Hobbiton and Wellington Movie Tour
The anticipation was killing me as my tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set was definitely something I was excited about! I have watched the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films and it was one of the books I remember reading and learning about when I was at primary school. Back then we listened to a tape of the book and then we had to imagine we were Bilbo Baggins and write a journal entry of our adventures in The Hobbit. As we listened to it on the tape I imagined what the Shire would be like and being able to experience the Hobbiton Movie Set was very special to me as it took me back to when I was in Year 6 imagining and writing my own version of Bilbo’s journey but also seeing the actual movie set lived up to the visions of the imaginative 11-year old I once was.
We were picked up on the very special Hobbiton bus and were gifted a beautiful drive through the picturesque 1,250 acre Alexander sheep farm in Matamata which is in Waikato with the Kaimai Ranges providing outstanding scenic views and creating an amazing backdrop for the movie. It is not surprising that in 1998 Sir Peter Jackson and New Line chose this for the set location. New Zealand is famous for beautiful and diverse landscapes and it is also the country where Peter Jackson was born, grew up and still lives today. Construction of the site began in March 1999 involving earthmoving machinery provided by the New Zealand army, who also built a 1.5km road into the site and helped with the initial site development. Created using untreated timber, ply, and polystyrene forty-four Hobbit holes were created and the oak tree which overlooks Bag End was cut down in Matamata and transported to the movie set construction site. To create leaves for the tree artificial leaves were flown in from Taiwan and they were individually wired to the tree to create an authentic Shire tree! To create the Mill and the double arch bridge ply, polystyrene and scaffolding were used with the roofs of the Green Dragon and The Mill being cut from rushes which were found within the Alexander farm. However, in order to preserve the site for future tours and for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy the set was rebuilt, and the structures were made permanent with the artificial tree being constructed out of steel and silicon. The site reconstruction took two years from 2009. During the filming of the movies 400 people worked on the set including Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Martin Freeman (young Bilbo Baggins).
During the tour we were able to take a look at Bag End, where the adventures of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins began, visit the Green Dragon Inn (and enjoy one of their famous pints), the Mill and the Party Tree. I managed to get quite a lot of photographs and as I was with a fantastic bunch of people on my tour, we had a really good time milling around the Hobbit Holes and poorly acting out skits from the film!
Wellington Movie Tours
I was eager to explore more of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton filming locations in Wellington and after being blown away by Hobbiton I had high expectations for the Wellington Movie Tour. After a somewhat disappointing morning, where you would have to be a complete die-hard fan to enjoy some of the locations as to me I was just in a park! However, the tour did get better and even though on occasion our tour guide seemed grumpy there were also times to have fun! The Mount Victoria look out walk gave us beautiful scenic views of Wellington city and the harbour and some very enjoyable walks in the pine forests. Close to here we at the location of the ‘Get off the Road’ scene from the movie where the Hobbits hide from the Black Riders. It was here that we acted out the scene from the movie. It was a little random but was a fun element of the tour.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was the film location of Rivendell. Set in Kaitoke Regional Park, the park contains a variety of trees including beech, rimu, northern rata, hinau and kamahi giving the area the perfect backdrop for the Lord of the Rings films and making it appear magical as light filters through the ancient trees. An elvish replica archway is a fantastic feature from the films and creates a buzz and another opportunity for a photograph. I followed the signs for Rivendell and got more photographs of the sign and there is a height board which shows you how tall some of the characters are. Of course, I am not much taller than one of the Hobbits! There is also a bush walk which takes you across a swing bridge. I had been across quite a few of them in New Zealand and I still enjoy swinging on them like a kid! Some of the more famous scenes by the river were filmed here and they were scenes from the films that I actually remembered too. There was also time to dress up as an elf like Orlando Bloom and take pictures with a bow and arrow. It was definitely one of the highlights of the tour.
At the end of the tour we went to the Weta Cave which is where the magic happens. The behind the scenes tour allows you to see the designers working on a variety of amazing and creative projects on films. There are a variety of costumes, props, weapons, and creatures from a wide range of films including the Lord of the Rings, but I also could see props from King Kong and Avatar. It is also possible to purchase replicas of some of the props that are on display. I also managed to get some more photographs with some of the life size sculptures including Gandalf. The highlight for me was taking lots of photographs with the Trolls outside. They were brilliant! The work that must have gone into them must have been immense as they are very life-like! The tour of Weta Cave was probably the highlight of the day as it was interesting and informative. The Weta Workshop website also provides information about some of their projects in more depth and detail and I was particularly interested in reading about how the Weta Cave designers collaborated to create some of the costumes in Thor.
There are some great opportunities to visit film locations in Wellington and in New Zealand as a whole but read the tour outlines carefully because if you’re not a dedicated fan to some of the movies like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit they can be a little lost on you. With that said a trip to New Zealand would not be complete without a visit to Hobbiton which was one of the highlights of my tour of New Zealand.