In the spring of 2016, Henderson Productions took an extended do-it-yourself driving tour of New Zealand.   We’re excerpting portions of our trip in this blog including the enchanting land of the Hobbits beginning with    

Idyllic Hobbiton outside of Matamora, New Zealand

The fog began to burn off as we traveled north and west out of Rotorua through rolling hills of green, green, green.    Still not as many sheep as we might have expected but we have NEVER seen that sort of green before – and we thought the South Island was green!

Patchwork pretty, right into the little town of Matamata with its thatched roof info center and pickup location for visits to the Hobbiton set.    It’s a pricey ticket at $75 but……if you traveled halfway around the world to Orlando or LA and didn’t go to Disney, you’d kick yourself.

As a matter of fact, the metaphor is apt.    Peter Jackson and Walt Disney have a lot in common:  they both refused to let go of their fantasy views; built an empire from a simple story; directly credited with major league economic impact; built a place suitable and charming for all ages; never scrimped on attention to detail and controlling the “experience”; capitalized on all levels of merchandising, etc; gave back in areas that mean something to them; and have significant detractors.   

Hobbiton is charming.   And quaint.    And beyond picturesque.    Guided tours keep you both on track and schedule while filling with packaged tidbits about what scene shows this in the movie or where did Sir Jackson stay while filming or introducing you to the actual props master who built the whole place and is still working there, etc.   Practiced patter keeps the info casual yet entertaining and no one even bothers to put out any negative.    Fully one third admit to not having seen the movies (I am one – only caught tidbits when it’s on in the background) but over 700.000 visited last year.   Calculators out?

It’s a set builder’s fantasy for sure – no detail left unturned.   Apparently, the NZ Army was brought in to literally move earth and help build the area.   No mention of whether they were reimbursed or not but the family farm (of 12,500 acres – not a little one) has clearly reaped the benefit.    It’s not clear who’s getting the net from the whole operation – mention was often made of “Warner Brothers asks that you not touch the sets in any way” and “While Ian Alexander (the farm owner) has retired, his 2 sons run the farm and the tourism operation” and “Sir Jackson visits periodically to check in on his creation”.    Maybe a three-way split?

Looking toward the Green Dragon on the other side of the lake

In any case, your three-hour visit includes a half hour stop at the Green Dragon Inn for a potent concoction of your choosing and a 15-minute souvenir stop with all things Hobbit ranging from multi-thousand dollar jewelry and statuary to Hobbit national postage stamps and breath mints.    All set in photogenic thatched roof cottages nestled in rolling, working farmland dotted with thirteen thousand sheep.

We loved it.    Plenty to see and marvel at.

What’s your experience in New Zealand?   We’d love to hear your thoughts about Hobbiton and suggestions on Facebook at “suehendersonphotography