Sightseeing in New Zealand: Visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata - Adventures of Anette

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sightseeing in New Zealand: Visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata

The Hobbiton movie set is part of a 1250 acre sheep farm outside of Matamata, and the place is a must-visit for anyone with a slight interest in Tolkien's Middle Earth Universe. It is also the movie set to visit for people who generally don't like movie sets, simply because the surroundings are so amazingly beautiful and extraordinary that you wouldn't want to miss them.
Outside The Shires Rest Cafe where the Hobbiton-adventure begins
But before writing anything else about the movie set I'd like to give a short introduction to my relationship with the LOTR-universe.
The Hobbit is one of the books I remember the best from my childhood. My parents bought it for me and my brother, and read out loud for us every night at bedtime. Naturally we'd rather hear more than go to sleep, because the story was so exiting. When I was in forth grade of elementary school I discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the local bookstore, and immediately asked my parents to buy it for me. I was quite young, and the language in the book slightly difficult. I remember how I just skimmed through the for me boring and long descriptions and jumped right to the parts where there was action to be found. Ah, the found memories.. I had always been a bit of a nerd, so when the first LOTR movie came out I finally felt like "one of the cool kids". After all, I already knew how the whole story would turn out! Although I have to admit I never was one of the most committed fans out there the LOTR universe still brings bake many good memories. 


Anyway, as you probably are aware of, tourism to New Zealand increased a great deal after The Lord of the Rings Triology and the Hobbit Triology was filmed in the country. Interesting how movies can make people travel into the middle of nowhere (we were seriously worried that the GPS was mistaken as we drove through the agricultural landscape with nothing more than sheep and fields to be seen)..

And it was not exactly an easy process that made this particular location chosen as Hobbiton in the first place. After an aerial search for possible film sites in September 1998 this sheep farm was finally piced out as the most suitable location for the hobbit village. Construction began in March 1999, and Sir Peter Jackson had to build not only 44 hobbit-holes, but also roads to the movie set.

The filming for The Lord of the Rings began in December 1999 and took about three months. The Hobbit on the other hand began in October 2011, and lasted only 12 days. Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen, Elijah Woods, Sean Astin, Ian Holm and Martin Freeman are among the actors that 
The Hobbiton movie Set was just a short bus trip away from the Shire Rest Cafe, and the bus driver was telling interesting stories about the filming prosses along the way. Our guide for the day took over when we reached Hobbiton, and he gave up plenty of time to take as many photos as we wanted.
The Hobbiton movie set was just like in the movies.! It was easy to recognize places we had seen, and it was clear that they had put a lot of efforts into the details. Did you know that they actually grow real vegetables in the garden? They have their own gardeners who make sure that the appearance of the garden is kept top notch.

The fact that Hobbiton is such a beautiful movie set makes it an ideal place to visit, not only for fans of the books & movies. It can also be a nice attraction for people without any particular interest in Tolkien's universe. My stepmother hasn't watched any of the movies and wasn't too enthusiastic about our visit to Hobbiton. Perhaps it was because her expectations were low to begin with, but she was surprisingly very satisfied with our visit to Hobbiton. It must be because the beautiful flowers, gardens, trees and surroundings makes Hobbiton such a unique and picturesque place.

Speaking about picturesque; I've taken way too many pictures and had a bit of a trouble limiting the number of photos to include in this post. Here are a few of them:






Baggins' home
The Green Dragon




Couple getting their wedding photos taken in Hobbiton by the Party Tree
Wouldn't mind living in a hobbit hole like this one.. ^^

                                            
It takes about 2 hours to drive from Aucland to Hobbiton, and a visit to the home of the hobbits can thus be a good idea for a day trip. But there are also other options for those interested in spending more time in the area. In our case we had been driving from Wellington to Waitomo the day before, and visited Hobbiton in the afternoon after having spent the morning exploring Waitomo's glowworm caves. After our visit to Hobbiton we continued to Rotorua, an area famous for among other things its hot springs and geysers.


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Hotel Booking:
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A Day in Wellington with John's Hop On Hop Off City Tour

Wellington is New Zealand's capital and the country's third largest city. It is also home to the famous movie director Peter Jackson, and has gain increased attention from the international community after he filmed parts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in the city. These movies were also very much in focus during our trip around the city with John's Hop On Hop Off City Tour. Actually, our driver's name wasn't John, but Todd. He could tell us that his main job was being an actor, and that he had starred in the third Lord of the Rings movie. He showed us the scene he was in, and that was one of the most epic scenes of the movie if you ask me. Can you imagine having a Harad Leader as your bus driver for the day? Pretty awesome!



Bungee Jumping from the Auckland Harbour Bridge

New Zealand is definitely a country to visit if you're interested in trying out extreme sports, as the country is known worldwide for its adventure tourism activities. If you still have not had the chance to try bungee(/bungy) jumping you have the opportunity to make your first jump at the place where it all started; the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Or at least, this is where you find the world's first organized commercial bungee jumping company, AJ Hackett Bungy. The man behind the company was AJ Hacket, who made his first amateur jump back in 1986. His company is still going strong, offering bungee jumping and bridge climbing to anybody up for a real challenge.




Traveling from Christchurch to Wellington via Picton
One way to travel from Christchurch to Wellington is by driving to a small town called Picton on the northern edge of New Zealand's southern island and catch a ferry to Wellington from there. The drive to Picton takes about five hours if you travel none-stop, but there are of course places along the way where you might want to take a break or two.
About half-way to Picton the road takes you down to the ocean, and you can enjoy the beautiful sight of the endless water and the steep mountains. There are also many animals to see along the way, and the coolest part of our road trip was definitely getting close contact with a group of sea lions.




The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum in Picton
If you are spending a day or two in Picton you might be interested in visiting the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum situated by the city's harbor. This museum tells the amazing story about the ship Edwin Fox, the world's oldest surviving merchant sailing ship. After she was built in Calcutta in 1853 she was used for a wide range of purposes such as carrying troops during the Crimean War, and later she also carried prisoners from Britain to Australia. On her older days she was used as a floating freezer hulk in New Zealand, and she first came to Picton in 1897 where she was utilized as a coal store hulk.




Earthquake recovery in Christchurch

Our first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch, a small city on NZ's southern island. Back in 2011 the city experienced a terrible earthquake (on February 22, under a month before the earthquake in Japan), and the place is still recovering from the inflicted damage. Things are however moving forward, and Lonely Planet even rated Christchurch as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2013.





Thanks to Spellbound for the picture!
The Spellbound Waitomo Glowworm Cave

New Zealand is known worldwide for its magnificent nature, and one of the unique natural experiences you can make while in the country is a visit to the famous glowworm caves in Waitomo. Waitomo is a Māori word that means "water enters", and in the area you'll find many caves that has been formed by the rivers digging into the ground made of limestone.

Photo credit: Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours


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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who'd gladly trade a trip to the shoppingmall for a hike in the forest any day.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette


The classical story about a girl who went for a one-year exchange program to Japan, fell in love and got stuck there. Starting out as a student in Kyoto in 2010 I now work full-time in Tokyo as a hotel consultant, and write mostly about my travels, working life in Japan as well as a bunch of random stuff.
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