The second stop on our NZ was, of course, Hobbiton!
It was en-route to our family friend’s place in the little Hamlet of Hamilton, and my whole family are huge Tolkien fans, so of course we had to make a trip to the Shire, despite warnings of huge crowds and the day being blazing hot.
Now if you’re even thinking of attempting NZ without self-driving, please know it’s not going to happen. Their public transport system as far as I know exists only in the big cities and there is virtually no way of travelling from town to town unless you’re on a tour. Self-driving is definitely the best way to get around both North and South NZ – with a good GPS. We used Hertz for both our cars and the cars were very clean, very spacious, almost brand new and the Never-Lost GPS systems were extremely accurate. Highly recommended!
Right, back to Hobbiton! Its about an hour out of Rotorua and we pre-booked our guided tour around the Shire. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to go into the Shire without booking a tour, but from what I saw everyone had a Hobbiton guide with them. I would recommend booking in advance as the guides were all bursting with tidbits of information and ours, in particular, shared many enlightening and sometimes, hilarious nuggets of information about the filming of LOTR and The Hobbit which made my brother Mark, who is the biggest fan in our family, super excited. For example,
- Did you know that all the Hobbit holes have working doors?
- Some of the scenes in The Hobbit / LOTR were filmed backwards to capture the right level of sunlight. You’d never notice except for the birds flying in reverse!
- The crew had to painstakingly paint, recreate and hang tiny fruit accurate to Tolkien’s books onto existing trees. Now that’s some dedication to detail.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – you’ll have to go there to find out the rest!
I was the least excited, probably because I’d already had the privilege of flying to NZ to interview The Hobbit cast (Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Peter Jackson (director), Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, etc) and that experience itself was unbelievable and I think will never be surpassed.
But .. this time there was Sophie!
I’d guessed that she would enjoy it tremendously, because everything would be just about her size!
And I was right! She actually fell asleep at the start of the tour – and woke up super cranky, but once she started exploring, she never stopped. 🙂 Gleefully running about in her little pixie cape, trying to open the doors to all the Hobbit holes!
Here she is, completely freaking out on a pumpkin cart. This had to be the photo of the day.
But the rest of the time, she was significantly chirpier.
The weather was hot, but beautiful, and the flowers were in full bloom that day. Summer really is the best season to come to New Zealand, or should I say the very start of summer before the heat gets unbearable.
Just look at how the colors pop on set! It was like walking through a living, moving, real-life doll house, only ten times more beautiful. The wildflowers grew in abundance, the air was sweet with the smell of honeysuckle the grass glowed green in the sun.
“Well Mama, what do you think is inside”
You’ll only know if you go in to find out!
Her favourite little prop of the day was this Hobbit-child rocking horse. This Little Miss threw a very loud and un-pixie like fit when we had to physically remove her from it because we were holding up the groups behind us =X
Her purple rhino Mini Melissa boots were perfect for the occasion. I wouldn’t recommend bringing a stroller to Hobbiton – we trekked on foot for most of the tour and the paths are basically unpaved dirt and there are many stones plus it can get quite steep, so I would say baby-wear or simply let your child walk on their own.
The attention to detail is mind-boggling. Just look at that little roadside stall with pots of honey. That wood had to be painted, weathered, those pots of honey were probably put together by hand – and they would possibly appear for less than a second on screen!
At one point, I joined in the exploring. There’s just something about a little child’s glee and excitement that is so terribly infectious. I might normally have just stood about listening to the guide but this time I got down and dirty with Sophie and we snuck about opening doors and discovering little surprises. 🙂
Just when we thought we couldn’t bear the hot sun for much longer, our guide announced that we’d be stopping by the Green Dragon Inn (recreated again, in full realistic, micro-details) for a complimentary drink. What a relief!
We sat there in the cool, slightly cavernous (as cavernous as a Hobbit Inn could be) tavern drinking our ale (for us, ginger beer for Sophie-doll) from real flagons, was the perfect end to the tour. We even scarfed down some rustic beef and cheese pies and very large and home-made looking chocolate muffins I believe wouldn’t be out of place in the Real Middle Earth at all 🙂
Hobbiton is also where we took our first family photo 🙂 We left pretty much exhausted, but the smiles say it all.
Tips for Hobbiton
- No strollers, babywear or just carry and walk, slopes are dirt paths and can be steep
- Pre-book your guided tour at http://www.hobbitontours.com
- Bring an umbrella if you’re scared of the sun – there is no shade.
- If you’re scared of bees, don’t go. They are everywhere. But friendly and harmless as long as they are left well alone.
- The best time to go is definitely in the summer
I wouldn’t have missed this little day trip for the world! This Tolkien fan left satisfied and full of geeky trivia she will go over and over again for days!
“Not all those who wander are lost” – JRR Tolkien
Libby, K and Sophie-doll