Photo courtesy of Hobbiton Movie Set
Welcome to Middle Earth in the South Pacific, and an ideal stop for traveling fans of the author J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies. Near the rural town of Matamata—itself a destination for its LOTR-inspired visitor center and a selfie-ready statue of Gollum along the main street—the re-created sets of Hobbiton offer a detailed and fascinating glimpse of the hobbit holes, meadows, and gardens of Bilbo and Frodo. An essential conclusion to the tour is quaffing an only-available-in-Hobbiton Oatbarton Ale at the leafy lakeside Green Dragon Inn.
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The Real Hobbiton: Alexander Farm
If you're a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you owe it to yourself to visit the Alexander Farm in New Zealand. The family-owned farm served as the movie set for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the more recent The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey prequel, detailing the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. While it is still a working sheep and cattle farm, Russell Alexander now travels the world spreading the word about the 'Shire' he calls home. Alexander's Hobbiton is unlike a theme-park. It's an experience that both fans of Tolkien's work and movie enthusiasts will enjoy, given the extraordinary attention to detail and the built-to-last nature of the architecture, coupled with the stunning natural landscape. A particular highlight is the Green Dragon Inn, which is featured in the most recent film (and is a functioning pub).
By Bryan Kitch, AFAR Contributor
Visiting Middle Earth
Warning for Lord of the Rings fans: The following description may elevate heart rate, increase breathing, and cause unprecedented cursing at the computer screen. There are many descriptions of The Shire, both written and visual, but there is no feeling like walking straight into Hobbition. To imagine that around the next bend one will see a Hobbit hanging its laundry is a testament to the creativity of Peter Jackson and the beauty of the New Zealand countryside. The amount of detail incorporated is astounding. Miniature ladders, beehives, and rocking chairs are but a few of the intricacies one might see along the way. Knowledgeable guides take tours over hills and through the imagination of Tolkien. Upon reaching Bag End (where Bilbo and Frodo lived), one cannot help but gape in awe at the realism. Groups end the day with a beer at The Green Dragon (yup, that's right) and lunch under a tent, just before heading over to the gift shop where eyes widen and wallets lighten. This trip is a must for LOTR fans, or anyone who can appreciate a little fantasy come to life.
By Kara Steyn
To many people, New Zealand has become synonymous with Middle Earth and the Lord of the Rings. From tours to location scouting, pretty much everywhere you turn here, you can find some hint from the famous films. None so true as Hobbiton, home of Frodo and the Shite. Nestled deep in horse country in the central North Island in Matamata, the original set was destroyed after the conclusion of the trilogy. But with the remake of the Hobbit, the set was rebuilt permanently and now is open for tours. Wandering around the idyllic gardens and posing in front of hobbit-holes is a fun past time for anyone on a trip around New Zealand. And the best part? Picking out what spots you recognize from the movies of course! And you can even go in costume.
By Liz Carlson, AFAR Local Expert
Beautiful view right outside The Shire
By Ellen Hiser
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Strawberries from the Shire, anyone? The Hobbiton Movie Set, built for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies, is located on picturesque farmland in Matamata. Get your camera ready for the two-hour guided tour around the undulating landscape dotted with the brightly colored doors of Hobbit holes, where you’ll be able to pose like Bilbo, Frodo or Gandalf. The tour incorporates other sights like the Mill and even a Hobbit vegetable garden, and culminates with a meal of Middle Earth fare at the Green Dragon Inn.
By Erin Levi