On my last full day in New Zealand I went on the Hobbiton movie set tour. To reach Hobbiton, you first need to go through the small but prosperous rural town of Matamata.
I’ll be honest, I very nearly didn’t book the Hobbiton tour. I’m not that big a fan of the LOTR and Hobbit movies (too many fight sequences and not enough plot) and most of the tours I could find were over $150 dollers, so even though it was the first thing I thought of doing when I decided to go to New Zealand, I just wasn’t sure if it would be worth it.
The only tour company available under $100, $92 dollers in fact, was Naked bus (the Naked bus is kind of like the Mega bus in London, but they also do holiday packages) and I’ll admit at first I was really dubious about them. They had loads of bad reviews, including ones that said they just drove by passengers and left them stranded, I didn’t actually know where their bus stop was and to make the bus from central Auckland I had to be at the bus stop for 6 45am. So I very very nearly didn’t go, but then the night before I thought screw it, I’m in New Zealand and this is happening, so the next day at 6am I was stumbling outside into the still warm morning air and expecting the worst.
But y’know what? It was fine. The bus was there, the driver wasn’t overly friendly but he wasn’t nasty either, the bus had free wifi and USB ports and we left very promptly at 7am. I’m sure some people have had issues with them, but my experience was totally fine, great actually. The bus took about 3 hours each way, which may sound like a lot but I was really happy with it because I got to see a lot more of New Zealand and particularly the beautifully sleepy rural countryside.
It looked a bit like a better version of rural Scotland and Wales because not only do you have the green fields and livestock, but it’s all surrounded by massive and pointy mountains and as it was morning and it was quite foggy we drove by actual misty mountains for about two hours! New Zealand is a beautiful country and I’m really glad I got the chance to get beyond Auckland and see it properly.
I think part of the reason the Naked bus Hobbiton package was so cheap was because even though the bus left Auckland at 7am to get to Matamata at 10 30, my tour wasn’t until 2pm and so I was in Matamata for four hours. I was very tired and for the first few hours just wanted to lie in the grass and nap, but Matamata was still a nice, fairly big town, and I’m glad I had the chance to walk around and see if properly.
The bus drops you outside of the information centre which is designed as a Hobbit house, and through the town you can see how the shire has influenced the towns tourism and self image. It also had some interesting antique shops, fairly cheap coffee and the most expensive red cross shop I have ever seen. Literally, the sales items were still $100.
Matamata is also home to great walks, warm springs (about 6km away so sadly too far for me to have walked), nice parks, street art and has a lovely view of the mountains. Whenever I googled Matamata there was never much about the town itself, but it is a nice place in its own right and has more than Hobbiton to offer.
As nice as Matamata was though, I had come for Hobbiton and so after four hours of walking, buying post cards and eating toasted cheese I got on the tour bus and went to see the shire. Follow, favourite or come back soon to see what happens next.