After staying in Auckland, it was nice to get out of the city for a change of scenery in Matamata. The Airbnb we stayed at was a little cottage on someone’s farm land. Two cows walked by our window while we were eating dinner! It rained a little, but the cottage had fantastic views. The family hosting us even left us fresh eggs to make in the morning. It was our first taste of the rolling hills/mountains of New Zealand!
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
The next day after eating breakfast, we packed up and headed to the Shire’s Rest Cafe for lunch. Matamata is a pretty small town, so few dining options, but we liked the food we had for lunch! Plus, Joseph’s ordered “elevensies” for lunch. 🙂 The Shire’s Rest Cafe was also the starting point for our Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.
Especially during the summer months, the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours tend to fill up. We booked our places a month or so in advance to be safe! They offer several locations where they can pick you up by bus, and we chose The Shire’s Rest Cafe as it was closest to the place we stayed at in Matamata. While scouting for the LOTR films, Peter Jackson saw The Alexander Farm, the current location of Hobbiton, and loved it. Originally a sheep farm, it still has about 13,000 sheep, and about 400 head of Black Angus beef cattle.
LOTR and The Hobbit Fun Facts
The only way to get to the set is by bus through the tour company. On the short bus ride to the set, we were shown a film with segments of Peter Jackson and the farm owners talking about the making of the movie, as well as some clips from the films. Once we got there, we had a friendly local tour guide who was very knowledgable about the set. We learned some interesting new things about the behind the scenes work it took to bring the films to life.
- The New Zealand Army helped build the set, the roads, and got to be extras in the movie.
- The crew added a pond to the gulley in Hobbiton, that was initially a paddock. It attracted a lot of very talkative frogs! The frogs were so loud, they had to hire someone to remove them from the pond and relocate them during filming.
- The tree that sits on top of Bag End (Bilbo’s house) was made for the set by bringing in a large tree (26 tons!) and having people individually string artificial leaves on it. It was re-made a second time for the Hobbit since they needed a smaller tree (The Hobbit took place years before LOTR).
- They made several different sized hobbit holes to create different perspectives on actor / character size relative to the hobbit holes.
- The scene where Gandalf hits his head on the ceiling when leaving Bilbo’s home was unplanned. The actor, Ian McKellon, actually hit his head and kept in character so they ended up keeping it in the scene.
There are a few hobbit holes you can pose in front of the door, some are sectioned off, and there was one we could go in! It wasn’t furnished on the inside though, as most of the indoor scenes were filmed at a different location. Still very cool! The tour option we chose included a drink (hard cider, beer, or ginger beer) from The Green Dragon pub located onsite.
It was the only building there that was built out on the inside to look like the place from the movies. A nice way to end the tour, and the drinks were very tasty. Once the bus got back, they unloaded us and funneled everyone through the gift shop. They have a lot of interesting LOTR and Hobbit souvenirs, and you can buy bottles of ale or ginger beer like they had at The Green Dragon. Everything was well done, and we’d highly recommend this tour for any LOTR or Hobbit fans!
Our Favorite Photos
Here are some photos from our adventure in The Shire!