Back in the early 1990s the famous New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, now Sir Peter Jackson, was looking for locations across his motherland for his up-coming trilogy of films, The Lord of the Rings. One important location was Hobbiton, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. So after scouring the countryside of North Island they settled on a sheep farm just outside Matamata. During the film making the actors were sworn to secrecy and it was not until after the first film was released was the location of Hobbiton announced. After the Lord of the Rings movies were made they sadly started to dismantle the Hobbit houses in Hobbiton, so all that was left we holes in the ground.
Luckily for us back in 2010 Sir Peter Jackson was able to announce he was going to make a feature film version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. So Hobbiton has been reconstructed and added to in preparation for the filming, it is now in pristine condition. Filming was due to start of March 1, 2011 –the day of our arrival, which we didn’t know at the time of arriving in Matamata. But luckily for us, but not for Sir Peter, filming had been delayed as Sir Peter had suffered a perforated ulcer.
We love the Lord of the Rings books and films, not enough to want to do the full tour of the filming sites, most of which are just locations in fields, but a trip to the Hobbiton film set was a must. A bus took us from the centre of Matamata out to the film set. We had to sign a form to say that any photographs we took would not be published on Facebook or YouTube as the film set is “shrouded” in secrecy –but not enough to stop the throngs of tourists visiting. The trip took us 15 minutes and we got very excited as the Hobbit burrows came into sight, we all bounced off the bus with expectation. As our guide welcomed us, she also told us that quite often visitors turned up in “character” dressed as Hobbits or Elves. Apparently one large German gentleman, dressed as a Hobbit, claimed on arrival at Hobbiton that he was finally home. After his tour he refused to leave and it took security several hours to be persuaded to leave –as he took his departure he said like Frodo he was now taking his great journey. Strange! Sadly no one on our tour was dressed for Middle Earth. Our 90 minute tour was everything we expected and more. We had suspected that in the Lord of the Rings films Hobbiton was largely CGI but we are glad to report much of it was real. There are some tens of Hobbit burrows including Bag End. You can walk around the streets, look into the gardens and walk through many areas where scenes we shot for the film –for lovers of these films, which include us, this was a magical opportunity and to think but for Sir Peter’s ulcer we would not have been there.
Today, the Hobbiton film set is no longer being used for movie production but has become a tourist attraction.