Day 12: Hobbiton
We’re going on an adventure! With one day left in New Zealand it is finally time to step out the door and visit Hobbiton.
We met Vic, the owner of Red Carpet Tours, outside the hotel at 8AM. Another lady from Germany was on the tour, and the four of us were on our way. Vic drove us about two hours from Auckland to the town of Matamata (where Hobbiton is located). On the way, he shared plenty of great stories about the filming of the LOTR and Hobbit movies, and showed us some props that were used in the movies.
Vic explained how he capitalized on his fortunate opportunity to start Red Carpet Tours. When filming LOTR ended, they started tearing down the Hobbiton set. Bad weather interrupted the demolition, months passed, and days before the crews were about to return, Vic contacted the farm owner and they both agreed to call off the bulldozers.
To find customers, they teamed up with a local who was well-known in the LOTR fan community for sleuthing out the filming locations (and racking up several trespass citations in the process). She began to let other die-hard fans know that Vic could arrange tours to what was left of Hobbiton and other filming locations.
As a result, Vic was offering LOTR tours to Hobbiton for several months before New Line Cinema formalized an agreement with the owners of the farm to start Hobbiton Movie Set Tours. Of course, there are still lingering concerns from the Tolkien Estate and other rights holders when it comes to the current operation at Hobbiton, but nobody looked to be handing out cease and desist orders when we arrived, so I think we’re in the clear!
In 2011, the Hobbit movies were made and the set was rebuilt with permanent materials for the purpose of bringing in tours once filming was finished. Today, these tours are popular for Tolkien fans and non-fans alike. As a new fan myself, (I still haven’t seen The Hobbit yet, oops) it was easy to see the appeal of Hobbiton.
This place is more than your typical movie set — it is a living set! Sheep and dairy farm operations carry on nearby. The grass, plants, birds, etc. are all real and living (with the exception of some prop potatoes and the tree on top of Bag End). It is the largest purpose-built set ever used in cinema.
As tour groups walk the paths, gardeners and farm workers can be seen doing their regular farm jobs in and amongst the set. Sheep and cattle can be seen just over the hobbit holes. All this work yields an amazing level of natural detail on the set. For the record, I would totally live in a hobbit hole, given proper height.
Our tour ended in the Green Dragon where we enjoyed some SouthFarthing fine ales and lunch. Warner Brothers isn’t really the company I think of when it comes to beer, but whoever they contracted to brew these Hobbiton ales did a great job.
After a trip to the gift shop, we got back in the van and headed to Auckland. Matt continued chating with Vic while I napped. We made it back to the hotel and said goodbye to Vic who provided an excellent tour.
We located a Mexican restaurant near the hotel for dinner and headed back to the hotel afterwards to relax. Visiting an iconic destination in Middle Earth was a pretty good way to spend our last day.