An ‘Unexpected Journey’ to Hobbiton
For diehard Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fans, Hobbiton is a must see on the north island of New Zealand. It is near the city Matamata. Here is a link to the website to book a reservation. You can book from neighboring cities or drive there on your own, but I chose to drive on my own. We had talked about coming here, but when we found out how expensive it was, we didn’t it wasn’t necessarily in the plans.
After arriving in Rotorua, Catherine told me that I should go alone, if I really wanted to. I decided I wanted to take An ‘Unexpected Journey’ to Hobbiton. I signed Eli up to go with me, but at the last minute, we decided he would stay with Catherine. It was about a 90 min drive from where we were staying to Matamata. I woke up and was out of the AirB&B by 7am.
An Early Check-In
I arrived 30 minutes before my tour time. There were tours to chose from starting around 8am and then every 30 minutes or so. Make sure to get there early. I heard that often there are long lines to pick up your tickets. You reserve a spot online, but you still need to check in and receive a ticket. After you check-in, there is a cafe, a gift shop and this awesome outside rest area.
Yes, these are actually my photos. Believe it or not, I was one of the first people here and was able to take advantage.
Inside the gift shop
There is also a gift shop to browse while passing the time. Above, some locally brewed bottles of South Farthing Ale. These were the common drinks in the movies. Below, this mat was a perfect statement about our lives. To us, living abroad, home is where ever our family is. We are just wandering. We aren’t lost. If this mat wasn’t in the Hobbiton gift shop, I probably would have bought it. Let’s just say most things in this shop were out of our price range! Ha!
Once your tour time comes, you line board this big green bus and drive for 20 minutes to the set. On the ride they play a nice introduction video for you, from the main building to the set. Our tour guide was from Germany, and he knew everything about the Hobbiton and the movies. I couldn’t get any pictures, because the glare from the windows was too bright.
Inside the brochure given to you at check-in, was a map of the village. You can see the car park in the bottom right corner. From there we walked on paths into where the houses were. There are 44 permantly-constructed houses that remain on the movie set, with all the fantastic details. The beginning of the tour was just walking around random houses. As we made our way through, there was a lot of time just waiting to take your picture. Here I am at the first Hobbit house.
The Home of Bilbo Baggins
The crown jewel of Hobbiton, Bilbo Baggins’ house. This house was featured in both trilogies. I wasn’t aware that the houses were empty inside. There is absolutely nothing inside any of them. Only a few of them have doors that open, and those doors only open to about 2 square meters of standing space. We are not actually allowed to walk up the stairs to Bilbo’s house, so this was as close as you can get.
Now for the most interesting story of the day: In the above photo you see two trees. The larger one on the right has darker green leaves, and the one of the left, has a lighter shade of green. The tree on the right was above Bilbo’s house in the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which began filming at the end of 1999.
Ten years later, when they began filming, the Hobbit trilogy, the tree on right was taller. Peter Jackson, a stickler for detail, brought in a smaller tree, almost identical, to take it’s place. The tree was found about 20kms away from the set, so it was cut up and moved. Peter Jackson noticed that the leaves weren’t the same color, once the tree was reassembled and next to the original tree.
Do you remember I said he was a stickler for details??
Then Jackson had his staff take fake leaves, and tie them to the tree so that they would match. That sounds ridiculous right? The story isn’t over. Jackson then said that the green still wasn’t the right shade after all that work and the countless hours of tediously tying on the fake leaves.. Guess what they had to do next? Take them off? Find a new tree? No, he had the leaves painted to the color he wanted.
So in the end, the tree was the exact color he wanted. When looking at these pictures though, you can still see the color difference. Most of the paint on the leaves has washed off from the rain, but during filming it was the right color.
Here is one of the fake, plastic, painted leaves from the tree This was one of the coolest souvenirs I have ever gotten. The wind blows them off the tree, and if you find them on the ground, you can keep them. I had found three, by the end of the tour!
At the end of the tour, we received a free drink from the Green Dragon Inn, the meeting place for all of the ‘Hobbiton residents’. I chose the South Farthing Cider over the Ale. A perfect way to end the tour.
Enjoy a nice cold cider by a warm fire.
Towards the end of the tour, I walked back through the area where the houses were, past a nice lake. Then back to the car park. I boarded the green bus, and returned to the main building. The place was packed with tourists when I returned. Take my advice, and book an early trip, and if you don’t have a flexible schedule book a couple days in advance.
501 Buckland Road