One of my all time favorite books is "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though not usually a reader of fantasy novels, something about Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Gandalf and The Shire always intrigued me. Seeing how popular both "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogies have been, I'm not alone in favoring these stories.
Ever since the first "The Lord of the Rings" movie was released in 2001, New Zealand has been known as the 'Home of Middle-earth'. Both trilogies were filmed all throughout the North and South islands. Hobbiton, the village in the Shire where Bilbo, his nephew Frodo and others lived, was built in the Hamilton-Waikato region, located a few hours south of Auckland.
Hobbiton is now a major attraction, especially for fans of the Hobbit trilogy, offering an insider's view of where the entire story began to take shape. Your guided tour starts with a drive through the
Hobbiton photos courtesy of New Zealand Tourism . Taken by Ian Brodie.
picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. You can listen to the tales on how Hobbiton began, look at Bag End where Frodo and Bilbo’s adventures began and lose yourself among the 44 hobbit holes that have been re-built exactly as how they were on film. End your experience with a visit to the Good George Brewery or the Green Dragon Inn where you can enjoy a pint or two. Better yet, stay for dinner and enjoy a generous feast.
What makes this experience so special is just how real it looks and "feels". One can easily imagine a hobbit walking out one of the holes or Gandalf standing on the path, waiting to talk to Bilbo.
Other Highlights of the Hamilton - Waikato Region
Photos courtesy of New Zealand Tourism. Taken in Waikato Caves.
The Hamilton - Waikato area offers a number of other exceptional experiences in addition to visiting Hobbiton. If you are fascinated by the earth below you, head over to the Waitomo Caves. You can walk through the caves and take a boat ride under the millions of twinkling glow worms. Adventurists and adrenaline junkies can try the signature experience of black water rafting. Don on a caver's helmet and a thick full body wet suit, descend into the caves and tube under the glow worms for an unforgettable experience. Of special note, the sound for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was recorded in the Waitomo caves for their acoustic qualities.
More interested in above ground sites? The Maungatautiti Ecological Reserve allows you to get close to native birds including the Kiwi, and the Hamilton Gardens showcases impressive horticulture talent.
Don't miss the beautiful west coast beaches of Raglan and Kawhia, great for surfing.
The Hamilton - Waikato region is just one of many to experience in New Zealand. It is an easy drive from Auckland and a beautiful area to explore, whether you are there as a Tolkien fan or simply wanting to enjoy the many sites of the region.