Hobbiton Movie Set: A Gardener’s Delight and a Movie-goer’s Dream

Yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton New Zealand

Cheerful yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton, New Zealand

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”-J.R.R. Tolkien

Adding to my list of reasons to love New Zealand is the joyous Hobbiton™ The Movie Set.

Mike and I spent our last three days in New Zealand on the North Island. We used Auckland as our home base, then ventured out on a couple of tours. Hobbiton was at the top of our list.

Director Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit movies throughout New Zealand, but he also created a gorgeous movie set on a 1,250 acre private farm in Matamata.

Hobbiton movie set and Alexander farm

Hobbiton in the foreground, Alexander farm in the back

wooly sheep New Zealand

A wee wooly sheep

In 2010, the temporary movie set gave way to permanent structures and Hobbiton now draws tourists from around the world.

The 12-acre set captures the magic of the movies and books. The walking tour fully immerses you in the experience.

curving path in Hobbiton, New Zealand

Meandering paths are a hallmark of Hobbiton

Hobbiton yellow house and wheelbarrow

Charming village with cleverly aged fence

For this lover of books, movies, theater and gardening, Hobbiton has it all. If I could wave my fairy wand, I would take the tour a second time, but in slow motion. There is so much to take in and so many exquisite details.

Here is a taste of some of the movie magic:

  • The Hobbit-hole facades are in different scales. Scale varies from 30 to 80 percent. A full-sized actor in front of a 30 percent scale set looks huge. This allows for the use of forced-perspective.
  • In order to age the materials, set designers soak the wood fence posts in vinegar, then splatter the planks with blue paint, yogurt and wood chips. Soaking the wood in vinegar causes it to expand, then contract with a slight warp. Flecks of blue paint add to the aging process and the yogurt, a natural bacteria, allows lichen and moss to grow along the boards. Magical!
  • Each Hobbit-hole has its own garden along with props to indicate what the Hobbit does for a living. We meandered past the Hobbit holes of farmers, bakers, and homemakers. I delighted in the wee washing hung on the line, and the charming mailboxes, wheelbarrows and wind-chimes that make a house a home.

What I didn’t expect and absolutely loved were the individual gardens. Hobbit-holes face out of the hillside with sloping, earthen green roofs. Flowers grow along the fence, up the side of the house and in planting boxes.

Some of the holes have real vegetable gardens and in the middle of the Shire, pumpkin vines give way to magnificent fruit. You all know how I feel about pumpkins.

 

Hobbiton employs dozens of landscapers and gardeners to keep things looking authentic. Maybe we can get jobs here, too?

Since the gardens are real, so are the visitors. I spotted bees, butterflies and birds throughout the tour.  Aren’t they magnificent?

As the tour drew to a close, we learned that one of the trees pictured below is a fake. Can you spot it?

three trees in Hobbiton

Three trees in Hobbiton

Updated April 15, 2018. You can learn the answer by following this link

Our tour ended as we crossed the bridge leading to the inn. The barkeeper offered us a choice of local ale or ginger beer, then we had lunch in a big tent.

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon Inn

Could it get any better than this?

Oh yes.

I almost forgot to mention Pickles the resident cat. We found him like this, eyes closed, paws outstretched, resting by a warm fire.

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat, Hobbiton

Kitty nirvana

Truly nirvana.

56 thoughts on “Hobbiton Movie Set: A Gardener’s Delight and a Movie-goer’s Dream

  1. Oh, this is all so lovely Alys! What a fabulous experience for you! Lots of ideas for your fairy gardens…. 😉 I hadn’t realised Mike flew over with you. What a great break for you both! 😀

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  2. It looks like a wonderful day out, and full of fun. I’m a Kiwi originally, and I used to live about 6 km away from there and went to Matamata College. But it was long before the days of Hobbiton.

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    • Jane, I love this small world of ours. You lived in such a pretty area, though I suppose that is true of both islands. I’m in love with New Zealand, as you can tell. What brought you to Australia?

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      • It was a stepping stone to my first venture overseas at the age of 21. I spent a year in Australia, went to Europe and then back to Australia and met a man- as you do. I’ve been here ever since, but have made many many trips back to NZ.

