24 October 2017

Visiting Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand.


I love Lord of The Rings. I am a huge fan of Peter Jackson's famous trilogy, regularly watching it since I was a child. The LOTR franchise had a massive influence in my life, inspiring me to study Film & Theater (and frankly the very reason why I wanted to visit New Zealand) with The Two Towers being my all time favourite film. I am also a fan of The Hobbit film trilogy, with the Desolation of Smaug slowly making it's way in to my top 5 favourite films the more I watch it.

The set of The Shire was first built in the late 90's early 2000's for the LOTR trilogy, before being taken down once the trilogy have finished filming. Around 2008, with announcement of The Hobbit trilogy, the Shire was rebuilt with real materials so it could stay a permenant set. This in itself is very rare, as usually film sets and props are destroyed after filming. But the owners of the farm land which served as the location, asked Peter Jackson whether they could make it permanent as it has become a tourist attraction after the LOTR films were released, despite only being leftovers from the original.


So, 'Hobbiton' was created as a permanent attraction thanks to The Hobbit. It depicts the Shire (as you see it in the films, of course) and the famous Green Dragon pub. It includes over 40 Hobbit holes, each one flawless in detail. Vegetables in baskets outside of the circular doors, washing hanging on the line & beautiful cute little fenced front gardens. There is fake moss on the fences to make them appear old, paint that is made to look rusty and peeling. The attention to detail in film sets can be so easily overlooked when watching a film, so to be able to see it in the flesh and fully appreciate the dedication to it is incredible. It's also a 'living set', as there are permanent gardeners and maintenance on site to ensure all the flowers, plants (even real vegetables) are in perfect condition.


The Hobbiton experience is a 2 hour guided tour around the above. Adult entry costs around $75. You stay on the paths and follow your guide, snapping pictures as you go. There are few opportunities to properly pose in front of one of the houses, and sadly very little time to get a good shot - hence my pictures here. Unfortunately I didn't even have time to get a picture of myself in front of Bilbo & Frodo's house, which was quite upsetting considering the distance I took to get there. The tour, albeit incredible, is quite rushed and you can either take it all in or hurry and take pictures. 


 I would recommend taking a small handful of good pictures, then putting your camera away and simply taking it all in. That was my one negative for the experience, but the nature of the set doesn't allow for wandering around freely off the path, and due to the number of groups doing the tour, you did have to stick the your guides heels in order to keep up. The guide shares facts about the production of the film & the sets, answering questions and taking quick pictures at the end of the tour.



Apart from feeling quite rushed, Hobbiton was incredible, especially for any hardcore Middle Earth fans like myself. You follow the footsteps of Gandalf as you enter the Shire, and Holly even re-enacted Bilbo shouting 'I'm going on an adventure!' in the 1st Hobbit.  The Green Dragon serves free drinks & offers snacks to purchase, before settling down in front of the fire if you're lucky enough to get a seat. You do only get 30 minutes in the Green Dragon so it feels a little rushed too, but I couldn't help but smile as I thought about Meriadoc & Peregrin Took drinking, singing & dancing. All those who know me well will know just how much this meant to me, and I have to admit I fought back tears as I entered the Shire for the first time. It's a surreal, wonderful experience that I definitely recommend to anyone visiting New Zealand's North Island.
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