Matamata is a town in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island, about 2 hours south east of Auckland and is well known for its thoroughbred industry, dairy farming heritage, and historic Firth Tower Museum. Centrally situated, Matamata offers a range of walking and tramping options, golf courses, and an extensive selection of Cafés, and Accommodation options.
However, since the launch of the Lord of the Rings movies (in 1999) and the subsequent opening of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, Matamata has become a vibrant visitor destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. This was the reason for my trip to Matamata.
Driving around the country side in this part of New Zealand, you really do get a sense of The Shire that JRR Tolkien imagined in his books. It is very clear why Peter Jackson chose this location. You can only visit the Hobbiton Movie Set by a guided tour, and while I normally don’t like guided tours, our guide Beth was full of infectious enthusiasm for the books and films that it was impossible not to get swept up in the magic of it all. Beth recounted stories from the filming of the movies as well as recounting some of the scenes herself, while standing on the appropriate place where it was filmed.
There are over 40 hobbit holes to visit, including the famous Bag End – home to both Bilbo & Frodo Baggins. The tour winds its way through the film set and concludes at the Green Dragon watering hole where you can enjoy one of the local brews. I would recommend the cider, especially if the day is hot. Whether you are a Tolkien fan or not, a visit to Hobbiton is a must.
Before calling into Hobbiton, definitely book in advance, call in to Matamata town for lunch and to walk along the main street. Also, visit the visitors centre (a relic of Hobbiton) and wet your appetite for all things Tolkien.
Situated close to Rotorua, only 80kms away, these two combined make a great long weekend destination. I would recommend combining Rotorua, Hobbiton with Taupo. There is plenty of accommodation options in all these places to chose from.