Since trying to organise tax numbers and jobs is near impossible on a Sunday, I decided to play tourist on my second day, going off to see one of New Zealand’s most iconic spots – the movie set of Hobbiton.
Featured in both LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies, the false village lies on the edge of the Alexander Farm, just outside the town of Matamata, 3 hours from Auckland. In order to get there I had to buy a ticket on the Intercity Bus to Hamilton – $35 each way since it was last minute – and get picked up outside the information booth in the town centre, which had rather aptly been redecorated to resemble the Green Dragon pub.
The movie set is tour only, so although can drive there, you will eventually have to board a bus to get into the village. If you do what I did, the bus (all of which are named after characters, ours was Kili) picks you up and then picks up the self drivers at the gift shop.
Originally, Hobbiton was going to be filmed in 12 different locations, because Peter Jackson couldn’t find anywhere that had all the necessary features (a large hill, a large tree, and a lake). His wife actually recommended the area, and after performing a fly by, noticed the very impressive ‘party tree’ and signed contracts with the Alexanders to film everything here.
This set, despite the location being the same, technically only featured in The Hobbit, as the original was only eve meant to be temporary. It was removed after filming, but the number of people interested in the site got the Alexander family thinking. When Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit, contract negotiations resulted in a permanent set being built, which is what we see today.
Our guide was Haana, a local uni student who spent her summers working here. The entrance is the stone walls Bilbo runs through in The Hobbit, and directly to the left are our first Hobbit holes.
There are 2 different types of Hobbit hole on the set. These ones were used when Hobbit actors needed to be next to the doors – and as such were built to human scale. The majority of holes are actually built to hobbit scale, with doors that barely come up to my chest.
It’s only the exteriors though, as all the interior shots were done in a studio in Wellington. The only 2 exceptions are Bag End, which has a partially built interior for whenever Bilbo opened the door, and the Green Dragon Pub, which was only ever an exterior in the film, but has been reconstructed on the inside to be identical to the one in the film.
It’s our final stop on the tour – and a drink is included in the ticket price. There’s an ale, an apple cider, and for kids and non-drinkers like myself, ginger beer. All of them are brewed specifically for the Green Dragon, and as someone who doesn’t generally like ginger beer, don’t taste half bad.
The pub also offers light snack/lunch options, which are in keeping with the setting. They were offering pork pie slices that would not have looked out of place on set – thick pastry and a line of jelly on top thicker than my thumb.
The tour takes about 2 hours, and after a quick stop at the gift shop, I got dropped off back in Matamata for my bus home. Unfortunately, in order to save some cash, I booked the 4:50, and have a good hour and 45 minutes to wait. Thankfully, the coffee shop opposite the information centre isn’t unreasonably priced, and even let me use their phone charger when I realise mine is down to nothing.
(May really need to consider replacing my phone, it’s becoming erratic and the battery doesn’t even try to last a day anymore. Let’s add it to my pile of broken electronics shall we?)
Get back to Auckland around 8pm. Tomorrow the real task begins – getting my bank account set up and job hunting after moving into Frenz.