Whimsical Tour of Hobbiton

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

I was incredibly excited about visiting Hobbiton during a recent New Zealand trip, and it proved to be just as delightful as I hoped it would be! Hobbiton is insanely enchanting, with those iconic brightly-colored round doors and green grassy roofs that define the rustic little houses carved into the hillsides.

Walking into Hobbiton. Photo by Thaneeya McARdle.

Part of the fun of visiting Hobbiton is that when you look closely, there are multitudes of delightful details to discover: paint-stained pots and paintbrushes, miniature axes embedded in piles of chopped wood, tiny outfits swaying in the wind on rustic clotheslines, and even a smattering of chimneys emiting puffs of smoke. I loved the charm of the hanging lanterns that dotted the paths, like the one shown above! All of these details and more transport you directly into Tolkein’s Shire, making it feel nearly as real as your own neighborhood back home.

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

We visited Hobbiton when our cruise ship docked in Tauranga, which is about a 45-minute drive from where The Shire is located, just outside of Matamata. Just getting to Hobbiton felt rather like an adventure, because it’s so remote and once you reach the Shire’s Rest (where the tour begins), the actual Hobbiton movie set is still tucked away behind some hills so you can only see it after you hop on board the official tour bus and go for a short 5-minute ride.

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

Before our visit, Marcus and I rewatched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and his parents watched it for the first time. We weren’t sure what they’d think of the films so we were excited that they really got into the storyline. We didn’t have time to watch the Hobbit trilogy (which none of us have seen yet) but that’s definitely on the list for future viewing!

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit home in Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

Rather than book an expensive Princess cruise excursion to Hobbiton, we booked a tour with Zealandier. We walked off the ship at 9:30am and found our tour easily. Our guide Colin was fantastic and dispensed a lot of interesting local information over the intercom during the bus ride. Colin told us we had lots of time because our tour wasn't until 2:10pm, so we stopped for 30 minutes at McLaren Falls, where we walked along a stream through a lush wooded area to get to a nice waterfall. Below is a photo of the lovely forest we walked through:

Thaneeya McArdle on the walk back from McLaren Falls in New Zealand

After our visit to McLaren Falls, we reboarded the minibus and continued on. A few minutes later we rounded a hill and a beautiful vista of farmlands opened up before us, stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see, with mountains lining the far horizon. From then on the landscapes were quite lovely and bucolic. All in all the drive itself was fascinating, just to see a bit more of New Zealand.

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

We arrived at Hobbiton at 1pm and immediately jumped in the queue at the restaurant, Shire's Rest. Although the online menu only showcases their Hobbit-themed fare (like “Elevensies” and “Second Breakfast”), I was thrilled that they had a deli case with more offerings. Being lactose-intolerant, I was happy to see they offered a vegan wrap which made for a worry-free lunch. After lunch we had plenty of time to browse the gift shop before we queued for our tour at 2pm and boarded the bus for the Shire at 2:10pm.

Thaneeya McArdle exploring Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

At that point we bid a temporary adieu to our Zealandier tour guide and joined a larger group with our Hobbiton tour guide, Paul. Along the way, Paul pointed out some interesting facts about the property and its transformation from a working farm into a movie set into the popular attraction that it is today. We then watched a short welcome video from Peter Jackson and the owner of the farm, along with some relevant movie clips, and before we knew it, we had arrived!

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit home in Hobbiton

The walking portion of the tour lasted about an hour as we wound our way around the 44 permanent Hobbit holes on display, which are all marvelously well-maintained. Each one is so picturesque in its own way, with no two Hobbit holes or front yards looking exactly alike. Along the way our tour guide provided lots of interesting behind-the-scenes info related to the filming of the movies while on location in Hobbiton.

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

Hobbiton is a busy place, attracting a quarter of a million visitors in 2018 with that number expected to rise to 300,000 by next year. However, despite the plethora of people, the tours are well-organized with just the right timing to allow everyone to take their photos. The people in our tour group were very polite and everyone respected each other's picture-taking, happily taking turns to pose in front of the colorful round doors.

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit home in Hobbiton

It was lovely to stroll through Hobbiton. The houses and surroundings ooze with a rustic charm that reminds you of those mythical “simpler days” when the pace of life was purportedly slower, a world where technology hadn’t yet taken hold, where you could peacefully enjoy the simple pleasures of life in harmony with nature.

Hobbiton photo by Thaneeya McArdle

Hobbiton is slightly hilly and we enjoyed the nice elevated view we captured in the above photo!

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

Note the clothes on the clothesline in the upper right of the above photo!

Hobbiton photo by Thaneeya McArdle

In addition to the Hobbit holes that you can pose in front of, there are also a few Hobbit holes a bit further afield that you can’t get to, but this allows you a broader view so you can admire them in their idyllic setting. I love the wishing well in the lawn of the house above!

Thaneeya McArdle in front of a Hobbit house in Hobbiton

There’s only one hobbit hole they let you enter, shown below. Although it’s not decorated inside or anything - it’s just meant as a fun photo opp - it was still super cool to go inside a Hobbit hole and peek out the front door!

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand.

I also loved that there was an artist’s workshop set up outside this Hobbit hole, complete with jars of paint, paintbrushes, a palette and a nice work table!

Thaneeya McArdle at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand

At the end of our tour, we got free ginger beers at the Green Dragon Inn (shown in the background of the photos above and below). There were also 3 free alcoholic options on offer but since it was so hot we were happy to sip our ginger beers and reflect on what an awesome time we’d had.

Thaneeya McArdle visits Hobbiton in New Zealand

At the Green Dragon Inn you can also order food or don on a variety of Hobbit-themed clothes while posing for photos. We did neither but those who did seemed to be having a blast!

Watermill at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photo by Thaneeya McArdle.

To get to the Green Dragon Inn, you walk over the double arch bridge and past the quaint watermill (shown above).

Hobbiton photo by Thaneeya McArdle

Above is another angle of the lovely view across the lake in front of the Green Dragon Inn - so calm and peaceful.

Hobbiton Photo by Thaneeya McArdle

When it was time to depart, we rejoined our tour group and headed back to the parking lot. Along the way there were 3 last Hobbit holes, shown above - a gorgeous reminder of everything we’d just seen.

As the bus pulled away, I reflected on how running around Hobbiton was as exciting for me as running around Disney World. Both are testimonies to the creative spirit that bring whimsical dream worlds to life. Both are meticulously artistic and deftly designed to take you out of the ordinary and into a fantasy world that stirs the imagination.

Hobbiton photo by Thaneeya McArdle

It’s hard to decide which New Zealand experience I liked the most: visiting Hobbiton or hugging alpacas, so I think they both tie as my top 2 favorite highlight from my New Zealand cruise. 😊

The beauty of Hobbiton is that it so effectively transports you out of everyday life and into a whimsical world of verdant greenery, charming gardens and quaint round-doored houses. It’s hard not to fall in love with this hand-crafted movie set that was brought to life in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. The acute attention to detail that went into creating Hobbiton makes it a delightful place to visit - and of course well-worth it for any Tolkein fan!

Follow me on Instagram to see more of my travel pics!