Arriving in Auckland, I have no idea what day it is anymore! Flying into New Zealand has pushed us three hours ahead and I’m already confused…
It was about 530am (local time) when we landed. Our bus to Matamata leaves at 745am, so we had plenty of time to kill….or so we thought. Customs ended up eating up a lot of our extra time!
Eventually getting past Customs, we exchanged some money and grabbed breakfast. I got so excited in the airport because there are Lord of the Rings relics all over the place!! I was definitely geeking out!
Fast forward a few hours, we’ve arrived in Matamata! Thankfully I slept for most of the bus ride. So this little place is nothing to write home about. Matamata is a small farming community that just so happens to house one of the most amazing movie sets from one of the greatest cinematic films EVER MADE! You may have heard of it….The Shire! Or it’s official name is Hobbiton! And for those of you who still don’t know what I’m talking about (because you quite possibly live under a rock or don’t go to the movies ever, or read) I’m referring to Lord of the Rings!
Instead of a hostel for this stay, we opted for a motel. Mostly because there wasn’t a hostel option in this town. I’m so glad we stayed in a motel though! It was a self-contained mini apartment. Having not to share a room or a bathroom with more than one person is amazing!
The couple who own the place were very nice. They let us borrow the LOTR trilogy because Chloe had never seen it. Before watching anything though, we wandered up to the I-Site for Hobbiton. I needed to trade in my email version of the tickets for actual tickets. The I-Site is a pretty neat place to see actually. It’s modelled after a hobbit home only bigger.
Afterwards we found the grocery store to get some necessities for our stay. We made our way back to the motel and I spent some time by the pool while we did some laundry. It was a beautiful day and I am just loving the sunshine! I didn’t stay out for too long though. The sun is so much stronger on this side of the globe than back home. I had to be sun smart ya know. 😛 Getting back to the room, Chloe and I started our cinematic journey to Middle Earth!
There and back again
Today is the DAY! I never thought I’d ever get the chance to visit such an iconic place. I am so unbelievably excited!
So a bit of a back story here: Hobbiton sits on someone’s farm land situated just outside of Matamata. The family was quite well off prior to Peter Jackson approaching them for LOTR. Apparently Jackson had seen aerial footage of the land and knew right away this had to be his set for the Shire. It’s an idealistic place for Bag End.
The bus picked us up from the I-Site and we were on our way! Because of how busy it gets, everyone must accompany a guide in Hobbiton. When we arrived, we could see why. There are bus loads of people EVERYWHERE.
We pass through Gandalf’s Gate and the scene before me has me in total awe. I can see the entire set from this spot. The colourful doors, gardens and even hobbit-sized clothes on laundry lines. We enter into the garden and our guide tells us some things about the set and the movies. We got some time to wander each section before moving on to the next one.
Next we come up to the frog pond. All the doors on the Hobbit homes are scaled differently. We were able to snap some photos of us up against the one that made us feel like hobbits, and some that made us ‘human’ scale. It’s very cool! I’m still in shock being here right at this moment!
When filming had wrapped for LOTR, this set was to be demolished. A storm delayed the destruction which in hindsight happened to be a blessing. After the storm, people had wondered what happened to the set. The family who owned the land decided that what with everyone’s curiosity, the should try to save Hobbiton. They contacted Peter Jackson, and as partners, reopened Hobbiton as an attraction for fans all over the world to enjoy!
Eventually we made it to the top of the hill. I made it to Bag End; the home of Bilbo Baggins! This is the coolest thing! We had just a few minutes for photos as this becomes sort of a bottle neck area for tourists. We had to keep the line moving. We were able to wander down the hill on our own and we’d meet the group and guide in the party field by the party tree. Chloe and I took our time so we could snap up photos by the hobbit homes and gardens. We met our guide in the party field where Bilbo Baggins celebrated his 111th birthday. I can see the whole scene play out in my head, the great line Bilbo says to all his friends…
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
Once we were all gathered, we made our way across the water to the Green Dragon. We could even see Smaug poking out from the tree line. The Green Dragon is a pub. We had 30 minutes here to ourselves and a free pint of ale on the house. Chloe and I head in for a cider. The interior of this place is something else! It’s cozy with oversized arm chairs and fireplaces. Mostly made from wood and stone, it was an incredible spot. The free time came and went so quickly, we now had to board the bus. We were able to stop at the gift store on our way out. It was crammed full of people but I was able to pick up a few things for Dad. Our final stop was back at the I-Site in Matamata.
This entire experience has been a dream! I am so glad we decided to fit this into our adventure. It really is a site to see. I felt nostalgic being there. My dad first lent me his copy of LOTR and The Hobbit when I was a kid. I’ve grown up with the story and the incredible films that followed. I felt a real connection to a place that for so long I had only imagined in my head. Then Peter Jackson brought it to life on film. The detail is incredible and stepping foot in Hobbiton was truly like stepping into the books.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
We chose the morning tour because we had a bus to catch that afternoon to our next destination: Rotorua. So we had just a little bit of time to kill at the I-Site before boarding our bus.
Stay tuned for smelly sulphur air and geothermal wonderlands!
Until next time…