A visit to New Zealand is hard to say as complete without taking a moment to geek out and visit Hobbiton. I don’t mean that in an offensive way at all. I was actually really excited to visit the iconic movie site. So much so, that I forced a room full of guys to watch Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in the TV room at the hostel in Kaikoura a couple of nights before our visit.
Our trip started from Rotorua and it was a long bus ride to get us out to the farm that the movie set is on. Once we arrived at headquarters, we checked in and loaded back onto the bus for the drive out into the field. Our driver did a nice job of telling us the history of the site, how it came to be and all the little stories that surround the moment when Peter Jackson decided that this farm was going to be the site.
The road into the movie site is very impressive, built by the military it is very industrial and is not something that was built to go away when the movies are complete. It will be there forever.
As we wound our way through the rolling fields we paused occasionally for the herds of sheep to disperse while we made our way. The driver pointed out various locations where certain actors or important Hollywood people had their motor homes and setups during the filming of all the movies.
Arriving outside the movie set, we were told how the original movie set for the Lord of the Rings series was actually temporary and was destroyed after the first set of movies were done. Upon agreements to film the Hobbit, the Shire was rebuilt to the permanent form we would visit that day and because the Hobbit is still being completed, it is still considered an active movie set.
Our guide for the tour of the movie set took over the narration once we reached the entrance to the set. She explained to us the rules for our visit, which included not walking on top of the Hobbit holes and following the directions on any posted signs. After making our way into the first part of the scene, she gave us good narration on what part of the set we were looking at and what films it appeared in.
It was extremely interesting to see the setup in person and learn how the director used the scale of each part of the set to manipulate the heights of the Hobbits versus Gandalf. We meandered through the lanes where the opening shire scenes were shot in the Fellowship of the ring, the field where Bilbo Baggins celebrated his birthday and the infamous Bag End, where Frodo and Bilbo live. The place is beautiful and all the way we learned about the little intricacy of the site and the filming.
Our tour concluded with a visit to the Green Dragon pub. This is the only part of the site that has been built as an exact replica of the movie set. Yes, that’s right, those Hobbit holes have only about 4 feet behind them. They were used for the exterior scene only, the rest was filmed in the studio in Wellington. I sipped my ginger beer and contemplated the tour that we had just taken of Hobbiton.
Having the opportunity to visit this site was a cool experience and I had been pretty excited about it. But for some reason, we were left feeling a little incomplete with the visit. In the end, both David and I decided that the whole place just lacked the magic you get from the big screen.
It is rather a dry and dull tour. Yes, it is awesome to say we have been there and to be able to now watch the movies and see the places where we stood, but that magic you feel when watching the movies is most certainly missing from the tour.
We both would love to see Hobbiton come to life with people dressed as characters from the movie, infusing a little bit of life into the whole set. Maybe they aren’t allowed to do this yet, but it is something that would be really neat for the future of the set. Do we regret our visit, not at all. Should you or shouldn’t you check it out on your next trip to New Zealand, well that is up to you to decide.
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2 thoughts on “Following in Frodo’s Steps at Hobbiton in New Zealand”
Beautiful experience this must have been. It’s good they left it there for longer than just during the filming of the movie. You feel immediately transported back into Hobbiton! 🙂
It was a beautiful place to visit and so much fun as we both enjoy the LOTR series. It was, however, really crowded and a little rushed. You have to make the most out of visiting places like that though and it was still a really neat thing to see!