Once an unassuming farm, this hillside will never be seen the same way again after being chosen to act as a set for “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films.
Even before it was retrofitted with several Hobbit Holes to play the part of Hobbiton in Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the classic Tolkien book series, this sheep farm seemed like a perfect stand-in for the famous fictional “Shire,” home of hobbits everywhere.
Indeed, its natural likeness is undoubtedly the reason Jackson and his producers chose the location—with the only other qualification being that it’s located in New Zealand, the unofficial real-life location of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
In September 1998, Sir Peter Jackson “discovered” the Alexander farm during an aerial search for suitable film sites. Site construction started in March, 1999. Filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy commenced in 1999 and lasted for three months. When the site was rebuilt for The Hobbit trilogy in 2009, these structures were built out of permanent materials.
The entire reconstruction process took two years, yet filming The Hobbit trilogy began in October 2011 and took only 12 days. At its peak, 400 people were on site, including Sir Peter Jackson, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Bilbo Baggins, and young Bilbo Baggins.
The farm is still an active sheep farm, but visitors can tour the area used for the set. Most of the Hobbit Holes are fenced off and you can’t enter them, but one is specifically designed for visitors to enter and explore. Tour guides are employed to explain where in the movies each area appears – Bag End is a highlight, along with The Green Dragon, a whimsical old-world pub. In fact, The Green Dragon is now open for business and at the end of the tour, you can have a drink there.
The set is very detailed and the hobbit holes are purposely made to look as though they have been there for years, complete with details like fake moss and many other small touches.
The tree at Bag End is a fake tree intended to preserve the area’s appearance as it was in the film, even though the one featured in The Lord of the Rings was real. The film version was actually cut down and placed there for the movie. It died by the time they decided to film The Hobbit, so a fake tree with hand-painted leaves sits in its place, an exact replica of the original.
The gorgeous location makes it easy to see why this was chosen for The Shire. The farm is in the middle of the countryside, still seemingly hidden from the modern world. A GPS is helpful in locating it since there aren’t really any signs directing you where to go.
Know Before You Go
Tours depart from 3 sites: The Shire’s Rest, Matamata i-SITE and Rotorua. The Hobbiton tour includes walking through the Party Tree, the Party Field, Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit, Bag End, the Watermill and finally finishing at The Green Dragon (a cafe), where a complimentary cider, all handcrafted and exclusive to Hobbiton Movie Set, will be served.