As we travelled between the popular destinations of the Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua, we spent several relaxing days travelling through the central region of Waikato. The highlight of this was definitely the much anticipated (at least by me) tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set, which is located near the otherwise nondescript town of Matamata.
The set was originally built for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and although dismantled soon after, it was rebuilt permanently during the filming of the Hobbit.
Our fully guided tour began with a brief coach journey from the visitor centre into the movie set, with short videos from director Peter Jackson and farm owner Russell Alexander, both welcoming us into Hobbiton.
The Alexander farm was originally spotted by location scouts back in 1999, during an aerial search for sites resembling the Shire. It was immediately obvious why the 1,250 acre sheep farm had stood out to them with beautiful, rolling hills covered in lush green grass stretching far into the distance.
We began our walk around the set, with our knowledgable guide pointing out where some of the films most famous scenes had been filmed (information completely lost of one of us).
With 44 Hobbit Holes constructed in total, there seemed to be a different one around every corner, each with tiny windows and doors, and perfectly manicured gardens. The sites landscapers and gardeners certainly do their jobs well!
Unfortunately Hobbiton is only an exterior movie set and the Hobbit Holes are therefore empty. This was much to Rachael’s disappointment, as she finally thought she had found the perfect sized home!
It was interesting to hear of the amazing attention to detail that goes into the building of movie sets, with hours of work going into the creation of props, only for them to have minimal or no role in the final movie.
After climbing to the summit of the hill we finally reached Bilbo’s home at Bag End. Above this is a huge oak tree which we were amazed to discover is actually fake, and was built using fibreglass and silk. It was incredibly convincing and definitely had us fooled.
We took a winding path back down towards the Green Dragon Inn, where our tour would finish.
As part of our entrance fee we received a tankard of beer or cider from the Inn which we enjoyed out in the very sunny beer garden.
For our tour of Hobbiton we decided to base ourselves at a nearby farm which now uses its fields as a campsite.
The small site was situated on top of a hill and had beautiful views across the surrounding valley, making us feel like we were still very much in the Shire
We also found a very scenic spot to wash our dishes, which Rachael took full advantage of, while sporting the very fashionable socks and sandals look.
While travelling through the area we had also booked onto a tour of the Waitamo Glow Worm caves.
The caves are one of the most popular destinations to see the glowworms that are unique to New Zealand. Our tour guide took us into the entrance of the caves and gave us a brief overview of the history of the site, as well as pointing out some of its most interesting features. This was followed by a walk through the Cathedral, the caves largest cavern at 14m high.
Finally we were taken on a short boat tour through the caves star attraction, the Glowworm Grotto, with the cave roof beautifully lit up above us by the vast number of glowworms.
Unfortunately there were no photos allowed until we exited the cave, however it was a great experience seeing such a unique natural sight.
After exiting the cave we followed a short trail back to the visitor centre. We continued our walk higher into the farmland that surrounds the caves, where we found a perfectly situated viewing platform.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the quiet little town of Cambridge, before continuing on the road to Rotorua.