It’s amazing that a sleepy rural town like Matamata has become one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand. We usually stop by Matamata for a toilet break and a coffee before continuing on to Tauranga. But because of traffic, sometimes you might as well just drive past so you don’t have to rejoin the traffic when getting out of the carpark.
All of this tourism draw, is mostly because of the success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy (plus the extra Hobbit trilogy), based on JRR Tolkien’s epic masterpiece. A lucky farm caught PJ’s eye as an ideal spot to recreate and shoot Hobbiton, the home village of our barefooted, halfling friends who would journey across Middle Earth to save the world.
Hobbiton basically sits on farmland that has been converted into a movie set. Location wise it’s actually pretty awesome, as it sits somewhere between Tauranga, Hamilton and Rotorua – all reasonably sized cities and/or established tourist destinations. It’s also only 1.5 hours from Auckland if you’re doing a day trip from the big smoke.
Access is through the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour which can be booked online. You turn up at the carpark (or get picked up by bus from certain locations). We booked ourselves onto a guided tour and browsed the souvenir shop while we waited for our tour bus to take us into the movie set proper.
Man there were lots of Hobbit holes. After a while they start to look a bit same-ish. But kudos for the attention to detail. You definitely get the rustic old world Shire vibe here.
Here is the famous Baggins house. No admittance except on party business!
If you look closely around the set, they have peppered local produce (heh… see what I did there?) around the houses to make it look a bit more lived in. Apparently these come from local farms and get redistributed to the staff at the end of each day. How’s that for easing your weekly grocery?
The end of the tour takes you to a pub, which you might recognise as the Green Dragon Inn from the films. They brew their own beers here which might be worth a try. On offer are the Amber Ale, Dark English Ale, Cider and Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic). Yum!
It might actually be very cosy having a tipple in the middle of winter while the rain beats at the thatch roof outside. Let’s hope the Nazgul don’t come knocking!