Who has not dreamed of immersing in the universe of one of your favorite movie ?
Fan of the Lord of the Rings, it was impossible for me to miss some places. Among them, Hobbiton, the location of The Shire ! (Respect for Nils who accompanied me !).
For the layman, The Shire is a region of Middle-Earth from the universe of J.R.R Tolkien, where the Hobbits live (those as tall as children with curly hair and hairy feet).
A bit of history :
As many of you know, New Zealand is the country where most of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy were shot .
In a helicopter flight, Peter Jackson, the director, spotted an isolated farm with a large piece of land and almost in all respects Tolkien's description of The Shire in the books.
After having obtained all the necessary authorizations, the construction works are launched to create The Shire of the green hills of Matamata. Even the army helps !
The scenes filmed, they undertake to dismount a big part of the places. However, the success of the trilogy is such that fans are almost on pilgrimage to the country to visit the filming locations. Added to this is the fact that it’s decided to adapt the Hobbit to the cinema. And now we rebuild The Shire again. But this time no question of destroying it, they decided to create a tourist attraction for the pleasure of the fans.
On the way to Matamata and the green hills of Hobbiton :
About 2 hours from Auckland, is the small town of Matamata . This is where Hobbiton is located, 15 minutes from downtown to be precise.
Just arrived, we immediately understand why this place was chosen. Green hills extend as far as the eye can see, with hundreds of sheep scattered everywhere grazing peacefully. We almost expect Hobbits to come out of the fields.
We arrive early in the afternoon, and decide to go to Hobbiton immediately to take a look at the place. Once there, we walk a little, and we understand that what they calls The Shire, is just the starting point to visit the real Shire of the movie. The latter is inaccessible by car, it’s mandatory to take a bus - included in the Hobbiton ticket prices- to get there.
We take this opportunity to reserve two places for the next day, and leave for Matamata to find a place for the night.
Even in the city center, the universe of The Lord of the Rings is present. Between the tourist office that looks like a Hobbit home, and other allusions everywhere, we can’t be wrong about the place.
Staying in Matamata is quite convenient, as close to many amenities, especially if like us, you are in van and you need to redo shopping.
Where to sleep in Matamata ? :
We spent two nights at Matamata Backpackers Hostel. This is a place that does not look at first sight, because located near the road, this is not the best point of view. But it is very well equipped, with kitchen, living room (with fireplace), sanitary, etc.
You can enjoy a real bed in dormitory or in a private room, or like us, park your van in the parking, and enjoy the convenience of the place !
Matamata Backpackers Hostel :
Price : 10$ per person if you sleep in your van in the parking. For rooms starting from $ 25 for a bed in dormitory.
Activities : shared kitchen, showers and toilets, common living room, washing machine, in the city center, close to activities like Hobbiton.
Should I book in advance ? :Even in winter it's better especially if you take a room. When we arrived, all the rooms were occupied and we were out of season.
Address : 61 Firth Street, Matamata, Matamata 3400, New-Zealand.
Visit Hobbiton :
We chose Hobbiton's visit at 11am, as it made sense to avoid busy periods. As requested, we arrive between 15 and 30 minutes before.
Once there we go collect our tickets and a paper available in several languages that summarizes the visit that we will do. Because the latter is completely in English, it's not always easy to follow specially with the accent !
When the time comes we go on a bus bearing the image of the place, heading to The Shire !
The course of a visit :
The bus ride lasts about fifteen minutes, during which the driver tells stories and anecdotes about the place, all enhanced with video passage.
Once there, everyone gets off the bus, and we quickly realize that we have no freedom, ike the sheep around us, we must stay in the herd and follow the guide. Guide who recites her text and respects the second the schedule and for good reason, we quickly realize that a new group is close behind us.
It's a new group every 30 minutes ! So there are people in front of and behind us.
To be honest, we stop listening very quickly, and we take the time to observe what is around us. We are in The Shire ! Even if we are a little disappointed to see no Hobbits, or some staged to immerse ourselves completely.
To know :
By doing some research later, it became clear that Hobbiton is more of a museum than a theme park.
JI was expecting - hoping too - that some people would be disguised in the theme, and be immersed in the universe, as in Puy du Fou, but I quickly disenchanted !
