Posted in New Zealand

Hobbiton: The Quintessential NZ Must-Do

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Hobbit-holes, Green Meadows and Neatly Lined-Tress

For J.R.R. Tolkien fans or so-called “Ringers” walking through Hobbiton is like stepping into a dream. Imagine being inside a Hollywood film set but instead of seeing makeshift houses that looks like empty wooden boxes everything here is real and not just a product of some computer-generated visual effects!

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Rolling hills and beautifully landscaped terrains leading the way to the Shire
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Multitude of flower pots making the already colourful hobbit-hole more vibrant!

Hobbiton is an out-of-this-world movie set location for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series which is found in Matamata New Zealand. It is a vast piece of estate with real patches of green meadows, rolling hills, meticulously-manicured flower beds, crystal-clear lakes, vegetable gardens, neatly-lined trees, native bushes and grazing sheeps and cattles. The hobbit-holes are not just some small-scale replica of the ones seen in the movie, but are actual “hobbit-holes” where you can have a peep inside (though, it’s empty), take some selfies or really cool photos and instagram-worthy shots!

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Pristine and Crystal-clear Lake

The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour usually starts at the Matamata I-site or at the Shire’s Rest Café then a bus will bring you to the location. The buses leave approximately every 30 minutes. It is wise to book for this tour ahead of time to avoid any hassles and since walk-ins are not allowed on the actual movie set. The fee is around $79nzd which is a bit of a tourist-trap for many but the experience of witnessing this natural as well as man-made grandeur is truly worth it! Sounds cliché but it is a classic must-do when you’re in Middle Earth even if you’re not a fan of the movies.

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Which way are you up to?

The tour guides will usher you to each section of the Hobbiton Movie Set location and provide really fascinating facts about the place and fun trivia about the movie. According to them, this farmland was discovered on 1998 when a location scout was having an aerial search of the perfect place for the movie LOTR and when they happened to saw a “party tree” near the lake complete will rugged hills and mountains, they instantly knocked on the doors of the Alexander family and the rest is history. The construction of the “Shire” even involved the New Zealand Army as heavy earth-moving machineries were required to shape and contour the lands.

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Loaves of bread, anyone?

If you’re lucky enough, you can even see cold-blooded LOTR junkies clad in their extravagant “Gandalf” or “Lady Galadriel” attires or a 6 feet tall man in a full hobbit costume parading the place!

After the tour of the whole place which takes around 30 minutes or so, you will be directed to the intricately-designed Green Dragon Inn (pub frequented by hobbits) where you can relax and have some complimentary Girdle Fine Ale, Sackville Cider, Oak Barton Ale or Southfarthing Ginger Ale. There are also some light snacks offered on their menu if you are hungry from all the walking or you want something to match your free booze. Once a week, there’s a special tour wherein the guests are treated to a feast in the inn like a true hobbit!

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Relaxing by the fireplace with a warm mug of ale and cider
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Unlike the hobbit-holes, Green Dragon Inn was built inside and out!

Russell Alexander, the owner of the estate is a true genius for deciding to make this movie set location a permanent tourist attraction. Thousands upon thousands of visitors flock the site each year and are left dumb-founded by the sheer magnificence of the place making it one of the most visited locations in the country. It is indeed a quintessential New Zealand experience wherein you can marvel in nature’s beauty and be awed by the artistic hands behind it’s grand display of imagination and creativity!

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Posted in Wellington

Weta Cave: A Geek’s Wonderland

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“It’s a dangerous business Frodo, going out of your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

This famous quote from the epic movie, The Lord of the Rings, echoed into my consciousness one nippy mid-day as my husband, bubba, mom and I approached the troll-guarded Weta Cave which resembles more like a hobbit-hole than a cave. Yes, I am a big (no, huge) fan of The Lord of the Ring series and when I discovered that the creative geniuses (Weta Workshop) behind the most-awarded movie of all time have a retail shop/mini-museum in Wellington, New Zealand I just have to go by all means necessary.

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Life-sized troll guarding the Cave

Weta Workshop is a Wellington-based design and creative works provider to almost all critically-acclaimed movies of stunning visual effects. It is said to be the center of New Zealand’s cinematic empire thus the term “Wellywood” was coined. Think of a movie that blew your mind with superb and other-worldly cinematic experience and they are most probably the hands behind its exceptional set design, props, costumes, make-up, etc. They designed the armours, weapons, prosthetics, miniature sets and other special effects of movies such as LOTR, The Hobbit, Avatar, The Adventures of TinTin, KingKong, Narnia, Spiderman, and the list just goes on and on. Their world-class design studio won several accolades from Academy Awards, Bafta, etc.

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Miniature Orc displayed on a glass-shelf

Entrance to the cave is free but to get the utmost experience you need to pay for several tours that they offer in site. Below are their rates as of this date:

Weta Cave Workshop Tour – $25nzd

Miniature Stage Tour – $25nzd

Weta Studio Tours Combo – $45nzd

There and Back Again (guided transfer) – $65nzd

There and Back Again (full-experience) – $85nzd

An Evening with Weta and Coco (with 3-course dining experience) – $145nzd

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Model of Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit movie

We didn’t avail of any of the tours as they were way beyond our budget so we just got contended scrutinizing the jaw-dropping displays of models of  the different characters from LOTR such as Smaug, Lady Galadriel, Uruk Hais, and Gandalf.

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Frodo’s Hobbit-Feet

A display of Frodo’s prosthetics on glass-shelves as well as the different armours used in the movie Narnia can be viewed. There was also a cave-like wall at the far-end side of the store with an array of different LOTR miniatures. Wide-range of collectibles, apparels and publishings for LOTR, The Hobbit, TinTin, Chappie and the like are also available for purchase at the shop.

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Cave-like wall with LOTR miniatures

The cave was a bit underwhelming as it is only a tiny store so you can have a complete tour of it for less than 20 minutes but the obvious lack of space was compensated by the sheer vividness of imagination and unquestioned passion put into making each and every display as detailed and fascinating as possible. Weta Cave is not just for LOTR geeks but undoubtedly for anyone to feast their eyes on!

How to get to Weta Cave from downtown Wellington:

  • Take bus #2 from downtown Wellington to Miramar. Get off at Camperdown Road. You can ask the driver to drop you here. Weta Cave is located at 1 Weka Street.
  • If you are driving, you can see several signs at Miramar pointing to Weta Cave. Just follow the signs near the shops in Miramar and drive to Camperdown Road.