What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘New Zealand’? Most likely it’s either the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Hobbiton or both. Even though New Zealand has so much more to offer (stunning nature, unique wildlife, fascinating culture), it is and probably will always be best known for being the ‘Real Middle Earth’. For this reason, the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is probably on top of your bucket list when planning your New Zealand adventure. But is it actually worth it or is it just another tourist trap?
What’s the story behind the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour?
It began with the forging of the great rings. Three were given to the elves….
No, don’t worry, I won’t recite the entire Lord of the Rings masterpiece. If you need a little refresher course before heading to NZ why not read the books or watch the films as part of your travel preparation?
But, of course, the story of Hobbiton does begin with the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
When Sir Peter Jackson was searching for the ideal spot to create Hobbiton, he discovered this peaceful speck of land during an areal search. The rolling green hills, the untouched nature and the beautiful lake made it the perfect home for Tolkien’s little hobbits.
With the help of the New Zealand army, Peter Jackson’s crew built the 39 hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the windmill, the Party Tree and everything else in about 9 months. After all the Hobbiton scenes were a wrap after 3 months, they began to demolish the place and only 17 façades remained.
When the films became a worldwide phenomenon, the idea of guided tours to Hobbiton became a reality and, in 2002, it was finally opened to the public.
In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson returned to Hobbiton to film The Hobbit trilogy, rebuilding what had been demolished and even adding some more houses. Back to its former glory, Hobbiton now boasts 44 hobbit holes and all the adorable and funny details you grew to love from the movies.
How much is it and what’s included in the tour?
The cost of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour depends greatly on where you start your tour. You can either take the shuttle service from Rotorua or start your tour at the Shire’s Rest or Matamata. Either way, make sure you book your spot well in advance to avoid disappointment!
You can safe quite a bit of money when you drive there yourself (i.e. The Shire’s Rest or Matamata) but you can’t actually discover Hobbiton on your own. The entry fee always includes a guided tour and the transfer to and from Hobbiton.
- Tour starting at the Shire’s Rest or Matamata
- Adult: $79.00 NZD
- Youth (9-16 yrs): $39.50 NZD
- Child: Free
- Tour starting at Rotorua
- Adult: $114.00 NZD
- Youth (9-16 yrs): $74.50 NZD
- Child: $35.00 NZD
The guided tour
The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour includes a guided tour. Your guide tells you everything there is to know about the location, the construction and the filming.
Did you know that the big tree on top of Bilbo Baggin’s house is completely fake?
Do you know how they made Gandalf appear so much taller than the Hobbits?
Did you know that you can only enter a couple of hobbit holes and Bag End isn’t one of them?
If you can’t wait to find out more or you just want a little sneak peek of some of the most ridiculous Hobbiton facts, head on over to this fun list of freaky Hobbiton facts.
At the end of the approximately hour-long tour, you get to enjoy a complimentary beverage at the Green Dragon Inn. You can choose either a traditional ale, a cider or a non-alcoholic ginger beer. They are all brewed exclusively for Hobbiton!
Will you have enough time?
Although the entire tour (starting at The Shire’s Rest) takes about two hours, you only have about 90 minutes at Hobbiton itself. The guided tour takes about an hour which leaves you with 30 minutes to enjoy your free beverage at the Green Dragon or take some additional pictures.
It does sometimes feel like mass processing and I would have loved to spend more time at the Green Dragon or explore Hobbiton a little longer but that simply wasn’t possible.
These strict time restraints are, of course, absolutely necessary to ensure a smooth service. Hobbiton is tiny and the paths are very narrow. Leaving the visitors to roam around freely would cause complete mayhem.
Taking pictures and beating the crowds
Hobbiton is one of New Zealand’s main attractions and is popular no matter the season. On the official website it says that tours leave every half an hour but when you go and book a tour, you’ll see that they actually leave every 10 to 20 minutes. If there are about 30 people in each tour, you can imagine how crowded it’s going to be.
Taking pictures without anyone else in the picture is a difficult task. If you want one of those cheesy pictures with you in front of one of the doors, you’ll have to wait for that sweet spot in between two tours. Wait for your tour to move on and use those precious seconds before the next group comes around.
You won’t be the only using this tactic, though. Remember to be a considerate traveler and try to take your pictures as efficiently as possible. Don’t be the one that ruins it for everyone else because it takes you for ever to figure out the best angle…
This tactic comes at a price, though… The tour guides don’t wait for anyone. If you don’t keep up with your group, you will miss lots of fun facts about Hobbiton.
Is it worth it for someone who has never seen any of the films?
Visiting a movie set if you’ve never seen the movies or read the books might seem a little pointless at first. But the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is different.
I know people who have never seen any of the movies, don’t speak English and have no clue what on earth a Hobbit is and even they loved the tour. That’s because there’s so much more to the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour than just to learn more about the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
First of all, it’s freaking adorable. Seeing all those colorful tiny doors snuggly built into the green rolling hills of the Shire is already worth it. It’s basically like visiting the cutest town in all of New Zealand.
Second, you won’t just learn more about the Lord of the Rings but about film making in general. Seeing the incredibly detailed set and all the love that was put into creating this world will give you new respect for the movie industry. I mean, they built a huge fake tree where every single leave had to be glued on individually! Imagine having to stick thousands of flimsy little silk snippets to a 30-foot tree. Outside. Where it’s windy… That’s what I call dedication!
So, would I recommend the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour?
Even if you have to share the experience with dozens of other visitors and you might not get that one perfect profile picture, there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand. It’s stunning, incredibly interesting and who doesn’t want to feel like a hobbit even if it’s just for a couple of minutes?
Why not combine a Hobbiton Movie Set Tour in the morning with a visit to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in the afternoon?
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What was your impression of Hobbiton? Do you think it was worth it?