Visiting Hobbits: Hobbiton Village in New Zealand
The phenomenon of “Lord of the Rings” fans going on trips to places somehow related to the favorite work has managed to get a special name – “Tolkien tourism”. The former film set of the famous films about Middle-earth is visited not only by fans of fantasy. The hobbit village is the third most popular tourist attraction in New Zealand and brings $78 million annually to the coffers of the district of Matamata. So what’s so amazing about this former movie setting?
- The history of Hobbiton: what a hobbit village is like in New Zealand;
- The architecture of Hobbiton: what a hobbit village in New Zealand is made of and how it’s built;
- 6 amazing facts about Hobbiton hobbit village in New Zealand;
- Hobbiton on a map of New Zealand: where the hobbit village is and how to get there;
- Useful tips for visiting Hobbiton hobbit village in New Zealand.
The story of Hobbiton: what is a hobbit village in New Zealand
“Once upon a time there lived a hobbit in a hole underground. Not in some filthy damp hole with worm tails and smelly musty smell, but not in a dry sandy hole with nothing to sit down on and nothing to eat. No, it was a hobbit hole, which means it was livable.
Hobbiton is a fairy tale come to life. Photo: ericblackmorephotography.com. Author: Eric Blackmore
The first lines of The Hobbit. The first lines from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a fitting motto for a hobbit village in New Zealand. The 4.8 hectares of land are beautifully manicured and homely. That’s exactly the ‘Old English’ atmosphere that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson wanted – and it’s all the more surprising that he was able to find it in his native New Zealand, on the other side of the world from Old England.
In 1998, the “Lord of the Rings” crew went on a helicopter trip over New Zealand. Their main goal was to find a tall tree near a body of water that would fit the description of the Celebration Tree from the book. The perfect spot was found in the Matamata area, on the farmland of a family named Alexander. None of the farmers had heard of director Sir Peter Jackson before and had no idea about Tolkien’s book, but, rather surprised, they agreed to provide a piece of land to build the set.
The hobbit village is strikingly detailed. Photo: pixabay.com
The architecture of Hobbiton: what a hobbit village in New Zealand is made of and how it was built
The first Hobbiton, which was the location of the filming of The Lord of the Rings, did not survive. It was just a disposable set of Styrofoam and plywood, which looked good only on the screen. But when in 2010 they started to renovate the town for the filming of The Hobbit, they decided to make it more thorough – the current Hobbiton was built by 70 people from “real” construction materials – concrete, brick and wood.
The construction of Hobbiton was led by the New Zealand Army: soldiers used heavy equipment to build the road to the filming site and form the necessary terrain. Work began a year before filming so that the gardens and grass had time to grow by the time the actors arrived.
There are 44 hobbit minks in Hobbiton. Photo: elevation.maplogs.com
There are a total of 44 hobbit minks in The Hobbiton today. Almost all of the doors are props, but even where you can go in, there’s nothing interesting except the earth walls-the interiors of the hobbit houses were filmed in the studio.
But the doors of the houses are still noteworthy-they vary in size and color:
- The red ones correspond to human height (to make the actors playing baby hobbits look natural);
- The blue ones are the smallest, to make Gandalf look like a giant next to them;
- the green ones, the medium-sized ones, for scenes with the dwarves.
Distinguishing between reality and scenery in Hobbiton is not easy. Next to the real vegetable garden laid out models of pumpkins, and the real pine by the pond rustles with branches as well as a 26-ton artificial tree at the top of the hill. Everything has been thought out in detail, even the objects next to the holes tell about the habits and activities of their “owners” (chessboard, bags of grain, circles of cheese).
Distinguishing between reality and scenery in The Hobbiton is not easy. Photo: theuniq.net. Author: DANiil_KORZHONOV
In addition to the hobbit houses and dens, there are several other picturesque objects in Hobbiton village that bring pictures to life:
- The stone bridge that Gandalf crosses on his wagon in the movie;
- a watermill with a spinning wheel;
- the Green Dragon Tavern, where the fireplace blazes hot (even in summer) and you can eat and refresh yourself (there are also “medieval dinners” for groups that arrive in the evening).
