I’m not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan, but I do have fond memories of waiting for each new release and seeing them with my friends in high school. Never really read the books, so I only have the movies for context. With that said, who can really go to the North Island of New Zealand and not visit the Hobbit’s hometown of Hobbiton?
Hobbiton: A Living Movie Set
We took a bus (as part of a small package we bought) to Hobbiton, where our group was set up with a guide to take us through the set. You must have a guide to visit, so don’t expect to be frolicking about by yourself and at your leisure! You can book through a third party like we did, or you can book directly through Hobbiton. There are tons of packages you can select from, depending on what you want, how much time you have, and where you are starting from on your voyage. Our tour involved Hobitton, a lunch buffet at Hobbiton, and then a Maori cultural experience in Rotorua at Te Puia, but we’ll save that story for another day!
First, you get to walk through the Shire and see the Hobbit holes. Fun facts are all over the place, and your tour guide will know just an insane number of details about all of the films: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy, as well as the books! Our guide did the arithmetic and let us know that between the two trilogies, Hobbiton is on screen for something crazy: less than 20 minutes! And that’s barely 1% of the total run time of the films! The first time they built it, it was a low quality, and they burned it to the ground after they were done (they filmed it for use in the movies! So when Frodo sees the Shire in flames in his vision, that’s actually them burning that mother down! The orcs were members of the fire department. Fun!). The second time they made it for the Hobbit trilogy, they made the structures permanent so they could be used as a tourist attraction in the future.
There’s also the Green Dragon Inn, where your guide will give you one of three beers of your choice (one of which can only be gotten in Hobbiton!) or a Ginger Beer. You have 15 minutes to walk about and check out the Inn before you’re ushered away and your tour is done. OR! You pay extra and get the buffet lunch, which we did, where you can get vegetable curry, roast beef, grilled chicken, all manners of salad, roast veggies, and a dessert bar with coffee and tea. You sit banquet style and they call you up by table. The food was pretty good but the coffee was disappointing: Only freeze-dried instant coffee with hot water, unfortunately.
At the front of Hobbiton, where you return once your tour is done, is the gift shop and a much smaller cafe. You can get a hot cup of coffee or shop for figurings, posters, and more general tourist goods, like sunglasses and ponchos (which came in handy, since this was during the week Auckland got record-breaking rainfall). The Mrs. bought some special cider and beer from the shop, which we are looking forward to drinking once we are back home.
Our Time in Hobbiton: Highlights
For me, my favorite part of the tour was hanging out in the Green Dragon Inn. It has a lot of details and charm that really relaxes you and immerses you in a fantastical mood. Since I’m not drinking presently, I got the Ginger Beer, which was fairly mild compared to some of the really spicy ones I’ve had in the past! I sat in front of the fireplace in a big comfy chair with my wife and watched the flames dance on the logs. No one was sitting there because it was summertime in NZ, but it had been cloudy and rainy enough to cool things down to a degree where it wasn’t uncomfortable to be in front of the fire. Sure, it was only 15 minutes, but for those 15 minutes, I felt truly at peace, and I’m sure it will be a comforting memory for years to come.
What about you all? Would you travel to visit Hobbiton? Would you go to New Zealand and skip this place entirely? Let us know in the comments!