In a small hole in the ground, once lived a hobbit; and in the small Waikato town of Matamata lives Hobbiton, a little magical piece of Middle Earth.
Finding Middle Earth
When the filming of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy confirmed, the challenge for film markers was finding the perfect set locations for these iconic novels. For many fans of the books, the Shire was one of the most critical spots get right. The Alexander farm on Buckland road was seen by the location scouts from above, with its rolling green hills and large Oak tree at the perfect setting for the Shire of Middle Earth. They could not have found a better spot and Hobbiton was born.
J.R.R. Tolkien supposedly wrote about the Shire as a homage to the English countryside after he was sent away with the military in World War I. The shire war to represent everything those young men had to look forward to upon their (hopeful) return. The food & drink and simpler things in community life.
Life in Hobbiton
A semi-permanent outdoor set was built into the hills of the Alexander farm to represent Hobbiton during the filming of the LOTR trilogy. The film set was upgraded and extended once the go-ahead was given to film the Hobbit trilogy. The Hobbit trilogy ‘Hobbiton’ is the one you can visit today.
With over 40 hobbit holes of various scales, full thriving and living vegetable patches and the smell of real wood burning stoves it is hard to think that this is just a film set when you visit. You half expect to great a few hobbits going about there everyday business. Although none of the hobbit holes has interiors (as this was studio filmed) but you can enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon, with a collection of traditional Southfarthing Ales and pies that would make Samwise happy.
No detail is spared in the making of the set. The tree atop Bag End (Bilbo & Frodo’s home) is entirely fake not that you would notice. Some poor unlucky person had to hand wire all the synthetic leaves to the tree, but sadly the sun breached it make them the incorrect colour green (according to Sir Peter Jackson) and more unlucky people had to hand paint all the leaves. The colour is the way to spot which are in fake, as he leaves do not change during the seasons.
About the tour
There are 2-hour guided tours, where you can have a picture inside a hobbit hole, outside Mr Baggins home and enjoy a free drink in the Green Dragon. Booking is essential! There are tours every 10 minutes, and you can be collected from the Matamata Information Centre (i-site) or even from Rotorua if you have no transport to get there. There is a small shop for souvenirs and cafe (does a banging caramel slice!), and you need to collect your tickets from the ticket office 10-15 minutes before the tour leaves.