sense of humor. Brenda, Dianne, and Greg laughed when they saw my face beaming as the bus pulls out. Our journey begins with a short video which gives the backstory behind Sir Peter Jackson’s discovery of the Anderson family farm in the Waikato region of North New Zealand.
The Anderson family farm is a huge active working sheep and cattle farm, over 1200 acres. The undulating landscape is extremely picturesque. New Zealand experienced a rather dry summer, yet the surrounding hills still bristled with lush vigor. It was not hard to imagine Frodo running the path to catch up with Gandalf as he arrives for Bilbo’s birthday party.
Off the bus, Louis led us along a meandering pathway through the Shire. Nestled into the hills are the hobbit holes. Joy! Each dwelling was brimming with details. They looked as though at any minute, the owner would pop out to offer a bit of cheese and bread with a mug of ale. While you couldn’t actually enter each home, the outside features are a feast.
While marveling at the intricate facets of each hobbit home, we saw a cat curled up on top of a window. I thought “wow, that is very realistic looking”. Turns out, it is a real cat. Her name is Pickles and she is the only permanent resident of Hobbiton.
Have no fear, Pickles isn’t alone. There is a multitude of folks tasked with keeping Hobbiton running smoothly. All of the gardens produce veggies and fruits. Many flowers and decorative plants are locally sourced. These landscapes require a vast array of people to keep them thriving. Our guide Louis did an outstanding job of sharing all these facts while making our tour as much fun as it was informative.
Beers at the Green Dragon Inn
After a visit to Bilbo’s house, we trundled over the bridge to the Green Dragon Inn. Here we had a few minutes to relax and enjoy an ale. Yes, the tour includes a lovely adult beverage of your choice. If you prefer, they also have nonalcoholic drinks to quench your thirst. A word of warning if you are from the states, the beers are lower octane than what you may be used to. That said, the beers are tasty. I went with the traditional English ale and imagined Mr. Tolkien in his local pub downing a couple of pints and working on his legendary tale of hobbits, elves, orcs, and men entwined in the epic struggle of good and evil in Middle Earth.
If you want to get into character, there are walking sticks and clothes at the Green Dragon Inn. I put on a vest and grabbed a walking stick. I’m thinking another tourist confused me with Gandalf trying to disguise himself as a hobbit. I was happy to pose for a selfie.
Many Paths to Tread
Before we knew it, it was time for us to leave the Hobbiton Movie Set. The buses gathered not far from the Green Dragon to wheel us back to the car park. We browsed the gift shop at the Shire’s Rest before making our way back to Rotorua. Our drive back included more wanderings as our trip to New Zealand is about exploring. As the hobbits sang in The Fellowship of the Ring, “Home is behind, the world is ahead, And there are many paths to tread.”
Pictures and itinerary
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