Exploring the Hobbiton movie set in the North Island of New Zealand.
Stepping onto the Hobbiton movie set, I could feel the magic in the air! I would not consider myself a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but after watching the movie, I was enamored with the natural beauty of New Zealand and had Hobbiton high on my bucket list.
For those of you who have never seen the movie (don’t feel bad–you’re in the same camp as 40% of people who visit the set), Hobbiton, or the Shire, is where the Hobbits live. It is an ideal place where life is simple, people are happy and all is comfortable. Maybe that’s another reason why I wanted to experience it so badly–what’s better than going to a place that represents all that is good and innocent in the world?
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. –Bilbo Baggins
The set, built on a family-owned sheep farm, was originally torn down after the filming of the first Lord of the Rings, but then during The Hobbit filming, they decided to make it a permanent destination for fans to visit. Starting off in the welcome center on the main road, the set is about an 8-minute drive through rolling hills and flocks of sheep. Accompanied by an energetic guide the entire time, he/she makes the experience come alive by sharing fun facts, stories and secrets throughout the tour.
As a designer, I really appreciated all the details that went into creating this magical land. Everything was incredibly thoughtful; you could tell how much consideration went into every decision. For example, each hobbit hole represented its owner’s profession–fishing rods and bait for the fisherman versus jars of honey for the beekeeper.
Since we were the first tour on set, we were able to see the staff getting the grounds ready for the day, with gardeners trimming the bushes, watering the plants and replacing fresh vegetables in the gardens. It’s as if people lived there and anyone could move in at any moment! Of course, as with any set, much of it was a facade. We found out the interiors were all shot in a studio down the road and none of the hobbit holes have an actual space inside, except for part of Bilbo Baggins’ home. With over 100 hobbit holes, we passed by a dozen or so, with ample time to take photos and admire all the details. One of my favorite parts was seeing the field where they filmed Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party. We learned that during Bilbo’s speech, the cake caught on fire so in the movie, after he puts the ring on and disappears, everyone’s surprised expressions are actually quite genuine!
There was something very magical about being in Hobbiton. Besides picking the most picture-perfect rolling hills to build the Hobbit holes, the space evokes a child-like wonder. I might have skipped around pretending I was Frodo (before finding about the whole ring situation) while humming the Lord of the Rings theme song in my head, relishing in this picturesque playground.
I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again. –Frodo
After passing through numerous Hobbit holes and the Mill, the two hour tour ends with a free drink in the Green Dragon Inn. Originally filmed in studio, they recreated the space as a perfect gathering place for guests to end their magical journey through Hobbiton. I’m sure the hobbits would approve of this final destination! As Bilbo Baggins’ said, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
Hobbiton Movie Set
501 Buckland Road
Hinuera, Matamata 3400
Thanks to Hobbiton Tours for letting me experience magic and beauty from a hobbit’s perspective. All opinions and photos are my own.