When I had the opportunity to visit Hobbiton, the set where the Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, I jumped at the chance! Check out my favorite things about that amazing experience.
10. Operating Farm
Hobbiton is located on an operating farm. No joke! As you drive from the check-in facility to the Shire, you see farm land and farm animals. All very real. And very cool.
In 1998, location scouts for Peter Jackson took an aerial tour of New Zealand looking for a tall tree near a perfect pond for Bilbo’s birthday party. What they got from The Alexander Farm was so much more. What was just going to be a potential location of a birthday party ended up the backdrop for more of the Shire, including my next favorite part.
9. So Many Sheep
When driving from check-in to the Shire, you pass by so many sheep. Not surprising, since this is an operating farm. The Shire needed sheep and The Alexander Farm had plenty, thousand and thousands of them.
Unfortunately, Peter Jackson thought these over 10,000 available sheep looked too “modern”, so he brought in Suffolk sheep. He preferred their dark faces and legs.
Look through photos of the Shire and you will be so impressed with all of the stunning flowers. Most of the greenery you see at Hobbiton is very much real. And the photos don’t do the landscaping justice. It’s all so lush and perfectly maintained.
Hobbiton employs 7-8 full time gardeners during peak tourism time to keep the Shire looking this bright and green all year long. There are approximately 1.5 miles of hedges and 30 – 200 plants around each hobbit house (of which there are 44).
7. Plum Trees
Speaking of gardeners, as well as real and not real, remember the plum trees mentioned in the books (albeit barely in the movies)? For the movies, they planted plum trees in the Shire just as the books described. Unfortunately, as they kept growing, it became evident that they would be way too tall for the hobbits. The children would never be able to pluck fruit off of them.
So what do Peter Jackson and co. do to fix this? Planted pear and apple trees and then when it was time to film, the crew removed all the pears and apples and attached fake plums. Real talk, do you remember seeing plum trees in the movies?
6. Bag End
Remember how I said most of the greenery you see at Hobbiton is real? Who else wishes they lived at Bag End with its impressive oak tree that looks as big and wide as the hobbit hole beneath it? Are you surprised to hear that this one of a kind, stunning oak tree is completely fake?
Peter Jackson has a specific look in mind for Bag End’s oak tree and that meant building this massive prop that is still here at Hobbiton today. Part of the process for creating this prop required flying in 376,000 artificial silk leaves from Taiwan and attaching them all by hand. And when the sun caused the leaves to fade? The crew had to go back and hand paint each leaf back to the proper color.
5. The Green Dragon Inn
Who recognizes this fine establishment? In 2012, Hobbiton added The Green Dragon Inn to their tour experience. While the outside is impressive all on its own, the inside does not disappoint. It’s an actual functioning food and drink establishment. Once inside, they have a number of snacks for you to purchase, especially if you’re hungry after hiking around the hobbit holes.
You even get a drink as part of your tour once you enter the Inn. Choose from an amber ale, apple cider, stout or non-alcoholic ginger beer. My kiddo asked for hobbit milk and they obliged.
And the details are amazing. They had a fireplace there, a harp to play. I opted to sit at a table with my cider in hand and look as menacing as possible. Viggo, eat your heart out.
During specific times of the year, you may notice pumpkins around the shire. The amazing gardeners we talked about earlier have a pumpkin growing competition each year and it’s honestly one of the most wholesome things ever.
We saw pumpkins all over the Shire while we were there in March. We even saw pumpkins hiding under roofs, too.
3. Bilbo’s Birthday
Recognize this huge tree? As I mentioned earlier, that large tree was one of the original reasons the location scouts were interested in this farm. Hobbiton still has this epic tree here for your viewing pleasure. But that’s not it. They have the whole field where the party for Bilbo was hosted available for you to walk through and take photos.
My favorite part, though? The working see saw.
2. The Details
If you explore all 44 hobbit holes, you’ll see so many amazing details. Remember those gardeners? They spend a lot of time tending to the plants all around each hobbit hole. And man, does it show! Each hobbit hole is designed with the personality of the occupants in mind. All the way down to the plants. For instance, the beekeeper has flowers planted around their house that are known to attract bees!
It’s also interactive. A lot of items are bolted down for obvious reasons. There are also really cute hobbit photo opportunities. In this picture, the bread shown is totally made of concrete and bolted down. That being said, the gardeners have added fresh rosemary to this scene that is very real and very much not bolted down.
If you look at the hobbit windows, not only will you see awesome details in them, but you will also notice they are painted to coordinate with the door of their hobbit hole. So, green trim window? That belongs to the hobbit hole with the green door. So. Many. Details.
They also had a little fishing spot that my kid enjoyed interacting with, as well. I could go on and on about the details, but I know you are ready for my final favorite thing about Hobbiton.
1. Alexander Farm
Ian Alexander, owner of the Alexander Farm, didn’t know of Peter Jackson or The Lord of the Rings when the location scouts came knocking on his door. The scouts also made the mistake of coming during the family’s ritual, watching a rugby game together. Everyone had to finish watching the match before entertaining the scout’s request to get a better look at the farm.
This is likely part of the reason the first Shire was almost completely torn down after the first trilogy. Alexander’s first contract required them to take down all the set dressings and return the farm to its previous conditions.
Word got out about the farm being used as a filming location, though, and with the films being a hit, tourists clamored to visit the farm. With some bare plywood hobbit hole facades left after the original demolition, tours began in 2002. When Peter Jackson came back in 2009 for the Hobbit trilogy, the Shire was fully built once more. Except this time? Permanent structures were built. And Hobbiton as we know it today was born.
And there you have it! My 10 favorite things about Hobbiton. Hope you enjoy getting to explore Hobbiton with me. Have your own 10 favorite things? Leave a comment below.