No visit to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to at least one of the movie sets or locations from Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. As we were only planning on visiting the North Island we’d decided in advance that we would go to the Hobbiton Movie Set which is located around one hour north west of Rotorua or around two hours to the south of Auckland.
The Hobbiton Movie Set as the name suggests is the setting for The Shire, home of the Hobbits. The set itself is located on the Alexander family sheep farm and spans 12 acres featuring all the original set which is maintained in the same condition it was for the filming.
My parents and I had been staying in Rotorua for 2 nights while exploring the area and our plan was to visit Hobbiton on our way back to Auckland. While in Rotorua my parents had been talking to others who recommended that we get there for the first tour, so we checked out of our hotel at 7 am and I drove to The Shires Rest which is as far as members of the public can drive and home to the Hobbiton Ticketing Centre, The Shires Rest Cafe – serving a selection of snacks and drinks and a shop selling lots of souvenirs and movie merchandise. It was a very pleasant and easy drive as the sun came up, we stopped briefly in a small village on the way to get coffee and arrived a little before 0830. I had booked our tickets online the day before to guarantee that we would be on the first tour, so after picking them up we boarded a small coach with around 20 others and our guide.
While it is a walking tour around the movie set, the set itself is a substantial distance from the public highway so you make the journey from The Shires Rest to the set and back through the sheep farm by coach. You’re on the coach for at most 10 minutes, during which time they play an informative video about the set featuring Peter Jackson and explaining some of the areas you’re driving past that were used during the filming but are no longer there.
When you reach the entrance to the set, you hop off the bus and make your way through to The Shire and can even re-enact that famous scene from the movie! As you walk around the set you are free to take as many photos as you want as long as you stay on the paths! Our guide was very informative, telling you about all the scenes and some behind the scenes facts too – she also pointed out lots of little details that you would easily have missed.
Towards the end of the tour, you make your way to the Green Dragon Inn where you can grab something to eat and drink your complimentary Hobbit Southfarthing drink.
All in all the tour takes a little under two hours to complete, I guess it can probably take longer if it’s really busy. We were there during the winter months and it was busy, if you’re travelling during the summer months, holidays or at weekends you will have to book it in advance as the tours have limited numbers due to the coaches.
I would also recommend that you go on the first tour of the day if possible, this ensures that there are no other tour groups ahead of you and your group will move around at their own pace. If you’re in a later group you’ll find your being held back by the group ahead taking photos and you’ll never have a chance to take photos without lots of people in them!