After spending a little over a week on the South Island of New Zealand, we flew up to Auckland. We arrived after the devastating floods that closed the airport and caused a lot of damage throughout the city. We stayed in a central area and Brennan took advantage of this by doing some running through the parks. Auckland is much hillier than I was expecting, so I was extra impressed by his dedication to running!
The only major thing we planned in Auckland was a guided trip to Hobbiton and the glow worm caves at Waitomo. We boarded the bus at 7AM and rode for about two hours until we arrived at the visitor's center of Hobbiton. We had a few minutes to walk around, which was good because I was very car sick after the winding roads. Brennan got some coffee to wake up a bit after his nap on the way there and we were ready to see Hobbiton!
Everyone who visits on their own boards these green tour buses to be driven into the set, but our guide boarded our charter bus instead.
I have never seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies. But, I was interested to see what the excitement was about, since it seems that everyone who goes to New Zealand visits this site.
The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here and the entire set was taken apart, only to be rebuilt (and expanded!) when they decided to film the Hobbit trilogy. Peter Jackson, the director, was very specific about the site and the creation of this set was done in partnership with the family who owned the land previous to the set being created. That family still has sheep that graze on the land around the set and we passed a ton of them as we drove down to the entrance.
We got off the bus, walked down a path, and were greeted by an expertly manicured area of land. In every direction, there were hobbit holes, flower gardens, small tables, and paths leading through the whole thing. It really looked like a magical village. Our guide walked with us throughout the whole movie set and told us about what was filmed at each location. Something that I found particularly interesting was that each door was sized differently, depending on if a hobbit, wizard, or human was going to be by it. This forced perspective helped differentiate the characters.
In addition to different size hobbit holes, the gardens were also all created with beautiful plants and flowers. There are some gardens that produce vegetables, which the gardeners take home with them! The smoke you can see in the background, above the red hobbit hole, is real and is made by burning wood all day. There was a real emphasis on making everything authentic and realistic, even though this is a fantastical land.
This is from the top of the hill, looking down at the rest of the set.
Most of the hobbit holes are empty or used for storage, like a gardening shed. Everything they shot as an inside scene for the movie was done at a separate location.
The guide told us that Peter Jackson wanted it to look as realistic as possible, so before they began filming, several people would walk up and down this hill to hang these clothes up and create the foot path through the grass.
This tree is completely fake. You would never know it by looking at it. It was created with thousands of leaves and constructed and installed for the movie set, to match a tree that used to be there when the first set of movies were filmed. However, when Peter Jackson got to set, he said the color of the leaves was the wrong shade of green, so they had to be individually hand painted to the color he wanted!
After more than an hour of walking around Hobbiton, we crossed over this bridge and were able to get drinks at the Green Dragon Inn.
The amount of detail throughout this building and the entire movie set was amazing. So many things were done by hand and in person that would be done by computers in movies made today. Even though I haven't seen the movies, I was impressed by the detail and dedication that went into telling this story.
After we finished our drinks, we had lunch in a tent that was made to look like a festival tent behind the Green Dragon Inn. It was fine, but I wouldn't recommend doing it unless it's already included in the tour that you book (ours was included).
The most disappointing part of this day happened when we got back on the bus. Because of the flooding and extreme weather, our bus could not access the road to the glow worm caves. We missed out on this portion of the tour, which was the part I was really excited about. Thankfully we were able to get a refund for part of the tour. We arrived back to Auckland earlier than expected and headed back to our hotel, trying to decide what to do.
Brennan found an improv theater that had a show in the evening. We went and were really impressed with the theater and performance. We even went back the next night after getting dinner at a hawker center-like food court! These were some of the best dumplings I have ever had!
We were only planning to stay for one of the improv shows on our second night there, but were able to stay for a second show for free! It was a great way to end our time in Auckland before heading to Sydney the next day.
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.