Yesterday, we visited the Hobbiton movie set here in New Zealand. The movie set is located on private property, part of a large farm, and as such you have to book a tour in order to look around.
The tour operates via a bus/coach and has numerous pick-up locations. For us, it worked best to stay in the resort of Rotorua and take a tour from there. The town has great facilities and activities, making it a good base camp for a few days as we head south towards the South Island.
We booked our tickets for the tour via the Naked Bus website. This company seems to have a lot of deals for cheap-ish travel and day trips. We had the option of picking an early morning tour or one in the afternoon. We opted for the afternoon one so we could have a free morning and get lunch before heading to the set.
Our bus (which ended up being the official Hobbiton tour bus) was supposed to arrive at the bus station at 1:15pm. You’re advised to arrive 15 minutes early for the bus, so we promptly arrived at 1pm and waited with a group of other people. And we waited. And waited. Eventually the bus showed up quite late. Relieved it had finally arrived, we all piled aboard and set off for Hobbiton.
The journey to the set takes just under an hour and has beautiful scenic views the whole way. The bus seats around 40 people and ours was full. Make sure to bear this in mind and book well in advance if you want to visit.
Once we arrived at Hobbiton, we were told to wait on the bus while we waited for our tour guide to join us. We parked outside the shop/cafe for a while before our tour commenced.
The tour begins on the bus, taking a 1-2km road from the car park/shop/cafe toward the edge of the set. On the way, the driver gave us a rather amusing tale about how the farm owner was originally approached by Peter Jackson but didn’t know who he was and told him to go away because the rugby was on TV! I’m not sure how true that is but it’s an entertaining story.
You eventually arrive at a drop-off point where there are toilets (a relief for those of us not allowed off the bus when we first arrived). After a short health and safety briefing from our guide, we headed off around Hobbiton. We wandered in a group of 40 or so – everyone from our bus. Close behind us was another group of 40 from a different bus. As we entered the village set, you’re immediately blown away by how quaint and pretty everything is. There are real flowers and vegetable patches near the Hobbit houses and tools and props that make it feel like you’ve walked into the movie.
Unfortunately, you kind of lose the sense of awe and wonder quite quickly as the place was really full of visitors. We had a couple of minutes to look around this spot before being herded along to the next point on the tour map. Everyone was keen to have a good look around the set, take it all in and grab photos outside the buildings or with props, but the speed of the tour resulted in everyone having to rush. Some people were incredibly rude and prevented others from being able to take photos.
The tour continued in whirlwind fashion through all the known points of the set (Bag End, the party tree, The Green Dragon etc), with everyone jostling to take photos and feeling hurried. You actually work up quite a sweat running around trying to catch up with the group but still have enough time to look around! You’re told you have to stay with your group, as that’s how you get back to Rotorua. No-one wants to have to pay for an hour-long taxi home!
Eventually we ended up at The Green Dragon where we were greeted with a much needed and very appreciated free drink. You could choose between a pale ale, an English style stout or cider. I recommend the cider as it was proper scrumpy cider and tasted delicious!
We had a little while to relax in the pub (10 minutes or so) before we were herded back to the bus for some “retail therapy”. A short drive back to the entrance and we were given 15 minutes to browse the shop.
The shop had a lot of interesting posters and other mementos but it was horrendously over priced. As an example, one small postcard of the set was $15NZD (about £8). A lot of the items here you could probably find online or in a local store much cheaper. I ended up spending most of our designated shopping time relaxing outside instead – time I would have much rather had looking around the set itself.
All in all, Hobbiton was beautiful and magical but somewhat disappointing due to the ridiculous speed we were herded round at. You don’t get chance to take it in properly, especially if you want to grab photos (which everyone did). If you plan on visiting, I would recommend trying to go on a non-weekend day as it may be less busy (we went on a Saturday). I also wonder if the morning tour would be less busy than the afternoon one.
I hope the review is helpful/useful to those of you planning to visit. Having an idea of what to expect might hopefully enable you to enjoy it more than we did!
Despite the ridiculous rate we had to walk the set, I did manage to get a few photos. In hindsight the place really was lovely, it’s just a shame we weren’t able to take it all in while we were there.