2/17/14: Hobbiton - Matamata, New Zealand
After principal photography for The Lord of the Rings trilogy ended in 2000, the sets were quickly dismantled, leaving the New Zealand countryside as the filmmakers had found it. Understandable, since you don't want travelers stumbling upon broken down, two-sided castle facades while traipsing through the mountains. What Kiwis didn't realize at the time was that those movies would be incredibly successful, so much so that Peter Jackson's films have become a cornerstone of their tourist trade, as evidenced here by Air New Zealand's "most epic safety video ever made".
It's true that you can't turn sideways without seeing some kind of Tolkien tie-in. As fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Not the Hobbit films. NAY!) you'd think we'd be frolicking from one Middle-earth themed tour to the next, but you'd be wrong. For some reason we weren't pulled toward any of them. Perhaps because you can see a lot of filming locations on your very own if you do a bit of digging and have two hairy feet to trod upon.
There is one exception, though… Hobbiton.
As I said, the sets had all been dismantled, Hobbiton included. However, when Katie and I traveled to New Zealand in 2011, we discovered that the upcoming The Hobbit trilogy had necessitated a Shire rebuild! Better yet, because there'd been so much interest in visiting Hobbiton by overzealous fans, the sheep farmers that owned the property decided they didn't want a temporary set built to last for a day, they wanted Hobbiton to last for a lifetime!
So began a reconstruction of Hobbiton using solid, long-lasting materials. This news drove us out of our way to visit Hobbiton during our first trip to New Zealand. But there was one catch. True to Hollywood form, we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement upon entering. That meant no sharing of pictures or videos until The Hobbit films were released. As though no one knew what the Shire looked like - please!
We loved our visit so much that we decided to make second stop at Hobbiton three years later, this time with the ability to shower you with photos and videos galore. I'm not going to lie, things got pretty geeky. But it's hard not to indulge in your inner halfling when you actually look the part. We were standing in front of Bag End, for crying out loud!
So, without further adieu, please join us on a long-awaited Hobbiton tour. This time with the added perk of drinking a pint at The Green Dragon Inn, so it was well worth the wait!