In 1998 Sir Peter Jackson location scouts set of in search of a of a location that would mimic that of the rolling hills and lush green pastures of Hobbiton as described by JRR Tolkien. This search led them to the Alexander farm, a stunning 1,250 acre sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato, central North Island, New Zealand. The surrounding areas to the farm were untouched; by the 20th century, no power lines, no buildings and no roads in sight which made it a perfect location to recreate Middle Earth.
So in March 1999 Hobbiton was re-created in Matamata, New Zealand! It took 9 months to build 39 temporary Hobbit Holes, after filming only the plywood shells remained, these shells were the start of the Hobbiton tours in 2002. Later when Peter Jackson and his team returned to New Zealand in 2009 to film the Hobbit Trilogy 44 permanent Hobbit Holes were recreated, and later in 2012 the Green Dragon Inn was completed. These Hobbit Holes are now the site of Hobbiton Movie set tours.
Visitors today will get to explore a Middle Earth – 12 acre set with Hobbit Holes, The Mill, Bag End, the Party Tree, Mill Bridge, the gardens and The Green Dragon Inn.
Its recommended to pre-book the tours as they are popular, especially at peak times. Tours start from Matamata which is a 2 hour drive from Auckland, or 1 hour from Rotorua. The tours run every 30 minutes from 8:30am through to 3:30pm in the winter and 5:30pm in the summer. You need to allow 2 hours for the tour. The Movie set tour costs $79 for an adult and $39 for a child. It’s not possible to do a self guided tour. You must park your car and join a fully guided coach tour. Your guide will give a commentary of the area as you drive towards Middle Earth pointing out the most famous locations and explaining how the movie magic was made. After about 15 minutes you leave the coach and with your guide explore the set, walking among the gardens, getting up close to the Hobbit holes, you can even pop inside a couple of them. Lots of photo opportunities!
There are also options to join a coach from Rotorua which run 8.00am, 8.20am, 1.00pm and 1.20pm daily from central Rotorua, for this tour you need to allow 4.5 hours with transport, and the costs are $114 for an adult or $35 for a child.
The tours all end at The Green Dragon Inn where you receive a complimentary drink of either one of two ales, an apple cider or non-alcoholic ginger beer, all handcrafted and exclusive to Hobbiton Movie Set. There are also a range of food on offer which you can enjoy in the Green Dragon or in the Beer Garden overlooking the gardens.
There is a store on site where you have the opportunity to purchase Hobbit souvenirs, and a cafe which offers a wide range of meals, snacks and drinks.
There are lots of other locations around both the North & South Islands where you can see The Hobbit Trilogy film locations, but the Hobbiton site is the only one where the film set remains.
North Island Locations
Piopio -a small town in the Waitomo District, the unusual limestone rock formations and prehistoric forest at Mangaotaki Rocks in Piopio look like they were created especially to form the backdrop for Middle‑earth! This area was used for location for Trollshaws Forest and Staddles Farm where a number of scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were shot. Guided tours are available please ask the Luxury Adventures team if you are interested in a tour. Piopio is also close to Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.
Turoa is a popular ski field on Mt Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park, central North Island and is the location for Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This area is also well known for The Tongariro Crossing one of the best day walks on the North Island, there are other fantastic walks and cycle rides in the area. Mt Ngauruhoe is also located in Tongariro National Park and was digitally altered to appear as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings film.
South Island Locations
There are several South Island locations that were used on the filming of Lord of The Rings and Hobbit Trilogy.
Twizel located close to Mt Cook was filmed for both The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy films, part of the Wargs chase was filmed here; and the largest battle scene ever – the Battle of the Pelennor Fields – was set in a remote Twizel field. Twizel is a great base to explore Mt Cook, there is plenty to do , mountain climbing, horse treks, hiking and in the right season salmon fishing. There are no set guided Hobbit or Lord of the Rings Tours, or film sets remaining but a stunning back drop that fans of the films may recognise.
The Queenstown & Wanaka regions are home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery and its towering mountains, ancient forests and glacial rivers provide perfect locations for many a hollywood film, including the LOTR and Hobbit Trilogy’s.
Some of the scenes and locations you can see in the area include:-
The Pillars of the Kings (Argonath)
The Ford of Bruinen
Refugees of Rohan
Battle of the Wargs scenes
Ithilien Camp – Oliphants scene
The Battle of Amon Hen/Seat of Seeing
There are several operators that offer guided tours, you can chose privately guided or small groups, go by 4WD Safari, horseback ride or hikes and prices vary from $95 to upwards of $1000 depending on the experience. The tours also offer more than the film scenes, you can combine a horse trek and picnic with a narrative of the film, a thrilling 4WD safari and jet boat with LOTR or Hobbit scenery all around you, take a hike and have your experienced guide point out film locations along the way. Talk to the Luxury Adventures team about some of the options available.
Several of the scenes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were filmed around Nelson/Tasman area. Takaka Hill at Caanan Downs became Chetwood Forest in LOTR, Golden Bay, Kaihoka Station featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Weatherhills in the scene where The Company arrives at a destroyed farmhouse. This location is on private land, however there are tours available by horse trek that give visitors a good feel for the locations as well as spectacular views.
The dwarves in barrels scene that appears in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, were filmed in Marlborough on the Pelorus River, visitors can experience this exact location with a guided Kayak adventure. These trips operate from Havelock and run twice daily throughout summer, again our team can help organise this for you.
The Fiordland National Park was used frequently in several of the Hobbit & LOTR films, the dramatic fjords, majestic waterfalls made perfect backdrops for some of the most epic scenes, we recommend a helicopter flight as one of the best ways to see this area and experience Middle Earth, Luxury Adventures have access to one of the pilots who was a principle film pilot during the filming, you could be lucky enough to fly with this pilot or one of the other knowledgeable pilots who will be more than happy to share stories of the times the film crew were in town!
Kay Campbell is a luxury travel consultant for Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.