When I first learned my husband was taking us to New Zealand, Hobbiton was the first place I searched online. I read every Hobbiton movie set tour 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 movies 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 yet, here I was, looking at pictures of rolling hills, Bilbo’s hobbit house, the party tree and the Green Dragon Inn, 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 and some interesting facts I think you’ll find useful:
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 ended up being a deciding factor in the location for the movie set.
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 evening; 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 The shire alone!
2. You cannot venture through on your own.
This was perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of the visit, you had to have a guided 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 those of us who did 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 makes 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 in the movie 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 you receive on the Hobbiton movie set tour 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 the North Island 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 Hobbiton feast.
We did not take the evening banquet tour 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.
They also offer a Second Breakfast Tour where you are the first tour of the day and end at their newest venue, the Millhouse for a hobbit-worthy breakfast.
They also offer an evening 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 walking 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 tour begins at the path with the familiar stone walls and ends at the Green Dragon Inn where you receive a complimentary Hobbit Southfaring beverage of their exclusive ales, Ginger Beer or apple cider. 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 store 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 Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogy, you will not want to miss the opportunity to visit the movie 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 and the magic of Middle Earth. 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 and saw on the tour. We still point things out to our girls every time we watch them. 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions About Hobbiton:
Is the Hobbiton Tour worth it? If you are a LoTR fan, then I say most-definitely! It will feel so surreal walking through the movie set and seeing everything with your own eyes. You’ll be hard pressed to remember it’s a facade. 🙂
Can you just walk around Hobbiton? You cannot enter Hobbiton without a tour guide, and so they expect you to stay with your group. You can, however, pay for a private tour.
Can you go to Hobbiton for free? No, you can only enter the movie set via a paid tour.
How much does it cost to go to Hobbiton? This depends on the tour you have selected. (Check here for updated prices.)
Where is the Shire located? The shire sits on some of the most picturesque farmland in Matamata, New Zealand, a little less than an hours drive from Tauranga and 2 1/2 hours bus ride from Auckland.
Can you sleep in Hobbiton? There are no places available for an overnight stay at this time, but there has been talk of such a place possibly in the works.
How long is the Hobbiton tour? The movie set tour is roughly two hours long whereas the banquet tour is four hours long.
How much time do I need at Hobbiton? If you are arriving via a bus from Rotorua, it takes roughly an hour to arrive. The movie set tour is two hours plus add in some time at the shop.
If you are driving yourself, they have a café called The Shire’s Rest next to the bookstore so you will want to set aside some time to grab some lunch, depending on the time of your tour.
Can I take photos at Hobbiton? Absolutely! As you can see in this post, I took lots and there are plenty more where those came from. They also allowed us to take video, which you can watch at the bottom of this post.
Can you go inside Bag End? Unfortunately, no, you cannot. There is only one hobbit hole that we can go inside, but that is only for pictures as the inside is just a hollow wood space.
What can you do at Hobbiton? Aside from the tours and private events that take place there, you can visit their gift shop and the cafe, The Shire’s Rest.
They also host a few festivals throughout the year that are worth considering as they offer whole new experiences such as a lunch buffet, marketplace stalls selling hobbit fare with games and live music.
I hope reading my review of Hobbiton gives you a better understanding of what to expect when you visit or leaves 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:
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.