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  3. Oh my stars! Such great photos and of course there was a kitty!! ❤ It was such a stroke of genius deciding to rebuild the movie set permanently though I didn't realise it was quite so gorgeous as this – now I want to go too – isn't it glorious. But really they need to get themselves some real Hobbits to live there and go about their lives while tourists are shepherded through. Or short people – Kelly and Laurie would almost fit the bill 😀 I wonder if the locals get to purchase the pumpkins and other edibles for their dinners? Alys, you have now officially seen more of New Zealand than I have ❤

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  4. Oh I am jealous! I can only imagine how delightful it was to admire all that beautiful detail. Little meandering paths, gardens around each turn, and butterflies! And to top it off there was a cat!

    I am so glad that you loved New Zealand (although show me someone who wouldn’t!) and how special to have had Mike with you too.

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  5. I remember having Hobbit-Hole-envy when I saw Bilbo’s house in the movie. I’m shortish, so it would feel quite comfortable to me, but I fear the Husband would be constantly knocking his head on the doorways. Maybe I’ll get to see it one day…

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  6. There is no love button for me to click or I would have used it here. I love this place even though I’m sorry to admit, only my children have read the books and seen the movies. Never had the time but I so very much want to see this little make believe town!!! Your photos are wonderful and I’m delighted you both got to visit there. Best enjoyed with someone you love. I could go on and on about how enamored I am with the gardens and all of it but your eyes would get tired of reading it. Have to find a way to make it happen. 🙂

    So did you have the ginger beer or the ale? 🙂 Do you still do anything with the theater these days? Giant squishy hugs to you all. M

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    • Marlene, this place is dreamy. I think reading the books probably enhances the experience in some ways but anyone who loves beauty, imagination, bird song and gardens would be right at home here. It’s lovely in every way.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. At the end of the tour, I had a ginger beer and Mike had ale. We were all happy.

      I’m not doing anything with theater these days, but I’m a life-long lover of the arts. Hugs back your way, Marlene. xo

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  7. Isn’t that aweSome! The gardens are dreamy. I can’t really remember the movie, it was so long ago, but I think the tour is gorgeous just to admire all the trickery like the fences (and sheep?) Is that a movie star sheep? ha! I think I’d like to live there 😀 How long did you take to go through this whole thing? Looks really spread out. I see one house had pumpkins growing on the roof! Perhaps you could consider that too! Wouldn’t that be wild?! 😀 Thanks for sharing your adventure dearest! BTW, how’s Liz? ❤ xo K

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    • Funny you should mention that sheep. Apparently they used many animals in the movies, but none of them were local. I suppose they have to be trained and cared for by professionals which is a good thing. But hey, if a sheep wandered onto the set, I don’t think they would turn them away. 😉

      The area inhabiting Hobbiton is 12 acres, so it really is quite spacious. I think the tour took an hour. You could easily spend two hours, but the next load of people wanted their turn, too.

      I do like the idea of garden roofs, but I’m afraid my house is a bit of it’s league for this set up. I agree it would be fun though.

      Liz is still not 100%, sadly, but much better. I think her whole system really took a hit, poor thing. Thank you for asking.

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  8. How delightful! I was wondering if any of you would venture into this landmark. My friend’s brother-in-law lives in NZ and got to play an Orc in the movie. My all time favorite books! And to see Hobbit town come to life, I’m so jealous! The gardens are beautiful.

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    • Oh my gosh! What fun to play an Orc in this movie. Can you imagine? Stephen Colbert took his whole family there and also played a small role. These books are beloved by several generations. Mike still has his boxed paperback set on the book shelf. I hope you get to visit one day. You would love it.

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  9. How perfect is this?? The place looks amazing–I can’t believe the attention to detail–and I can see that it’s right up your alley in all ways, including the cat! I like all the round doors best, I think. The photo of you and Mike at one of those doors is terrific!

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    • Kerry, aren’t those round doors fun? I loved that they were painted in assorted colors with different accessories to go with them. They’ve done a beautiful job honoring the stories. I don’t think fans would settle for anything less. It’s been years since I’ve read the Hobbit, but even someone unfamiliar with the books would love this place. Thank you!

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  10. What a wonderful adventure! Hubs spent too little time vacationing in New Zealand before we met. It got cut short when he was called back to Canada to interview for a job (which he got and still has!). He’s a huge fan of the trilogy and the country; we’ll have to get back there one day to see all the sites. It looks fabulous!

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    • Oh Sara, you must get back there. I know I’ve been gushing on and on about the people and the place, but it is all true. I can easily imagine living there, if that were possible. I have one friend that moved there after a visit and has stayed ten years. Another friends parent’s spent six months of the year there before they passed. Everyone falls in love with New Zealand.

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    • Eliza, you are correct. The oak is a fake, the product of hours of meticulously adding all those leaves to the real trunk of a tree. All the interiors here are facades. The red door we’re standing in opens for a few feet for this one photo op. The tour guide stopped us there and took individual photos with our own camera which was really nice.

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  11. What a treasure! Everything about this special site would be appealing. I’d heard some mention of it before but didn’t have any idea it would be so “alive” and not simply a movie set! The gardens are terrific in their individuality. You truly had a wonderful time in NZ, that’s certain! And your photos are wonderful, Alys!

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    • Thank you, Debra. Treasure is a great way to describe this place. The Hobbit-holes are simple facades, yet you felt that you could walk through the gate and knock on the door and perhaps the owner was just out of sight. The gardens are so beautifully maintained and carefully groomed to scale. Add in the rolling green hills, all those magnificent trees and it felt like a small paradise. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Thank you for your kind words, Debra.

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  12. Alys, I enjoyed seeing your photos and hearing about your experience. I especially love seeing the gardens; so much beauty. All looks so magical and inviting. Would love to experience that some day. Nice Mike was able to join you, and also like the pic of you and Mike in front of the door. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

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    • Hello Maria! The gardens are well-tended and beautiful, helped along by all those visiting pollinators. You would love this place. I’m glad Mike could join us for the second week. He got to meet all of my New Zealand friends as well as Laurie. Kelly is the only one he knew beforehand. We had an amazing time.

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    • Sheila, it’s amazing. We were so lucky, too, to have an end of summer, warm and sunny day. They’re open year round, so I imagine it all looks quite different in the autumn and winter months. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It took a long time to edit and place all those photos, but now that it’s done it feels like a scrapbook of our time there.

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  13. Pure magic, Alys! Although I haven’t read the books, I would just adore a stroll through this magical place. Your photos are lovely! You captured the charming details so beautifully. I’m certain that you will add a special memory to your own garden inspired by this magical place! Hold on to the magical feelings… always. Huge thanks for letting us all tag along on this adventure of a lifetime, dear Alys!💗

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    • Hello Dawn! Thank you for your kind words. Hobbiton is gorgeous, and can be easily enjoyed by anyone. We had such an amazing time, and lucked out with perfect weather as well. That said, strolling through with an umbrella would have been magical too. What a place!

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  14. Oh, I am SO jealous! But not *too* jealous, because I can’t imagine anyone more worthy of a visit to Hobbiton than you (with your kind soul and love for all living things). Thank you for sharing your adorable photos! What a privilege it is to follow along, if only vicariously.

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  15. Oh my soul how divine. Hobbiton feels like an old friend. I have read the hobbit and the triology at least six times. Your pictures are so evocative. The set is lovely and the gardens simply devine. I am so very happy for you. So do tell, ale, gingerbeer or second breakfast? .

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    • Wilma, I’m glad these photos evoked so many good memories. I hope you’ll get to visit there one day. I know you won’t be disappointed. It must be fun maintaining all those gardens and props to keep the place looking authentic.

      I had a ginger beer and Mike had the ale. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, and we still had dark caves to navigate that afternoon! 😉

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  16. I loved seeing Hobbiton! My brother-in-law and nephew visited there 2 or so years ago but they brought back few pictures. You covered its magic must more thoroughly!

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  17. Yay, I’m finally seeing this post!
    You know, having read the books 6 times, I never really wanted to see the movies, but oh my goodness, Hobbiton is enchanting! So very glad you went so we might all see your photos. Your close ups of the flowers and bees are excellent.
    what fun!

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  18. Pingback: Spring Colors: Cool as a Cucumber* – Gardening Nirvana

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