Piercing blue skies dotted with cotton candy clouds. Lush, rolling fields of green. Soft, snowball-like sheep meandering as in the green as you drive outside the city. Water of the most striking turquoise. Auckland, New Zealand is pretty much a fairytale setting without any outside help. And while the largest urban area in the country is a great getaway for city slickers who want to eat, shop and live it up, it’s also located super close to actual fairytale destinations.
Not all who wander are lost
The kind of Tolkien legend. The kind where hobbits lived, and Gandalf visited. Where human-sized pumpkins grew, and fireworks dazzled. Where magic was real, and the ale even more so. I’m talking about Hobbiton Movie Set – a significant location used for filming Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film series.
On my recent trip to New Zealand, I had the pleasure of visiting the movie set—think stopping by at Bilbo’s famed Hobbit Hole (No admittance, except on party business), spying Gandalf’s smoking pipe and retracing Frodo’s illustrious footsteps. The guided tours take you across the rolling Alexander family sheep farm and escort you through iconic filming locations – past all the Hobbit Holes, from Bilbo’s to the baker’s, through the Mill, and of course the renowned Green Dragon™ Inn where you will be presented with the ale of your tasting in a traditional cup, best enjoyed on the grass under the sparkling sun.
Into the wild
Now, you may argue that you’re not a Tolkien fan, (books or movies), or just not that ‘into movie’ sets, but what if you’re reading this – you’re most definitely a traveller, an explorer. And there’s no better way to make the most of the country’s glorious geography than to spend the day exploring the lush farm in Matamata.
Even the most cynical will agree, that once you sit in the tour bus and the haunting Lord of The Rings music starts to play – you feel goosebumps, as you give in to the magic of this movie set. From guessing what plants and trees are real, to squeezing yourself into hobbit-size holes, to letting yourself be drawn in by the guide’s graphic story telling ability – a day spent in lush pastures of The Shire takes you to a truly magical place, and time. Let your imagination go wild as you meander through the set, and stop over for a bite at The Shire, an aptly-themed restaurant.
Magic is real
Travel to me is about magic, it’s about wonder, about discovery and being literally and figuratively transported to a happy place – and when you let your inner child shine, and marvel in all the natural and man-made details of this beautifully preserved site, you will discover more about yourself than you’d think. We may all be grown-ups, but this happy land is a subtle reminder than magic is real, and all you need to do is believe in the beauty of world to see it.
Hobbiton Movie Set is in Matamata, about a 2-hour drive from Auckland. You can make bookings for the guided tour in advance, and pick up themed-memorabilia from the souvenir store on site