More Than Just a Hole in the Ground

New Zealand

Why visiting the world's most famous movie set is a must.

More Than Just a Hole in the Ground

By Stefan Roesch

Hobbiton has become one of New Zealand's most popular tourist attractions, receiving over 300,000 visitors a year. Visiting the film set is now a must-do when travelling through the country - even for people who are not necessarily into Middle Earth. And here is why:

It's the real thing.

Unlike the movie parks in the US, Hobbiton is a film set in the true sense of the word. You literally step into a fantasy world. All that's missing are the hobbits.

The set has 44 hobbit holes. 

The set has 44 hobbit holes. 

Hobbit holes across the movie set are 100% scale, 90% scale and 60% scale, which is more about mathematics than movie magic - it helps make the actors appear the size of their characters.

Stefan at 100% scale.

Stefan at 100% scale.

Samweis Gamgee's home with its yellow door is the very last thing we see at the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Samweis Gamgee's home with its yellow door is the very last thing we see at the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Even as a non-fan, once you are standing in front of Frodo and Bilbo's hobbit hole, the general excitement infects everyone.

Bag End in winter. Check out that pumpkin!

Bag End in winter. Check out that pumpkin!

You can feel the passion behind it.

When you talk to Hobbiton's general manager Russell Alexander - whose family also owns the land in and around the film set - you realise that this business is driven by a large degree of passion. This starts with how staff is recruited. According to Russell: "The number one thing we’re looking for when employing people is passion." During the main summer season, up to 330 staff work for Hobbiton Movie Tours.

Russell Alexander behind the bar at Hobbiton's pub The Green Dragon.

Russell Alexander behind the bar at Hobbiton's pub The Green Dragon.

This is particularly valid for the guides: Should you be keen to work here, Russell says you need to be "confident directing and speaking in front of large groups of people from different nationalities, have a bright and bubbly personality and have good knowledge of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films."

I can only speak about my own visit, but our guide Sonny was the most hilarious, funny and enthusiastic guy. I especially loved his super-speedy way of reciting the names of the thirteen dwarfes in The Hobbit. Here we go: Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and Thorin!

Sonny cracking one of this jokes.

Sonny cracking one of this jokes.

The attention to detail is mindblowing.

From the washing flapping in the wind to the purpose-designed beer mugs in the Green Dragon pub, authenticity is king in Hobbiton.

Upon your arrival, you are greeted by this signpost that instantly immerses you into the fantasy world of Middle Earth.

Upon your arrival, you are greeted by this signpost that instantly immerses you into the fantasy world of Middle Earth.

The tree above Bag End has 376,000 artificial oak leaves wired to it.

The tree above Bag End has 376,000 artificial oak leaves wired to it.

The community board outside the water mill.

The community board outside the water mill.

It has a working pub.

The guided tour ends at The Green Dragon, the Shire's legendary drinking hole. You can choose between the Girdley Fine Grain Amber Ale, the Sackville Apple Cider, an Oatbarton Traditional English Ale or the Frogmorton Ginger Beer.

The complimentary pint of ale comes in purpose-designed authentic mugs. I've heard that by the end of the day, the number of mugs unaccounted for is quite significant...

The complimentary pint of ale comes in purpose-designed authentic mugs. I've heard that by the end of the day, the number of mugs unaccounted for is quite significant...

Hobbiton by night is magical.

Yes, Hobbiton can be extremely busy during the day. However, if you opt for the evening banquet tour, the crowds are pretty much gone and you get to spend a lot more time on set (3 hours versus 1.5 hours). Let's not forget the awesome atmosphere in the pub, the good food and the beautifully lit film set. Magical!

 Thanks to Hobbiton for hosting us on the evening banquet tour, which we loved!

 

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