The Hobbiton movie set tour was easily the most anticipated tour of our New Zealand trip. We started our journey to middle earth in the rain, which was not exactly the best weather to take an outdoors tour in the winter. Not only was the weather uncooperative, but Google maps took us to the wrong location, and we had to get directions from a gift shop.
Once we got to Hobbiton, we checked in with the tour and learned the rain should stop soon. As a precaution, they provided us with umbrellas as we boarded the bus. Hobbiton is located on private property, the owners reluctantly rented the land to the studios, and after the property owners agreed to keep the sets and allow these private tours. The movie set is pretty far from the parking lot, so they bus us into the site. On the way, we learned how much maintenance it takes to care for the 12 acres. You can tell the staff loves what they do; Our tour guide moved to New Zealand just to work there.
I was excited to finally be able to see one of the most iconic and beautiful movies sets ever created. As we pulled up to the set, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and we were greeted by beautiful weather and an amazing shot of Bag End with a rainbow overhead.
The tour covered extensive history about the creation of the set. The guide did a great job framing scenes from both the Lord of the Rings movies and the Hobbit while we walked through the sets.
They initially had 39 temporary Hobbit holes to shoot the first trilogy. They shot additional scenes miles away and edited to make it seem like bag end was on the border of a very wild and lush forest. In reality, it is just miles of grazing hills for livestock.
After they finished shooting the first trilogy, they tore down and burned most of the set. Only 17 wooden doors remained, but there was such a huge interest from tourists, they started giving tours of Hobbiton. When the producers got the green light to film the Hobbit trilogy, the had to rebuild Hobbiton back to its original form, but this time they added more houses (a total of 44) and constructed them to be permanent fixtures.
Each Hobbit hole is distinctly designed based on what the resident Hobbit would have been in the movie. They had a baking home, pottery home, and even a town drunk located at different holes. I started wondering what kind of Hobbit hole I would have had… We learned not all of the holes were Hobbit sized, some could even fit a whole family of normal-sized people.
As we continued into the heart of the Shire, we walked passed a garden used in the movies, and now used to grow fruits and vegetables for the restaurant on the premise.
There appears to be moss growing on the fences and windows of the Hobbit houses, but to our surprise, it was artificial and sprayed on to make the town seem older than it actually was. Walking up to Bag End, we got a beautiful view of the party tree (A gigantic pine tree on the hill). Our tour guide informed us the tree was the main reason they chose this area for Hobbiton; They envisioned it as the one on top of Bag End. Unfortunately, the tree was too large to relocate to the top of the hill, so they had to make a new tree. The tree which finally became the tree on top of Bad End could hardly be called a tree at all, it is 99% fake and 1% real. They created an artificial trunk, attached actual branches from an old oak tree, then painstakingly sowed every leaf onto the branches.The artificial leaves still fall off, and if you find one on the tour, you are allowed to keep it as a souvenir.
As we grew closer to the top of the hill, we found out that almost all of the Hobbit holes were just the doors and windows. The inside was just an 8×8 foot cube of hollowed earth.
Bag End was the only Hobbit hole that had more than a cutout behind the door. It opened up into a hallway in order to accommodate a few of the scenes from the movie.
At Hobbiton, the sun sets behind the hill. To shoot the scene where Gandalf and Bilbo watch the sunset from his house, they filmed the sunrise and played it in reverse.
Overall, this was our family’s most memorable day on the trip. The staff and tour guides were very friendly and informative, and the scenery and sets were breathtaking. However, the tour wasn’t over fro us. Up next, the Hobbiton Evening Banquet tour.