When I first learned my husband was taking us to New Zealand, Hobbiton was the first place I searched online. I read every Hobbiton review I could get my hands on and watched all the YouTube videos of others who were there.
We both love the LoTR and The Hobbit series and it was what first drew us to the beauty of New Zealand.
Hobbiton always seemed like a bucket list item I would never cross off and here I was, looking at the pictures knowing I would see it with my own eyes in just a few short months!
(If you love Tolkien’s world as much as I do, you can understand my excitement.)
After our trip, I hesitated on writing my own review of Hobbiton due to the all the information already out there for others to read up on. But even with all the research I did ahead of time, I did feel there were a few things that surprised me about visiting and wanted to list those for anyone else planning to visit.
So, here is my list of the amazing and the not-so-amazing:
1. It was even more beautiful than I imagined. (Cliche, I know)
One of the things about Hobbiton that takes your breath away is that you truly feel you are separated from the rest of the world. Which was a deciding factor in the location for the movies.
Standing in the middle of the 12-acre property, you are hard-pressed to find traces of technology. The only poles on the hills are the ones directing you towards the different parts of the Shire or lighting your way at dusk, and they are authentic to their time. 🙂
If you get the chance to lag behind your group and the next one is far enough behind, you will earn the treat of hearing the birds chirping, the wind through the trees and the rustling of the knee-high grass in the distance.
I missed a lot of commentary from the tour guide when I did this but I couldn’t help it, there was just something about the serenity of the place that kept holding me back from the murmur of the group.
What I wouldn’t give to explore that place alone!
2. You cannot venture through on your own.
This was perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of the tour. But I also understand their desire to keep the place at its best which means supervising the die-hards. 🙂
I did love hearing all the neat little details of the set and how Peter Jackson created Hobbiton–something you can only learn from your tour guide–but if you’re like me, you will want to capture everything through the lens of your camera and the only way to get any shots without people around is to lag behind. Which, as you know, I did a lot. But I wasn’t the only one and we got some pretty great shots!
Thankfully we came with patient people who waited for us to catch up and filled us in on what we missed.
3. This place is real.
I don’t want to spoil too many of the juicy details you’ll learn on your tour, but if you are on the fence about whether or not it’s worth your time, let me just tell you, the set is so real, they even bring in fresh vegetables for the tables, the gardens are actual gardens and the structures are made from building materials meant to last for decades to come.
Most everything you see is the real deal which made you feel as if you could turn around and see a Hobbit poking his head over a hill or out a window, curiously gazing at the newcomers.
There are only a few things that are synthetic, which I won’t divulge on here as they are things you have to see to believe. The only disappointing facades were the actual Hobbit homes. You cannot go inside one and see a long hallway branching off into circular corridors leading to cozy Hobbit rooms. 🙁
(There was talk of Hobbit Hotels while we were there, so maybe one day…)
4. You might meet people from the movie.
No, I’m not meaning Elijah Wood or Ian McKellen, but many of the people who acted as extras or Hobbits stayed on to work the Shire after filming was over. Our bus driver worked in several capacities on set and our tour guide was one of the Hobbit children from the movie.
I thought that was pretty cool!
Who knows, maybe even this little guy made an appearance at some point! 🙂
5. They’re serious about the details.
I mentioned the fact that most everything is real, but that is only part of the magic that makes up Hobbiton.
Details matter. The experiences of Hobbiton matter.
For instance, every single Hobbit home (on the outside, at least) is crafted in such a way that you can tell what that Hobbit did for a living.
Everything, from the trinkets left outside to the mailbox on the fence post, offers little hints as to the nature of the Hobbit who “lives” there.
But that’s not the half of it. You are meant to feel transported while in Hobbiton. Things are left as if the Hobbits just up and took off for the day, leaving us to explore their little world unhindered and in awe of this hidden gem.
This magic doesn’t happen on its own though, they have an army of skilled people who work tirelessly to bring the place to life every day for those of us who make the journey to visit. We saw people painting designs on doors, gardeners weeding the pumpkins and designers making sure the little touches stood out to the keen eye.
6. Consider reserving a feast.
We did not take the tour that included a meal because the prices are quite high and we had a lot of things we wanted to see and do while in Rotorua, (you can check those out here) but if you have the money, I think the feast would make for a memorable time.
At least, I think the food would have been delicious! I can only imagine the savory details they would impart on a Hobbit-sized feast.
They also offer a night tour which sounds just as magical, getting to view the cozy lights through the windows and smell the wood burning from the chimneys poking out of their green hills. And yes, they really do have this ambiance provided for those taking that tour! Details, I’m telling you!
(Little known fact: You can get married in Hobbiton!)
7. Your time goes fast.
Depending on the tour, (ours was two hours, leaving from the gift shop and returning) you may feel rushed. Two hours seems like ample time, but when you are trying to take everything in and also trying to capture as much as you can through your lens, it just wasn’t enough. I could easily have spent another hour or two on the green slopes.
The Hobbiton tour begins at the path with the familiar stone walls and ends at the Green Dragon where you receive a complimentary beverage. There is also a place inside the Green Dragon to order a sandwich but there wasn’t enough time. 🙁
I think the most frustrating part of the tour was the 15 minutes we were given at the gift shop before our bus left to head back into town. If you had to use the restroom, it was even less time.
We had a list of souvenirs to purchase for friends and family so Steve and I split up and we still barely had enough time to buy what we wanted since everyone else was trying to do the same. The gift shop wasn’t very big but it was pretty neat and I really wanted to take my time there.
If we get the chance to return to Matamata, we will definitely drive to the movie set in our own vehicle. Just something to consider if you are planning to visit.
8. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Also cliche, but very true)
If you are a fan of the LOTR or The Hobbit, you will not want to miss the opportunity to visit the set in person. It really is a unique experience and we are so glad we went, even with feeling rushed. 🙂
But let me just say, if you are not into the movies, I think you would still appreciate the beauty of the set. Who knows, you may even leave a converted Tolkien fan.
At the very least, you’ll want to re-watch the movies to see all the things you learned about and saw on the tour. We still point things out to our girls every time we watch them. 🙂
I hope reading my review of Hobbiton gives you a better understanding of what to expect when you visit or gets you excited to see the place for yourself. Let me know in the comments when you plan to go,what you’re most looking forward to seeing or if you have any questions about my experience there.
Here is the video we put together of our trip through Hobbiton: