Today we visited Hobbiton, something that I have been looking forward to since before I arrived in New Zealand. It was absolutely amazing. The site had been built for the Lord of the Rings movies and then had been nearly deconstructed after the movies. However, a few hobbit holes had remained due to flooding. The owners of the land had the idea that they could be used as a tourist attraction. When they were approached a second time, about filming The Hobbit movies, they decided to make it a stipulation of the contract that the rebuilding of the Shire had to be done with permanent materials so they could open Hobbiton for tourism. Visits to Hobbiton have skyrocked in recent years. It’s easy to understand why when you arrive there. The landscape is beautiful, even without the significance for Tolkien fans.
Our tour guide was a local, Ethan, who had grown up in the area. He was a wealth of information about specific scenes from the movie and facts about filming. Apparently, among visitors to the park, nearly 1/3 have never read the books or seen any of the movies. We were driven out to the set from a cafe known as Shire’s Rest.
From the road you can’t see any of the set. You walk down a path to get into it and it feels like walking into a different world.
There are hobbit holes lining the paths. The detail is absolutely astounding. There are signs on the paths, clothes hanging from the lines, and the plants are all regularly tended and live. (I apologize in advance for the absurd number of pictures. To be honest, I barely posted a fraction of the ones that I took.) The holes, while ornamented on the outside, are not real on the inside. They are open a couple of meters, but there isn’t any decoration on the inside. The inside was filmed on sets in Wellington.
(The tree in the picture above of Bag End is actually artificial. It is made of steel, silicon and foam. The strong silk leaves were imported from Taiwan. There were 400,000 leaves on the tree for the filming and they were hand attached. There are now about 200,000, minus the two that Ethan gave to Lindsay and I.)
I learned many interesting facts about the films during the tour. In order to be a hobbit extra, a person must be under 5′ 4″. The scene with Bilbo’s 111th birthday actually did utilize real beer. It was known as Sobering Thought and it was brewed specifically for the movie. The brewers made it 1% alcohol so that the actors wouldn’t become too intoxicated during filming. When Gandalf goes to Bag End in the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, he hits his head off a rafter after he runs into a chandelier; that event was not actually in the script. In one of the final scenes of Return of the King, the little girl that runs toward Sam when he comes home to his wife and family is actually his daughter in real life. Also, the baby that is in Rosie’s arms is actually her baby.
After we toured through the residential part of Hobbiton, we headed over to the Green Dragon, where the tour provided us with a beer. The bar looked amazing. They had done such intricate work on it.
After our break at the Green Dragon, we headed back to the Shire’s Rest. The tour was amazing, definitely a must-see for any LoTR lover.
We had a little coffee break at the cafe (as always) and headed on our way to the Coromandel.
On our way, we stopped in Tauranga, a beautiful seaside city (I could see myself living here) to visit the Isite. We also ended up getting a snack; Lindsay tried sushi for the first time and she loved it!
We had planned to spend at least one night at the Coromandel, but we ended up arriving much earlier than we expected. Driving in New Zealand is hard to predict. The roads are very curvy so it takes longer, but the distances are much shorter in the States. We made great time and arrived at Hot Water Beach at exactly low tide, something we couldn’t have hoped for!
Hot Water Beach is known for the hot water that is near to the surface of the beach. During low tide, visitors dig holes which fill with hot water. People treat them like hot tubs and relax in their holes. It is pretty amazing to see, although I wasn’t interested in sharing a hole with a bunch of strangers.
After, we saw the steaming water we decided to head toward another nearby natural attraction, Cathedral Cove. It was only a 20 minute drive to get to the carpark. Then it was an additional 30 minute hike in to Cathedral Cove. We were a bit tired at this point, but when we got down to the beach we knew that we had made the right decision. The view was amazing. It was a completely unique natural formation.
We hiked back out and decided that we weren’t tired, so we drove all the way from the Coromandel to Auckland. We arrived at Auckland in time to visit our favorite burger place, Burgerfuel, right before they closed. After our delicious dinner, we drove out to Whatipu for the night at a campground.