August 4, 2015
“Do you mean to wish me a good morning or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning. Or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on?” – wise words from a wise wizard who goes by the name of Gandalf. And yes, Hobitton is real, and at the Shire, it is certainly a very good morning. Photos and text by Adele Chan. Photographed with the Leica D-Lux.
The Shire features in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film series, and is home to the fictional characters, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. For the many fans of the movies, it’s no secret that the actual location of the Shire is on a farm in a little rural town in New Zealand called Matamata. But of course Hobbiton is just a small part of Middle-eart – the setting that Tolkien’s famous stories take place – and in exploring the universe that director Peter Jackson has created based on the books, both the north and south islands of New Zealand have much to show. Follow my unexpected journey across the picturesque country; as Tolkien says in The Hobbit, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
AIR NEW ZEALAND – THE OFFICIAL AIRLINE OF MIDDLE-EARTH
For the full Hobbiton experience, fly Air New Zealand – the official airline of Middle-earth. There are direct flights daily from Singapore to Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and Wellington.
On-board the aircraft, there’s a full selection of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies, as well as documentaries about the making of the films. Also, it’s hard not to pay attention to the coolest (and what they call the most epic) safety video of all time, which is themed around Middle-earth and characters from The Hobbit film series. And yes, it stars Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson in their respective roles.
Singapore to Auckland, roundtrip from $1,189.
Singapore to Christchurch, roundtrip from $1,289.
Singapore to Queenstown, from $1,489.
HOBBITON MOVIE SET TOURS
The sprawling Alexander Farm in Matamata is the actual filming location for Hobbiton, a village in the Shire. Instead of demolishing the set after filming, Hobbiton Movie Set Tours was established to allow fans of the films to see what Hobbiton actually looks and feels like. Tour guides will recount fascinating details of how the set was created, while you resist the urge to play out iconic scenes from the films (liek when Gandalf rode in to town). The tour concludes at The Green Dragon Inn, which has been restored with an actual bar and kitchen; kick back with an apple cider or traditional English ale, or fill up on pies and stews if you’re feeling peckish. As Ori said, “Have they got any chips?”
To reach smaller cities like Matamata, you can catch the InnerCity bus from Auckland (from NZ$16 one way), which takes approximately three hours and 15 minutes each way.
The Shires Rest Tour, NZ$75.
Evening Dinner Tour, NZ$190.
The Trilogy Tour, NZ$277.
Private Tours, from NZ$450.
CAPITAL PERSONALISED TOURS
John Barry from Capital Personalised Tours will drive you around Wellington and bring you to the “Outer Shire” – the location of scenes that took place just outside of the Shire; in particular, the forested area where Frodo and friends first encountered the Nazgûl. A full day tour will also take you up North into the Hutt Valley following the River Anduin, where you can see Helms Deep and the Gardens of Isengard, with the final destination being Rivendell and the “Legoas tree”. Get your cameras ready because everyone takes a picture at the Legolas tree. Everyone.
Adult, from NZ$170 per person for half day tour / NZ$210 per person for full day tour.
WETA WORKSHOP TOURS
For the fans of the film series, it pays to visit the Weta Workshop because this is where the magic happens. Crew members give visitors a guided tour inside the work area where you can see actual props, models and costumes used in the films. Apart from The Hobbit and The Lord of the RIngs series, the Weta guys work on countless other projects including Godzilla, Tintin, Avatar and the Chronicles of Narnia – so there’s really a lot of behind-the-scenes movie trivia to take in.
Note that you can’t take any photos inside the workshop because everything is copyrighted, so keep those cameras and phone cameras away or you’ll be escorted out. Hopefully not by an Uruk-hai (of which you’ll see many inside the workshop).
If you take a package tour with John Barry (see previous page), the ticket to the Weta Workshop Tour is included, and he’ll settle all the necessary bookings for you, and even take you to the Weta Cave’s doorstep.
Free entry to the Weta Cave with video screening.
Standard Weta Workshop Tour, NZ$24
DART RIVER JET SAFARIS
If you want a closer look at the Remarkables mountain range (of course you do), then book a tour with Dart River Jet Safaris. This tour will bring you deep into the Dart River region, and drop you off at the famous Mt Aspiring National Park where you can walk among the Red Beech trees of Lothlorien and sit in a towering chair that turns you into a hobbit.
NZ$219 (adult 16+), includes pick up by bus from Queenstown centre.
Nomad Safaris will show you the parts of Middle-earth that was filmed in Queenstown (there are many!). These include filming locations for Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), the site of Isildur’s Fall, the Ford of Bruinen, Isengard, the Ithilien Camp, Lothlorien forest and the Seat of Seeing / Battle of Amon Hen.
Price: NZ$175 per person for four hours