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The Hobbiton

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Green Dragon
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The Alexander family farm--now better known as The Hobbiton--could be called a gift from below. Both because of its terrifically quaint burrowed Hobbit Holes covered in sine waves of emerald green, and because of The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's aerial discovery of the now-iconic land of hobbits during his 1998 heli-search for suitable sites to film the trilogy. Jackson chose the farm for its sweeping views and a countryside he felt closely resembled The Shire JRR Tolkien described in his books.

In March of 1999, the transformation from rolling farmland to LOTR movie set began. With the help of the New Zealand Army and a daily workforce of up to 400 strong, Hollywood literally moved the earth of Alexander and, over the course of nine months, built the hobbits' hometown so revered and so widely visited by film and book fans today. In 2011, the Hobbiton village/set was rebuilt in preparation for Tolkien's hobbit-centric film adaptations, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Now it is complete, basking in the splendor of hobbit holes, gardens, a bridge, a mill, and the newest addition, a pub called The Green Dragon.

Go to the Hobbiton if You're Looking for....

Do we even need to say it? The ultimate in LOTR fan candy. And even if you're not into Tolkien, the Hobbiton tours offer a breathtaking peek into the pastoral magnificence of rural New Zealand, so just being in the Matamata, Waikato, or Rotorua areas, would probably make it worth a few hours out of your day.

The Hobbiton Highlights

  • Guided Tours. Actually, this isn't so much of a highlight as it is a necessity. Access to The Hobbiton is by guided tour only, which, sadly, means no showing up and gallivanting around with your RPG group pretending to be Frodo and Sam. Tours leave from Matamata and Rotorua, with pickups every 45 minutes or so from morning to early evening. Reservations are not always necessary, depending on the tour type.
  • The Green Dragon Pub. Opened on December 1, 2012 during a ribbon cutting ceremony that drew the likes of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and some of the actors who played hobbits in The Lord of the Rings series, the pub was once just another fancy film set, but has since blossomed into a fancy, functional house of brews and belly fillers. Drinks include Girdle Fine Ale, Sackville Cider, Oak Barton Ale and Southfathing Ginger Ale.
  • The Shires Rest. The Hobbiton's resident cafe sets the scene for the village beyond. Just inside the property's entrance it serves as a tour pickup point, as well as an endearing cafe for pre- or post-tour coffee or victuals. Menus include roast chicken, beef, and New Zealand lamb, and dinners are served either prix fixe family or buffet style.

  • Farm Stays. The rural Matamata district offers a number of farm stay options, some quite luxurious, for those looking for true immersion and country-style accommodations. Rates typically include dinner, breakfast, and Kiwi hospitality.
  • Getting Hitched. Trade "I do's", or just throw a big party at the Hobbiton. The Shire's Rest has three entertainment rooms, with on-site catering available.

Best Time to Go to The Hobbiton

What we're really talking about here is the best time to go to New Zealand. And there is really no bad time, per se, to do that. However, being in the Southern Hemisphere, NZ's seasons are the opposite of ours in the North. Also, Kiwis tend to take major holiday time off between mid-December and the end of January, which can put a strain on accommodations in major beach destinations.

The Hobbiton: Fun Facts

  • The site houses 37 specially constructed hobbit holes, made of untreated timber, ply, and polystyrene.
  • You cannot stay overnight in any of the 37 hobbit holes. In fact, you can't even go inside them. Two emphatic thumbs down.
  • The Mill and double arch bridge arose from scaffolding, ply, and polystyrene that were then glued and painted.
  • I think that is also how London Bridge was built, and why someone wrote a song about it falling down.
  • Thatch on the pub and mill roofs was cut from rushes around the Alexander farm.
  • A portmanteau word of thatch and rush, both of which are very lovely, is thrush, which is not.
  • The 26-ton oak tree overlooking Bag End was cut down and brought in from near Matamata. Each branch was numbered and chopped, then transported, placed, and bolted back together according to Peter Jackson's whims. Artificial leaves were then imported from Taiwan and individually wired onto the dead tree to give it "life".
  • I understand this is the same method Hollywood applies to Melanie Griffith and Kathleen Turner on the rare occasions they are needed for a public appearance.

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