Matamata

 

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First-time visitors to Matamata might think that the idyllic little hamlet that stood in for the subterranean shire of Hobbiton had little to do. The movies certainly depict the place as empty of activities, save the occasional community feast and birthday party. One wonders where to even stay the night, unless one happens to know some locals with a spare room in their hobbit-hole.

Yet, Matamata is anything but boring, and only partially because of its Hollywood pedigree. Just two hours south of Auckland, the town runs a number of Rings-related tours, including some through private residences that were uses as movie locations. Take a walk through the Green Dragon Pub, the mill, the double arched bridge, and the famous Party Tree.

Still, movie tourism can only last so long. Once you’ve satisfied your Hollywood curiosity, take a walk to even bigger hobbit-holes in the form of the massive Waitomo Caves, not far from Matamata.

If down doesn’t sound enticing, then perhaps up will be more your speed. The Kaimai ranges produce updrafts that make the area ideal for gliding. Matamata is world renowned for its gliding, and scenic flights are available from a range of local tour operators. And if you don’t want to be beholden to a tour operator again, try the Middle Earth Flying School.

The town itself is home to a number of local attractions as well, such as the Firth Tower Museum, a tranquil look at a more leisurely age spread throughout 13 beautifully restored buildings. The Kaimai Cheese Café draws foodies from around the country. Local goat and cow cheeses are available in the widest varieties. Enjoy a delicious snack while watching the cheese-making process and sampling or purchasing some of the gourmet cheeses.

For more about Lord of the Rings destinations, see this story.

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