It was a damp day in Matamata, New Zealand – grey clouds stretched across the sky endlessly, breaking for the blue sky only occasionally.
Despite the threat of rain (which only happened once, and for a short time), I was finally doing it. I was going to visit Hobbiton, the village located in the center of the Shire from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.
The green bus, with a large “Hobbiton Movie Set” printed on its sides, rumbled along the dirt path taking my friend and I down into the valley of the Alexander Farm, where director Peter Jackson set his Hobbiton, inspired by the rolling green hills of the region.
As we disembarked from the bus, we gathered around our tour guide, a short and spunky Irish girl, not unlike a Hobbit herself. She talked about the history of Hobbiton, how the original, made for The Lord of the Rings, had been destroyed, but at the request of the Alexander family to make Hobbiton permanent and available to visitors, the second set built for The Hobbit trilogy was made with more permanent and long-lasting materials.
History and context appropriately passed along, we began our trek down the path, surrounded by grass and trees.
My breath caught when I spotted my first Hobbit-hole – this was actually happening, and it was as quaint and authentic as I could have hoped it was.
The tour was long and thorough. Our guide took us by many homes, telling us we could figure out the occupation of most residents by the tools in the yard – paining materials for an artist, gardening equipment for a farmer, etc.
She also told us fun trivia about Hobbit-holes, such as ones higher up on hills and with more windows were signs of wealth and status.
The big stuff was kept for last, and rightfully so.
We continued walking, stepping over puddles, smelling the bright flowers that bloomed in front of these adorable, grass-covered homes.
Gradually we made our way higher and higher up the hill, until we began to detach ourselves from other tour groups, taking more time at each stop, slowing our steps to take it all in.
Then, we happened upon a Hobbit-hole with a large tree above it, and with a sign on the front gate that read: “No admittance exception party business.”
We had made it to Bag End, on Bagshot Row, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. It looked just as it does in the movies, and I couldn’t stop my grin.
I gazed at this Hobbit-hole for a long while, delighting in where I was, and recalling memories of when The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was first released and its sheer impact. Not to mention the view of Hobbiton was breathtaking from the top of the hill.
We gradually made our way back down, where we paused by our last Hobbit-hole, Samwise Gamgee’s, and one of the few homes fully to scale.
However, the tour didn’t end there. Oh, no.
We roamed the field where Bilbo’s 111th birthday was held, with the massive party tree, and a colorful maypole.
There were teeter-totters we could play on and a bench we swung on and rested our feet for a while.
The last leg of our tour was coming up, and it was one of the most exciting: we were crossing the beautiful stone bridge to have lunch at the Green Dragon.
We all got one free drink that were completely unique to the Hobbiton Movie Set. We sat inside, sipping and savoring our cold cider, and had lunch as we looked out the windows, which gave a great view of the lake.
A large, carved green dragon was above the bar, and I definitely started singing “Oh, you can search far and wide / You can drink the whole town dry…” because of course I did.
The sun had come out as we made our winding way back to the bus, passing through the Hobbiton garden as we did so, and I took one look back.
The site has become filled with tourists, it’s hard not to see the way capitalism has outstretched its fingers here, but there’s a real passion preserved in Hobbiton as well. It’s a piece of cinematic and cultural history, one of the most exciting of the past several decades, and it was a joy to visit Middle Earth for a day.