Many may believe that The Hobbit is set in the fictional land of Middle Earth, but it was filmed right here on our Earth, more specifically, in New Zealand. Author J.R.R. Tolkien was very vivid in the way he described landscapes, so when it came time to take his most famous book to the big screen, there was no place more mythical than the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand. Not only has New Zealand fully accepted Hobbit tourism from the movies, but it has embraced it. So where can visitors find the finest Hobbit attractions while in New Zealand?
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In Matamata, located just a few kilometres from Auckland City on the North Island, visitors can literally step into the town of Hobbiton and the Shire just as it is seen in the movies. Nestled within the rolling green pastures are more than 40 hobbit holes, including Bilbo and Frodo's home, the mill and the Green Dragon Inn, where visitors can actually drink some ale and eat a fantastic beef and ale pie. Visitors can tour this lovely slice of green paradise on their own or take the guided tours that go inside the houses and provide detailed information about the hobbits of Middle Earth, including how the movies were filmed and the special effects used to make the hobbit actors look small enough to fit the part. Visitors should be sure to stop at The Shire Store to pick up some hobbit-themed memorabilia, including cloaks, wool clothes, maps and more. This is easily the most popular hobbit attraction in New Zealand, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Creativecommons.org/ Sid Mosdell
The Pelorus River in Marlborough on the South Island served for the perfect location for the dwarves of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug to make their grand escape by floating down it in barrels. Peter Jackson visited the spot as a child and knew even then it had beautiful potential for a cinematic scene. Even the actors that portrayed the dwarves stated that they loved the days of filming at this particular location. The Pelorus River is a hot spot for kayaking. There are a number of tour outfitters that take visitors past roaring waterfalls, bubbling streams that feed the river and they will even navigate to the exact spot where the dwarves floated down the river. Visitors should be sure to visit the other amazing attractions in the area, including the narrow swinging bridge built in the 1950s and the pristine rock pool and hike up to the 414-metre peak that overlooks the river.
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Queenstown not only serves as the country's play place, but the surrounding area also served as the backdrop to many magical scenes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The massive rock faces at Earnslaw Burns with its stunning glacier-fed waterfalls, which served as background for Bilbo and his rag-tag company after they left Rivendell. Here visitors can have a quest of their own on the Earnslaw Burn Track, a challenging four-hour hike that provides stunning views of the waterfalls, the glaciers and the valleys that they overlook. Just a few kilometres away in Glenorchy sit the ranges that comprised Lothlorien, the Ford of Bruinen and Gladden Fields that were set as the surroundings for Arrowtown. For visitors that don't feel like walking these magical areas, Queenstown is a hotspot for helicopter tours – there are even a few that are specifically Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit themed to assure that visitors never miss a sight they want to see.
Creativecommons.org/ Jeff Hitchcock
Among the rocky slopes and grassy mounds of Turoa in the Ruapehu region is where Peter Jackson filmed the entrance to the Lonely Mountain. Hobbit fans who also happen to be cyclists will love this region. The Ruapehu region is also home to the Tongariro World Heritage Park and its three giant volcanoes. Around the rolling mountains weave a number of challenging, but highly rewarding cycling trails. Two New Zealand Cycle Trail networks run through the area. Both make their way from mountains down to the sea and provide tough uphills and long downhills as well. For hikers, the Tongariro Crossing Trail takes in meadows, craters, lakes and volcanic rock in just over two hours. It is considered to be one of the top day hikes in the world. While this area may be famous as a Hobbit site, it didn't need to be seen in a movie to be a spectacular area to explore.
In the remote farming area in Paradise Valley lies Arcadia Station, which was used as the setting for Beorn's grand home and fortress, which Peter Jackson spent six weeks building. Arcadia Station is a privately owned high country farm, so visitors will need permission to visit, but the owner's are more than welcoming. Although, getting to Arcadia Station requires quite the trek, but the scenery is more than rewarding. Arcadia Station overlooks both Diamond Lake and mountain peaks, including views of Mount Earnslaw. This area is considered the gateway to paradise and while much of the property is privately owned farms much like Arcadia Station there are plenty of areas ripe for exploring along trails or horseback.