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Hobbiton

Hobbiton Tour

travel / new zealand

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

I am staying just outside the town of Matamata in New Zealand, a small rural community best known today as the site of Hobbiton for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and the new Hobbit film, for which it is now being restored into a working set in preparation for filming.

The set is on an 1150 acre working sheep and dairy farm; the family that owns the farm, a father and three sons, retained the rights to have visitors tour the place after filming wrapped. All the exteriors of Hobbiton village in all three films were filmed here; interiors were filmed in Wellington. (For that reason, as well as in the interests of preserving the set, one cannot actually enter the hobbit-holes during the tour).

The tour is informal and typically Kiwi: the tour vehicle is an old reconditioned school bus, driven by one of the sons who own the farm; the well-informed tour guide got the job by being on the same rugby team.

That same tour guide made an important distinction between fans and fanatics that come to visit: fans like myself are those who enjoyed the films and have enough time and interest to pony up NZ$65 for the two and a half hour tour. Fanatics are those who come in cosplay, speak Elvish, and (in the most extreme example), buy the 14K gold recreation of the One Ring from the gift shop, hire a helicopter to fly them to the crater of Mt. Ngauruhoe (which stood in for Mount Doom in the movie) and throw it in.

Hobbit-hole doorThe attention to detail on the set is amazing: chimneys built into the side of hills, which have never had fires in them, have had "soot" brushed into the brick; fences that you would swear are 80 years old have been erected in the last six weeks. Entire trees were uprooted – the most significant being the one over Bag End, which was sawn down on another farm, brought over, reassembled, and then (as the operation killed the tree) had 250,000 fake leaves attached by hand to the branches. The tree itself has a screen time of forty seconds in the entire trilogy.

I would strongly recommend taking the tour, if you can make it before the area closes once again for filming The Hobbit, and a no-fly zone (enacted by parliamentary decree) makes the farm entirely inaccessible.

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