Utterly, utterly charming, unique, beautiful, and interesting. To be on a famous movie set, but not on a sound stage with everything artificial and painted “only to where the camera pans,” was absolutely terrific in the natural outdoor environment. Sure, it is a created “shire,” or village, for the Lord of the Ring movies, but in deciding not to tear it down after filming, New Zealand has preserved all the greenery and foliage, the Hobbit’s houses, and all the tiny details that are so delightful because they depict life in an earlier, simpler (though fictional) time. All the structures are made of rocks, wood, etc. – no plastics. There are many clotheslines (with clothes drying on them!), activities, tools and implements, picnic tables, swings, food, and of course, pathways to get around the shire. In the main feasting area is a maypole and see-saws, and low wooden fences bound together with ropes. Very medieval.
If you have seen the news recently about cruise ships being barred from entering NZ waters due to “biohazards” ( barnacles and crustaceans attached to the ships’ hulls that would be introduced into NZ), then you know that the country is very strict about the introduction of any nonnative plants. Wellll….Tolkien only really knew the plants around his area in England when he wrote about Hobbits. To stay authentic, the producers asked permission to bring in thousands of plants so they could “match” the narrative in the book. Eventually, NZ agreed, and these outrageously beautiful photos of plants and flowers are thanks to their importation! The government was so invested in the success of the movie that they even created a government post called the Minister of Lord of the Rings to oversee the economic advantages to the country. The filming alone brought in $200 million. But Hobbiton is the gift that keeps on giving! Tours are $89 NZ ($60 US) per adult. You need to book in advance during the summer high season, and they have buses running continuously, taking 240 people per hour out to the set. They are only closed on Christmas Day. Do the math! They also, of course of course, have a souvenir shop and a cafe. And, for about double the price, they have an evening banquet and you get to walk the set with night lighting. Hobbiton employs quite a number of people and is still bringing in substantial income.
We heard lots of inside information about Hobbiton, and will explain more under the photos. Overall, even if you are not really into Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies (we have seen them but not obsessed over them), it is a WOW kind of place to visit. Hobbiton is extremely well done, well created, and just cute and charming. Our tour was 2 hours of walking and talking and taking photos with a guide, Merlin (real name!), who had all the answers. It even included a free beer (or coffee or tea) inside Hobbiton’s local watering hole, the Green Dragon. We felt that the fee was well worth it.
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