Raised in a country that lives and breathes hobbits, elves and magical creatures alike, you would think visiting Hobbiton in Matamata would be at the top of my bucket list. Unfortunately, I was a bit late to the Lord of the Rings party and just didn’t really see what the fuss was about. However, an opportunity presented itself, so one fine morning we made the trip to the once secret location of ‘The Shire’. To prepare myself for the upcoming adventure, the night before I watched the first Hobbit movie. It was okay, still didn’t feel amped up but at least I had watched the entire thing start to finish without nodding off.
You are taken by coach to the hidden location where hobbits inhabit and either side of the road, it is all rolling green farms. Once we had arrived and stepped foot into this perfectly manicured hobbit land, the excitement was starting to bubble and a once in a lifetime opportunity had presented itself. To run on the same path that Bilbo had, announcing one was going on an adventure! Yes, please! I thought for sure there would be a few diehard fans that would jump at the chance and it turns out that the only person on the tour who hadn’t seen all the films was the only one. Me! This was the start to a truly magical tour and I don’t want to spoil anything or give too much away, but allow me to give a brief run down on how the morning was spent.
You kind of zig zag your way around the Shire stopping off at key parts and learning about different secrets and tricks of the trade to how certain parts of the film were created. There are plenty of opportunities to ask questions and take all the photos that you desire. And as this is New Zealand, it is a very orderly process where everyone politely lines up and takes turns, so you can all get that magic photo without someone else in the frame. There is no need to bring your selfie stick for 2 reasons 1) the paths are made for hobbits so there is no room and 2) the guide also steps in as personal photographer for the group or one of your obliging fellow travellers on the tour will snap a few memories for you too. Note: photos are welcome and encouraged but remember don’t spend your time in the shire looking through a lens!! Make sure you put your phone down to take in the impeccable detail and stunning views!
Once you have weaved your way around the Shire and have been delighted by the hobbit houses, you make your way across The Green Dragon Inn where a well earned beverage is waiting for you. These beverages are brewed locally, and you can also purchase some small food options as well, if you are feeling peckish. Unfortunately, this is where the tour ends so once you have explored the pub and roamed the grounds, you are whisked back to your horse and cart and returned to the real world.
It really transports you through to a fantasy and you half expect to turn into a hobbit during your journey. There are plenty of opportunities for photos and there are no pesky commercial photographers trying to relieve you of your holiday money by taking the tourist snaps. There is also plenty of opportunity to ask your guide questions and learn more about how they filmed certain scenes and how the sets were built. Everywhere you look, there is something new to admire, whether it is the outdoor settings in front of the hobbit houses or something as simple as hobbit-like décor, that is scattered throughout the Shire. A few tips to help you prepare for your adventure:
- Book in advance – a tour is not guaranteed and in the past people have been turned away
- Allow yourself plenty time. You book a session and if you miss it, you may not be able to get on the next one
- There is plenty of parking and shuttles that can bring you to Hobbiton
- Comfortable footwear – you are on your feet and it can get slippery so be careful
- Clothing – you are outdoors for most of the time so check the weather and prepare accordingly.