Having been to the land of Middle Earth twice before, I had set out a third time, and this time with an absolute must-do that I had missed out on twice before: the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata. It's easy to integrate into anyone's North Island itinerary as it is only a short and lovely drive away from rural Matamata, that prides itself with an iSite (tourist visitor centre) that looks like a Hobbit hole!
The tour leaves from Matamata or Rotorua, and can be booked via the iSites or directly through the tour company. The bus ride is just 20 mins from Matamata and leads through lots of rolling green hills of farmland, until visitors arrive at the farm where the set is left just as it looked like in the LOTR films and more recently the Hobbit films. Cute little furry sheep greet on arrival, and a small path leads through the trees and past funnily-shaped hedges onto the first Hobbit hole.
I remember the moment I first laid eyes on that one Hobbit home. It was like a dream come true, a vision from my imagination materialising in front of me in the warming sun of the Shire... well, the North Island. But still, I must have taken 40 pictures of that house alone, when in fact our wonderful tour guide reminded all of us that there were over 40 Hobbit homes and we had time to photograph each and every one of them if we so desired!
The Hobbiton movie set tour was definitely a highlight of my last trip. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone, and LOTR fans will feel particularly at home. It really feels and looks like a living Hobbit village.
For more details on the tour and plenty of photos, visit my blog Sandal Road.