The films might be old news now, but for Hobbit fans there’s still good reason to visit New Zealand’s North Island, where the film sets have become a popular destination on the tourist circuit.
Hobbits, as described by J. R. R. Tolkien, are shy and uncomplicated, short and rarely unhappy. You’ll recognise them if you look at their feet, large, thick soled hairy feet that are the antithesis of beach body ready. They featured in the author’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and were famously, and very successfully, adapted for the big screen by Peter Jackson. A Kiwi, it was no surprise that he chose his native New Zealand to be the location for his films. The Hobbit, released later as a three-parter, was a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, set sixty years before Frodo embarked on his epic journey. Again, Jackson stayed close to home, opting to site Middle Earth in New Zealand once more.
The Matamata Hobbiton Tour
To find Middle Earth for yourself, you’ll need to make for the town of Matamata in Waikato region, surrounded by a lush landscape perfect for its day job of dairy farming country. About two to three hours drive from Auckland, with Hobbiton tours from Auckland available, it’s a great way to bring the films to life. The Hobbiton sets that you see are those constructed for The Hobbit trilogy, as the land was returned to pasture once filming wrapped for the last The Lord of the Rings movie.
These days, it’s not enough just to go on location on a movie tour, there needs to be some kind of interaction. That’s where The Green Dragon Inn comes in. There, you can enjoy a good gossip about the goings on in The Shires just like the Hobbits themselves. The inn’s interior is a faithful recreation of that used in the film, brewing its Southfarthing range of ales for visitors to savour. The Matamata Hobbiton tour also takes you to Bag End, where Frodo and Bilbo Baggins begin their adventures, the mill and the Party Tree.
If the Matamata Hobbiton tour gives you the taste for all things Hobbit, then there’s a range of other locations that were featured in the films’ exterior shots – most of the interiors were filmed in the studio in Wellington. Mangaotaki Rocks in Piopio was the setting for Trollshaws Forest and Staddles Farm in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while South Island’s Twizel was the setting for the Wargs chase scene and also the battle scene, the Battle of the Pellenor fields. Perhaps most spectacular of all, also from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Earnslaw Barn near Queenstown with its glacial waterfalls makes for a challenging but rewarding hike.