We walk among the houses of Hobbits, and we recognize some like the one of the nice Sam Gamegie with its yellow door and its beautiful garden. To finally arrive at the best known of all that of Bilbo and Frodo : Bag End. Unfortunately you can not get inside, like most other houses anyway.
Do you know it ? :
Bag End is described in books as having an oak tree above. To respect this detail on the screen, they uproot a 26-ton oak tree to replant it here ! While adding false leaves one by one
Once the tour of the houses ends, we cross a bridge that brings us to The Green Dragon Inn, where we are offered a beer ginger in a sweet big mug ! A delight !
We order also something to eat, and we will stall in a small corner near the fire. The interior is beautiful, it feels incredibly good, and we would stay there for a while ! Unfortunately, this is not possible, once again we are pressured and told that it is time to leave. In fact, we were only allowed 20 minutes, because the next group arrived and we must leave ! Seriously ?! This moment sticks in our craw. So we take the bus, the belly a little bloated to have engulfed our meal.
We are dropped off at our starting point, and another group is getting ready to go up. It looks like a chain factory.
We make a quick tour to the souvenir shop, but we can’t find anything extraordinary, which is a shame (except for the purse).
After a last walk on the place, we take our Octopus, to reach Matamata and spent one last night on the spot.
Our opinion on Hobbiton, the pros and cons :
Hobbiton has left us a mixed opinion. We liked the place, it's still a beautiful place, and shoot location of The Shire !
However, I think I should have inquired a little further (I didn’t do it by choice to have some surprise), because I really expected staging and not a museum visit . The worst is the factory side of the place, it's even hard to take pictures, because the group that followed was always to mingle with our and limited to push to photograph. And then, this lack of time and freedom makes you take all the same pictures ... Especially, that drones are forbidden in Hobbiton.
In addition, we are rarely fans of guided tours, and this time was no exception. A little freedom would have been well appreciated to enjoy the place. Apparently, it is to avoid theft (although I have trouble understanding what we can steal).
We have the impression that they seek to privilege the number to the well-being. Which is a shame, but, honestly, I think they don’t care, because the place works without problems. There are already people out of season, so we can’t imagine in summer !
That's a lot of criticism, but it's probably because I was expecting something else. So, I can not help but have some disappointment, but that does not change that as a fan of Lord of the Rings, I enjoyed the visit, and even Nils found it cool. We just prefer to warn you so that there is no misunderstanding on the place.
The pros :
- Location of The Shire of The Lord of the Rings.
- Very well maintained.
- Clear explanations with friendly anecdotes about the place.
- The Green Dragon Inn and the free ginger beer.
- The visit lasts 2 hours.
The cons :
- The price of the entrance ticket. 79$ per person is about 47 €, it still the price, especially to be squeezed by his guide.
- The factory side with chain groups every 30 minutes.
- No freedom and not much time to enjoy the place
- The fact that we are more on a museum, which implies no costume on the part of the staff, etc. (This is obviously a purely personal opinion).
- Visit only in English, if you don’t speak the language well, it may quickly annoy you.
Practical informations :
What is Hobbiton's website ? : Hobbitontours.com
What is the price of Hobbiton ? : The entrance fee is 79 $ (or 47 €) per person.
How long is Hobbiton's visit ? : The visit lasts 2 hours.
Where is Hobbiton ? : 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata. 2 hours from Auckland and 15 minutes from downtown Matamata.
How to get to Hobbiton ? : If you are a car there are parking for cars and van on site. If this is not the case, buses will pick up at key points such as downtown Matamata or Rotorua. There are also tours from Auckland that includes Hobbiton.
What are Hobbiton's opening hours ? : Every day from 9h to 15h30.
Should I book my visit to Hobbiton ? : Yes. Even in winter, it’s better to book your visit. In summer, it’s essential to do it weeks or months before.
Here we are with The Shire ! Hobbiton is a good memory, especially when you are a fan, but many visitors who were in our group didn’t even see or read the Lord of the Rings so everyone can enjoy the visit. The place is beautiful and we would go back just for a ginger beer near the fire at the Green Dragon Inn !
So, want to be "dépayser" in Hobbiton ?
The prices shown are the ones we had, you may encounter a difference (good or bad!) but at least it gives you an idea.