Hobbiton sign, New Zealand
Cultural Travel Ideas New Zealand North Island Oceania

Vsiting the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand

An empty road winds through bucolic farmland in the green Waikato region of New Zealand. I don’t pass another soul for twenty minutes and then, suddenly I drive around a bend and there’s a hive of activity!

By which I mean 20 people (New Zealand is never very crowded) enjoying breakfast at The Shire’s Rest Café. I have arrived at Hobbiton New Zealand, ready for some escapist fantasy, Tolkien style.

The Shire's Rest Cafe, Hobbiton, New Zealand

Where is Hobbiton?

The film set built for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then repaired and expanded for the filming of The Hobbit movies, is near the tiny township of Matamata, New Zealand, and is owned by New Line Cinemas. It is on private land – New Zealand doesn’t have the sort of public right of access you find in places like England. The drive from Auckland to Hobbiton takes around three hours.

Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

But a partnership between LOTR/Hobbit director Peter Jackson and the family who own the farm have turned the Hobbiton movie set into a tourism magnet for this little visited part of New Zealand.

The Alexander family farm is approximately 500 hectares, with 14,000 Romney sheep and 600 black Angus cattle in residence. The Hobbiton film set is away over the back of the farm so there’s little chance to seeing it without going on a guided tour.

Bag End, Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

Hobbiton movie set

Hobbiton Tours run from either the Shire’s Rest Café (and farm experience) at the roadside or from Matamata. It’s a ten minute bus ride from the cafe to the Hobbiton movie set itself and the guides are friendly local folk.

The Hobbiton entrance fee is NZ$84 for an adult ticket (making attraction out of reach for many New Zealanders and travellers) but the Matamata Hobbiton is proving very popular, including with Tolkien fans who come dressed as Elves and Hobbits ready to dance in the party field.

Hobbit hole, Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

They can even have a drink at the Green Dragon Pub and there are various meal add-ons. The Hobbiton village film set  façade – part of the Mill, marketplace, stone bridge ensemble – has been expanded into a proper pub and venue.

The Green Dragon Pub, Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

According to the tour guide a 6’5” German fellow threatened to stay in his “home” and it took most of the day to persuade him to leave. Two couples have already got married here at Hobbiton New Zealand.

The Mill, Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

So what drew Peter Jackson and his LOTR film set scouts to the  countryside of the Waikato back in 1997? Vistas of the Kaimai Ranges are blue in the distance and in the foreground is rolling green farmland with scattered treelines. It also has … the Party tree … a huge old pine that is slowly dying and which the Alexander family apparently were about to have cut down! It proved the perfect place to recreate The Shire New Zealand-style.

The Party Field, Hobbiton, New Zealand

Hobbiton is really charming, with 44 hobbit houses (five new ones were built for The Hobbit filming) and immaculately kept gardens. Jackson insisted on real gardens with edible vegetables and the scent of honeysuckle was heavy on the air.

It is easy to lose yourself in a Tolkienesque fantasy and difficult to imagine there being 200 or so vehicles parked here and many hundreds of people working on the LOTR and Hobbit films. There was a food tent that catered for four to six hundred people every day.

Hobbiton film set, New Zealand

Gandalf’s cutting, the party field, the Gaffer’s cottage and of course Bag End with its fake tree atop the Hill and the bench on which Bilbo and Gandalf blow their smoke rings. It’s all here in glorious detail.

Of course Hobbiton tours are only the start of exploring the many filming locations for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

By Natasha von Geldern

Are you a Tolkien fan? Would you visit the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand?

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Visit the Hobbiton Film Set in New Zealand

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  1. I’m not a Tolkien, but I’d love to see that landscape. Even if $75 does sound a bit too steep for me.

  2. I read about this the other day, and think it is so cool they left it in place this time. Of course, not sure that I’m paying $75 to see it though!

  3. Michael Hodson

    Pricey, but… how have I not done this?!

  4. I’m embarrassed to admit I have a weird obsession with Lord of the Rings! This looks fantastic!

  5. Fan or not, fun side trip/excursion. Love that blue door!

  6. I’d love to visit Hobbiton! And live in a hobbit house for a night. Not possible that, by any chance…?

  7. I was wary about the price as well, but it was sooooo worth it!

  8. Ya know, I’m not a huge fan of the books or the movies, but I’m a huge fan of the scenery! This would be a great tour!

  9. Amazing. Fantasy geeks unite — I would LOVE to see the set!

  10. I just stumbled across this post today and coincidentally, my father and I took the tour today. Was it pricey? Yes. Was it awesome? Hell yeah. Was it worth it? We are making plans for my father’s one hundred and eleventh birthday to be held there. That is many years out but we planted the seed today. The place has so much detail and care put into it that it is simply amazing. Now its time to bask in the shadow of Mt Doom.

  11. Hi Natasha, What a nice article about Hobbiton, and awesome photos! I live not far from here and am still yet to go. So hard to be a tourist in your own backyard. I’m curious – are you from New Zealand? The name kiwi makes me think so…. but I can’t find reference to where you are from (not that I’ve looked too hard)
    Also the nearby town is called Matamata (one word).
    Thanks for the good article

    • Hi Hannah, thanks so much for your kind comment! I grew up in Hamilton – so not so far away from Matamata (thanks for the correction I had forgotten). I remember going to a summer camp near there once. I have also lived in Wellington and at the moment I am based in the UK – a true Wandering Kiwi 🙂 I love coming back to NZ though.

      The Hobbiton Film set is such an asset for the area, I just loved it and so do all the visitors. It is very expensive I think, for New Zealanders and everyone really, but I just felt I had to go when I was visiting my parents in Hamilton.

      All the best,

  12. roseann cunningham

    I’d love to go to Hobbitton with my friend who is over from London. How much does it cost? Can we go on Saturday 4th April 2015?

  13. II don’t understand how people are calling $75 “steep”. I’m confused, did I miss something somewhere? Most people blow that much money on nothing at least once a month. Especially if you’re from another country I don’t understand how out of $1000+ vacation $75 for this is too expensive. I’ve drank that at a local pub on a depressed lonely night for no reason.

    • Thanks for your comment. Hobbiton is well worth visiting but the most expensive attraction in London is the Tower and that’s less than NZ60 for a world famous attraction. I guess people from overseas sometimes don’t realise the cost of living in New Zealand.

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