If there is one thing that put New Zealand on the map, it is the Lord of the Rings trilogies. Needless to say, it is nearly impossible to travel throughout New Zealand and not run into Lord of the Rings memorabilia. Plus, it is a shame if you visit the country and fail to admire the stunning filming locations and explore a bit of Middle Earth yourself.
New Zealand’s North and South Islands are home to most Lord of the Rings’s filming locations. While travelling the North Island, I found myself amidst Middle Earth, trekking across Mordor, climbing to the summit of Mount Doom, exploring the rolling hills of the shire, and enjoying a cold brew at the Green Dragon Inn.
Hobbiton was my first exposure to LOTR in New Zealand. The shire is a stunning 1,250 acre sheep farm in Waikato owned by the Alexander family. As the story is told, Sir Peter Jackson began his aerial search for the perfect filming location of the shire and found the Alexander farm soon after. It was obvious that the lush, rolling hills of the Alexander farm would be the perfect rendition of the shire described in J.R.R Tolkien’s novels.
With the help of the New Zealand Army and strict security and secrecy measures, Sir Peter Jackson began the set creation of Hobbiton and the shire in 1999. It was not until 2009, when Sir Peter Jackson returned to the Alexander farm to film the Hobbit Trilogy that it was decided to make the shire a permanent movie set and tourist attraction. Now, there are 44 permanent, reconstructed hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, and much more. Today, the shire set is also a fully-functional farm, where crops are grown and harvested year round.
Exploring the shire and Hobbiton was one of the highlights of my trip. The amount of work and detail that went into the creation of Hobbiton and the Shire is of unprecedented scale. With a little movie magic, you feel like you transported right into Middle Earth.
A visit to the shire and the home of Bilbo Baggins is not complete without a journey through Mordor and up to Mount Doom. The Tongariro Crossing is one of the worlds most renown day hikes and is more famously known as Mordor to LOTR fans. Stay tuned for my next post on my 16 hour hike through alpine terrain in the Tongariro Crossing.