Home of the hobbits: Hobbiton movie-set
Hobbiton is the official name and home of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings. You might know it as a small village found in Middle Earth, but we can all agree it is an adorable little place.
Everywhere you look online, Hobbiton is rated as one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. Even those visitors that have never watched or read a LOTR or hobbit book comes out at the end having enjoyed the whole experience.
It’s a place that many would recognise instantly from the movies it’s featured in. Many people enjoy the novelty of the small holes that create a home for each of the hobbits in the movie franchise. Some are more recognisable than others. But all add to the overall fantasy-filled destination that really makes you feel like you’re standing in Middle Earth yourself.
But before we decided to go we wanted to know, is it worth visiting Hobbiton?
You might find that a silly question if it’s the most popular activity. But I often find the most talked about shows, events and places, are extremely over-rated. That’s why checking them out for yourself is all part of the fun!
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First, what is Hobbiton?
Made famous by the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchises, the Hobbiton movie-set is a fantastic tourist attraction. It’s arguably one of the main things New Zealand is known for in the modern day. Other than amazing views of course!
It is a visual representation of the environment hobbits live in (the home of the hobbits), based on the well-loved books by J.R.R Tolkien. It’s located in the fictional world of Middle Earth and is a small village that the native Hobbits call home.
Whether you are a die-hard fan of the story or just a one-time visitor of the shire, you can surely appreciate the creative aspects of this attraction.
I’m not going to lie, after I visited I hoped I could find a cute hobbit accommodation to stay in!
There are 3 movies in the Lord of the Rings franchise as well as 3 in the Hobbit franchise.
In simple terms (for those who are not familiar with the books or movies):
- A Hobbit is a made-up race similar, but smaller, than humans. They have large hairy feet.
- Hobbiton is the place where Hobbits live in holes in the fantasy world.
For those of you that have seen the movies or read the books, you’ll probably already be very aware of what to expect here. For everyone else, you can expect to see a stunning landscape and a novelty of small buildings that are the perfect backdrop of a fairytale land.
Now you know the basics, let’s move on.
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The fun stuff:
Once you check in and collect your tickets you get on a coach which will drive you to the start of the tour.
The coach only takes 10 minutes to reach the destination and you get to watch a video about how the land was chosen for the movie. If you’ve ever seen the movies or read the books, you’d understand that this is the perfect location for the Shire. The location scouts did a great job finding this place!
On arrival, you walk past the famous Hobbiton sign that welcomes you to the village before you start to see the small round homes built into the hills.
The guides are extremely knowledgeable and you can tell they love their job. They were even able to tell visitors which homes featured in which scenes of the movies!
For 2-3 hours you will walk past the 44 homes on the site. Each hobbits home has its own front garden as if the Hobbits were just there.
The tour brings you over a hill where you can see The Shire in its entirety. You’ll see the Green Dragon Inn, the famous village pub where all Hobbiton residents grab a drink.
Of course, it’s open for all visitors to enter and try an ale, and in our case warm up by the fire inside (we went in the middle of the Kiwi winter so the fire was a nice cosy bonus).
Want a taste of more things related to Lord of the Rings? Check these out:
- LOTR New Zealand tour: An Independent self-guide
- Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
- Bobs Cove Track, an easy short trail with stunning views
There is even a small Hobbiton-like park in Guatemala near Antigua: Hobbitenango
To make this set look as realistic as possible for the movies, the artists put in a lot of detail to the props. The front garden of every home has so much detail put in that it’s hard to not feel like you are in a real place.
Many of the props used in filming are still there today and give the Hobbiton village a little bit of character.
Everything from fruit stands, post boxes, hanging laundry and kids’ toys can be found here. Just take a look at these prop images! Everything is hyperrealistic on the grounds of each hobbits home.
Something you may not know is that the Hobbiton woods was actually filmed in Wellington. This means you won’t get to see it here. Is it worth visiting Hobbiton for the hobbit holes alone? Yes.
They have a big studio there where they also film many of the interiors of the hobbit homes. Most of the hobbit houses are too small to get in – and many are just for exterior visual effect meaning there is nothing inside anyway!
There is one hobbits home that is big enough for humans to enter so we jumped at the chance to go inside!
How to get there
The Hobbiton Movie set is roughly 2 hours from Auckland by car. It is located in the rolling green countryside of the north island, 16km away from Matamata.
Since I owned a campervan, I decided to make my own way there. A very straightforward drive and once you get close to matamata, there are lots of signs directing you – you can’t go wrong.
There is a large car park so there is no worry if you do drive yourself, you will definitely find somewhere to park! Even during the peak season, there is more than enough room for all visitors to the park.
This option might be better for you if:
- You own a vehicle to get there yourself
- You’re comfortable making a plan without assistance
Luckily for us Brits, New Zealand drives on the same side of the road as us. If you happen to be from a place that drives on the other side, you’ll be pleased to know that right outside of Hobbiton there are signs reminding you which side to drive on.
Going via organised tour:
There are a few tour companies that collaborate with the land owners who also offer transport to and from the site. These partners are listed on the official website so you know they can be trusted. They organise your tickets as well as the transport so you can sit back, relax and enjoy.
This option might be better for you if:
- Do not own a vehicle
- Not able to rent a vehicle
- Are not very confident planning out public transport
This is often a great way to meet others or to enjoy the experience with someone else if you are otherwise travelling alone. One of the best reasons to take a guided tour is to not visit by yourself. Plus, it can be easier to enjoy an attraction if you don’t have to do all the planning.
Due to the size of the Shire, the landowners only allow a set number of visitors on-site at any one time. This means you must pre-book your ticket in advance on the official website, or risk missing out.
Due to being one of the most popular tours from Auckland (and maybe even New Zealand), they often sell out of tickets quickly.
All of the tickets allow you to see the entire movie set within a group with a knowledgeable tour guide. Unfortunately, you are not free to roam without a guide. This isn’t a bad thing however as the guides are well informed and even offer to take guests’ photos for them!
It’s always worthwhile going with a guide as it allows you much more opportunity to learn about the destination.
The general tickets cost around $50 NZD which includes a guide, the 3-hour tour and a drink at the end of the tour. That’s roughly £25 in the UK which is a bargain!
There is an option to take part in a banquet which costs more for an immersive experience however this was unavailable when we visited due to the covid-19 restrictions.
When to visit
It is a year-round attraction so come rain or shine you can still see the party tree and pretend to be a hobbit for a day.
The whole set is outdoors, so if you visit in bad weather, I’d recommend you bring appropriate clothing (raincoats and umbrellas). The only two times you will get to be under a roof are inside the larger hobbit house that you can go into (it’s the empty shell of a house) and the Green Dragon Inn – the popular hobbit pub of the Shire.
If you hate being surrounded by crowds (especially since the pandemic) think carefully about when you’d like to visit. If you arrive during summer it is guaranteed to be extremely busy which, like any busy tourist destination, can get frustrating.
Is it worth visiting Hobbiton in Winter too? Yes. Why?
- The North Island doesn’t get too cold
- A lot less people travel at this time so tourist attractions are less busy.
I went during the Kiwi winter of 2020 so it was much quieter than usual and not a realistic expectation due to almost no one travelling. Each tour group was half of the usual capacity to allow for social distancing.
If you were to visit during the summer months and not during a pandemic it WILL be busy. Just be prepared for that!