Hobbiton is probably the most popular tourist destination in New Zealand. Those Lord of the Rings movies really made the country a must visit destination to most travelers. And understandably, the places featured in the movies became top attractions. Everyone I know who has been to New Zealand has visited the Hobbiton movie set. And even though I wasn’t particularly interested, I felt that it was one of those things that had to be done whenever you visit a certain place. Everyone else was going there, so i might as well go with the flow. It’s like riding a gondola in Venice. Or volcano boarding in Nicaragua. Or visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I wasn’t too keen on doing those activities or visiting those attractions, but skipping such activities and places would make one’s travel experience seem incomplete.
Official tours that take you directly to Hobbiton are offered in Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua. I heard the tour from Auckland is the most popular one. It’s not surprising since most tourists arrive in Auckland. If you’re heading elsewhere in the country, I suggest passing by Rotorua and just do the tour from there. From Auckland, it takes more or less 3 hours to get to Hobbiton. From Rototua, it takes less than an hour. From Hamilton it takes a little over an hour. Since the trip from Rotorua is the shortest, it’s also the cheapest at NZD 114. Some hostels offer discounts though so it’s not always cheapest if you buy directly at the Hobbiton Store. Alternatively if you have your own car you can just drive directly to Hobbiton, and a ticket costs NZD 79. If you do this you’ll be missing out on some stuff though. Booking a tour from Rotorua includes a round trip transfer by bus and it comes with a tour guide since the bus driver also serves as one. He tells a lot of stuff that fans of the movies would really find interesting.
There are two buses leaving daily from the Hobbiton Store in the Rotorua city center, one at 8:20 AM and another one at 1:20 PM. I am not a morning person so there was only one option for me lol. As I’ve said the trip takes less than an hour and it was pleasant. You also get to pass through some beautiful scenery. The bus driver was quite funny too, if a little too enthusiastic. I guess he really loves his job. Once the bus arrives in Hobbiton, a tour guide would gather everyone by the entrance. I saw that there were a lot of groups clustered outside, and I had a feeling that the place was gonna be really crowded. Thankfully they spaced each group enough so we barely shared one hobbit home with another group. As expected, there’s quite a line for those houses where you can go inside and take pictures. It would have helped if there were more houses like that. Most of the hobbit homes weren’t real houses. they were just facades with nothing inside. You can only go inside 2 hobbit houses which explains the sheer volume of people waiting for their turn. Don’t expect fully furnished hobbit houses when you go inside though. There’s practically nothing inside those houses. All throughout the tour the guide would share bits of trivia about the Hobbiton movie set and the Lord of the Rings movies in general. After a while though the whole experience became monotonous and the hobbit houses started to look similar to each other. I was hoping we’d hurry up and finish the tour of the Shire.
After the tour, there’s a nice surprise. You’ll stop by the Green Dragon Inn for about 20-30 minutes and they’ll give everyone free beer! A couple of folks who didn’t drink beer declined which was good for me. One lady gave me her beer and it was delicious lol.
My visit to Hobbiton was quite enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to everyone. I liked the movies, but I can’t call myself a fan. This could explain why i thought it all became monotonous and I got bored halfway through. I’d recommend it to fans though. In my group there were a couple of die hard fans and it seemed like they were having the time of their lives. Some were saying the scenery makes it all worth it in case you’re not interested in seeing the Shire. I would agree that the scenery is great but if you’re heading elsewhere in New Zealand, I wouldn’t take a tour to Hobbiton just for that. In terms of scenery and natural beauty, the country has so much more to offer. These are just things you should consider before deciding on going on this tour. After all NZD 114 isn’t exactly cheap (that’s about USD 85). That’s quite a hefty price to pay for something you’d do just for the heck of it.