Despite having not read the books or watched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Hobbit Trilogy movies, I decided to visit New Zealand’s main attraction on the north island.  To get to the Hobbiton movie set, you have a few choices: find a separate tour provider that has Hobbiton on the itinerary and an official guide joins your bus when you get there, take a bus to the site from official pickup spots in either Rotorua or Matamata, or drive there yourself.  My suggestion is skip busses and organized tours, rent a car, stay the night somewhere nearby, and sign up for the 9am tour that leaves from Shires Rest.  No tour group ahead of you so you basically are only competing for photos with your lot of 40.  Better yet, skip the crowded day scene and see if they are doing one of the evening dinner events at the Green Dragon.  I was told that not only do you get the escorted tour of Hobbiton for the first hour, but then you get to feast and are given a lantern to take back out into Hobbiton after dinner.  I thought the dinners were only on Wednesday and Sunday, per the website, but my guide told me there were other nights as well.  I was super bummed because I could have gone! 

Hobbiton is the actual movie set designed by Peter Jackson to be used in the movies.  Your guide will point out specific details that he insisted upon only to have the detail show up on the screen for seconds.  When I think about how the total run time of all 6 extended versions of the movies is over 20 hours, my eyes pop out.  That is some attention to detail!  There are 39 hobbit holes in total, plus the party green, a mill, and the Green Dragon pub where you can actually enter and order a tasty beverage.  Of course you don’t have a whole lot of time to sip and savor since you’ll eventually be told you have to leave to catch the bus back.  Yep, the set is on private farm land, so there is absolutely no unescorted access.   Which makes sense.  There are some pretty intense fans of these movies.  We were told the story of one German fan who came dressed as Bilbo Baggins, then refused to leave the Green Dragon.  It took hours for the staff to get him to leave, after which he said he was leaving because he had an adventure to start, which I think is a reference to the movie.

Most of the hobbit holes were built to size, as you can see from the perspective in the photo below.  They were also built as either facades in the hill with just a small bit of room inside the door or actual filming interiors like the main house - Bag End.  You can tell the occupation of the hobbit often by the goods for sale on the tables out front.  The main homes of lead characters were scaled up for their heights to accommodate that they were over 5'4", or hobbit height.

Anyway, yes it is a 2 hour drive from Auckland, but think of it as a way to get out of the city and do a nice drive into the country.  The north island is populated with hundreds of farms, mostly cows it seems in comparison to the predominantly sheep fields in the south island.  While you are down in the area, consider taking an extra hour to drive further south to visit the geothermal springs around Rotorua.  It won’t smell good if you're not a fan of sulfur, but the colors of the Champagne Spring at Wai-O-Tapu are somewhat similar to the rainbow at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.   I suspect the difference is the depth of the drop off after the first orange shelf.

Also check out the Blue Springs north of Matamata.  The color of the water is so clear, it’s like the plantlife are captured in resin.  The springs are about a 10 minute walk up a designated path randomly in the middle of pure farm land.