Day 2: Hobbiton

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 2: Hobbiton

After a busy day yesterday, and a delicious meal at Copia restaurant in Ōrākei, we were definitely ready for a good rest. If you’re in the area and looking for a nice place to eat with a great casual atmosphere, the food there was totally burp-worthy. Yes, I just made that term up. We let the chef decide what we’d eat and were treated to a series of platters including soda bread, a smoked goat’s cheese roll with beetroot, monk fish, roasted carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, and roast beef with spinach. Not being a food writer, the best superlatives I can find are yum, wow, yummy and phoar, that’s so nice. But really, it was delicious. Dessert was out of this world, too. Chris and I each had the Pistachio & Feijoa dessert, which had a pistachio financier, apple compote, feijoa ice cream, custard mousse. Everyone from New Zealand LOVES feijoa, and I can see why, with it’s light aromatic flavour, a bit like a cross between a quince and a kiwi fruit. The view from the restaurant was pretty special, too, looking across the water to the city, the Sky Tower glowing white in the distance.

We had reasonably early start to the day, but were able to fit in a chat and a cuppa with our hosts before hitting the road. Our first stop was the Red Shed Palazzo in Auckland where I had the savoury Belgian waffles and two mugs of coffee. The coffee was supreme, and I felt pretty tired after blogging until the wee hours this morning, so felt like an extra caffeine hit. We had the company of Vanessa and Reniza over breakfast in what is a cute little café on the edge of Auckland. Then it was time to say goodbye and hit the road to Hobbiton.


The freeway conditions are easy all the way to Matamata. Flax is dotted around the fields and along the edge of the highway, with green the suburban landscape soon thinning away and opening into lush green paddocks and equally lush green jagged hills. Every now and then, reminders we are on Māori land as Pouwhenua, which are much like totem poles, and other sculptures marking and celebrating Māori culture rose from the distance to greet us. I only had to do one u-turn because I missed a merge for the freeway, but our Google guide got us back on track pretty quickly. Before long we were turning off onto Buckland’s Road, and out of the two options to enter, I’m glad the GPS took us along the longer, scenic route. Rolling green hills, home to some pretty happy looking cows and sheep with lots of twists and turns to reveal the next grassy knoll bought us to the Alexander family farm, which is the location of Shire’s Rest, Hobbiton: gateway to the movie set for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. A quick wander through the gift shop because, why not, a photo each with Gandalf the Grey and it was time to hop on board the tour bus.

Tucked away in the undulating landscape is where Peter Jackson decided Tolkien’s fictional landscape could come to life, and walking through the landscape the film crew have created was really like stepping right into the magical fantasy world. The dirt pathways lined with dry small stone walls led to masses of Hobbit holes built into the side of the hills. Fenced yards and gardens, clothes lines with Hobbit-wear strung out to dry and flowers in bloom everywhere you look is such a great escape as the tour guide shares anecdotes of the film’s production, linking each part of the set back to where it was featured in the film. Most of us failed the movie quiz along the way, although I did confidently shout out the birthday celebration was in honour of Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday, so we were all encouraged to come back next year when the newest attraction on set will be finished, which is a recreation of Bagshot Row where you will be able to enter Sam Gamgee’s home.

Everywhere you turn there’s something fun to see. The mill and the little stone bridge that leads across to The Green Dragon, where you can enjoy an ale, stout or ginger beer in the warmth of the open fires. How cool to wander around the inn and plonk down on the seats, looking out the round windows into Hobbiton’s landscape. What I really love about this set is that it’s a living, breathing space, with crickets chirping from the greenery and monarch butterflies fluttering around, landing on the colourful blooms and rising gently in the breeze to their next landing.

Some of the plant life is manufactured, as you’d expect, with the tree on top of Bag End, a beautifully shaped oak tree being one of them. The tree from the original film was recreated from a tree that had been felled around the time of the film’s making (not felled for the film, but repurposed for the set). The trunk was placed onto a support pole and several thousand synthetic leaves were stuck onto the branches. After filming, the tree was chopped up and used as firewood. Most of the set was discarded, having only been made from plywood and Styrofoam, which is common for movie sets. It wasn’t until fans showed great interest in visiting the film set the property owners and film makers decided to reconstruct Hobbiton, in preparation for filming The Hobbit, but this time built as a permanent fixture. Bilbo’s oak tree had to be re-created, thirty years younger than its former self, so was recreated out of latex… several thousand synthetic leaves attached ready for filming. Final checks by Mr Jackson discovered the leaves had faded. Sad face. Especially for the artists who had to hop on board the cherry pickers and hand paint every single leaf again. Little wonder they use different leaves now and just pop new ones on when the old ones are a bit past it.

After our little adventure in Hobbiton, we were back on the road, headed for Rotorua, where Chris was born. The next few days are going to be pretty busy with lots to see and do here, but first things first: some time in the mineral spa pool to rejuvenate.

Tomorrow we're getting about Rotorua!

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