Hobbiton is actively developing, attracting more and more tourists. Whereas in 2012 only 17 people worked here and 25,000 people visited the hobbit village in a year, today there are more than 300 employees and the number of annual visitors exceeds 600,000.
In addition to the hobbit houses, a watermill and bridge have been built in Hobbiton. Photo: vrbo.com
6 surprising facts about Hobbiton hobbit village in New Zealand
- There are 13,500 sheep living on the Alexander family farm where the shooting took place. But none of them were suitable for The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson thought they didn’t look picturesque enough, so they brought in Suffolk sheep with black legs and muzzles.
- Frogs in the local pond interfered with the filming. Animals are not interested in the process: in the middle of spring, when the shooting took place, frogs croaked so loudly that the actors did not even hear each other’s voices. The crew assigned a special man whose duty it was to collect frogs and carry them to another pond.
- The artificial oak at the top of the hill is made of fiberglass, and its leaves are made of silk – they were brought from Taiwan and hand-tied to the branches. When the leaves fade in the sun, they are repainted.
- Tolkien’s book says that the hobbit children played under the plum trees. However, it turned out that the plum trees were too tall and the actors under them didn’t seem so small. Apples and pears were planted on the set, and when the fruits ripened, they were picked and artificial plums were tied in their place. The funny thing is that the scenes under the plums were not even included in the film – they were cut out during editing.
- A garter of artificial plums, a dyer of artificial leaves, and a collector of frogs were not all the odd jobs on a movie set. Peter Jackson, known for his scrupulous attention to detail, hired a separate man to walk between the ropes with hanging laundry to make the paths look well-trodden.
- The scene where Bilbo and Gandalf watch the sunset from the door of Bilbo’s cabin is very picturesque, but there’s no way the scene could have been shot on location – after all, the prop Torba-on-the-Crouch faces east. The solution was simple and witty: the sunset scene is, in fact, the sunrise, “scrolled” backwards.
Hobbiton on a map of New Zealand: where the hobbit village is and how to get there
The hobbit village is about a 15-minute drive from the small town of Matamata. The distance from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is 170 km, so it takes at least two hours to drive (remember that New Zealand is left-handed). It is also possible to get to Hobbiton by public transport: there are intercity buses from Auckland to Matamata (travel time 3-3.5 hours), and local buses from Matamata to Hobbiton.
How to get to Hobbiton – official map. Photo: hobbitontours.com
It is not possible to walk around Hobbiton on your own – visits are only in organized groups that are formed before entering.
Large travel agencies offer organized tours. In addition to visiting Hobbiton itself, their program includes a tour of other nearby attractions:
- Hamilton Gardens, a beautiful park with reconstructed historic gardens, including those from Ancient Egypt;
- The sacred Māori mountain of Tauipiri;
- Waitomo Cave with its myriad fireflies.
Hobbiton attracts not only tourists but also athletes. Since April 2022, the hobbit village has hosted a Half-Marathon, where participants will embark on a scenic run along the Shire past hobbit dens and other landmarks.
A day in Hobbiton is an adventure for the whole family. Photo: hobbitontours.com
Helpful tips for visiting Hobbitton Village in New Zealand
- Take a tour at the earliest possible time (or arrive in time for the opening). That way you’ll have time to take the most beautiful photos before the crowds of tourists show up. By 12 o’clock the tourist groups in Hobbiton are so numerous that they walk along the narrow paths, one after another.
- Buy your tickets in advance. In season tickets are bought weeks in advance and may not be available even a few days before your expected visit. It is better to book your tickets (or tour) as soon as you finally decide to go to New Zealand.
- Purchase everything you need (water, snacks) and visit the sanitary facilities before the tour begins at Shire’s Rest, the tour site’s organizational complex. The Hobbiton tour is two hours long, and there are no facilities in the hobbit village itself. The next place to grab a bite to eat and refresh yourself will only be on the way out, at the Green Dragon Tavern.
Visiting Hobbiton Village in New Zealand is an interesting adventure for adults and children, “Lord of the Rings” fans and out-of-the-ordinary sightseers, movie buffs and sportsmen. See for yourself by walking through Hobbiton with this short video:
Editor: Daria Ivanyushkina
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