Earlier this week we drove through the farmlands near Matamata, New Zealand. This is cattle country, but with the green rolling hills, farmland, and forests it looks like Middle Earth. We turn a bend in the road, see the Welcome to Hobbiton sign, and know we’ve finally arrived at the Alexander Farm.
The Alexander farm is a small sheep farm, which is rare in this part of New Zealand, where cattle and dairy are king. There were roughly 14,000 sheep on 500 hectares the day we were there, which was just after lambing season.
Peter Jackson discovered this place during an aerial search of the area, which he thought looked like Middle Earth. But, more importantly, the Alexander Farm had a huge pine tree perfectly situated next to a lake, and no modern power lines, roads, or buildings that could get in the way. That tree would become the party tree in Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema would build Hobbiton around it.
Construction started in March 1999, when the New Zealand Army Engineers constructed a road into the site that could handle the heavy traffic and vehicles a movie shoot requires. Gardens and box hedges were planted and nurtured for months. 37 Hobbit Holes were constructed on the site from temporary materials. Filming started in December 1999 and continued for three months. And then they tore the entire thing down and left.
But then Peter Jackson decided to film The Hobbit. So back to the Alexander Farm they went. The original set was reconstructed, and new sets were added, bringing the total number of Hobbit Holes to 45. And this time they built it all out of permanent materials. Once filming here was finished, New Line Cinema gave it all to The Alexanders and walked away.
And the Alexanders have been running guided tours of the place ever since. To say we were excited to be here is a major understatement. We were like geeky little nerds who had just received an early Christmas present.
You can’t see any of Hobbiton from the road, but the Alexanders have constructed a Shire Cafe and Gift Shop just off the road, along with a sheep experience. We wandered in and bought tickets for the first tour of the day. At 9:30, they loaded us onto a bus and drove us across the road and over the hills through the farm.
We crested a hill and got our first glimpse of Hobbiton…a far off view of the Green Dragon and Mill. Suddenly we were parked and beginning our tour of Hobbiton.
The tour is amazing. We thought we’d get to see a few hobbit holes, maybe get up close to a few. But the tour takes you along the paths of Hobbiton. You get to walk right up to the hobbit holes and other buildings. You get to stand in the hobbit hole doorways, take in the amazing gardens, and look at all the minute details that bring this little village to life.
We spent a magical 90 minutes in Hobbiton, and when the time came to leave we didn’t want to. But second breakfast was calling to us from the Shire Cafe.
Instead of writing more, I’ll let a few of our pictures speak for themselves. Peter Jackson has created a magical place here in the middle of the Alexander Farm. A place a hobbit would be proud to call home. Middle Earth and Hobbiton – they’re real!
Too quickly, our time in Hobbiton was done and it was time to return to the Shire Cafe, for Second Breakfast.