While the story of Middle Earth can be more or less neatly superimposed over the geography of the United Kingdom, New Zealand boasts the actual geography used in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings books and his rather needlessly overextended version of The Hobbit. And what would a trip through New Zealand be without a trip to The Shire of Hobbiton?
We were initially reluctant to visit the site – the admission fee for one person is considerably more than we have paid for a day’s worth of food and accommodation for both of us over the last few months. But as it was one of the things that we would do only once, we figured we simply had to do it.
The Hobbiton Movie Set is actually a working sheep and cattle farm owned by a family. I won’t spoil the whole tour in case you’re tempted eventually to go, but Peter Jackson and his scouting crew were flying over New Zealand looking for the ideal Shire and this was it. While they had originally set themselves to film different Hobbiton scenes across seven or eight different locations, the great party tree and pond that sat directly in the middle of the property meant that they could film all exterior shots on the current farm. They bus you from the tour headquarters to the actual set area and all tours have a guide to walk you through some of the interesting facts behind the making of the set and the production of the films.
One thing becomes really obvious as you step off of the bus and into the Shire proper: there are no sightlines to see civilization (or much evidence of the real world) from most of the places on set, so you have a living and breathing area that can be easily transformed into a magical piece of Middle Earth without risking a distant cell phone tower or billboard to spoil the shot.
All of the hobbit holes in Hobbiton are of different sizes for the sake of filming different-sized characters with fairly normal-sized actors. But sadly, to our disappointment, they exist as façades only: there aren’t any hobbit holes that can be entered beyond the depth of a few metres. One of the doors opened, so Bronwyn and I felt that we would have to get a photo taken inside.
The tour concludes with a trip to the Green Dragon Inn, a pub built specifically for the tour groups to enjoy after walking around the set.
The property is really a remarkable place and seeing it on such a glorious day meant that we weren’t thinking about the ticket price for long. The guided tour and drink that came included with the ticket price made it an experience to remember.
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com