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If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies, then you probably already know that they were shot in New Zealand. But what you might not realize is that you can actually visit the Shire itself on a day trip from Auckland!
That’s right – the Hobbiton Movie Set is still in pristine condition and you can go and see Hobbit Holes or even drink ale at the Green Dragon Inn.
Now, I have to be honest with you … I’m actually not a huge fan of Lord of the Rings! (I know that this confession might have die-hard fans clicking off of this page with disgust). But hear me out – I still decided to take a Hobbiton tour, and I’m so glad I did!
I absolutely loved it, so much so that I went a second time and brought my mum along! Whether you’re a Tolkien fan or not, going to Hobbiton really is one of the must-do activities around Auckland, and this blog contains everything you need to know about visiting!
My TOP PICK for a Tour to Hobbiton from Auckland
If you’re ready to book right this second, I’ve got you! This Hobbiton tour from Auckland combines a visit to the famous movie set with another top attraction – the spectacular Waitomo glow worm caves. It starts in Hobbiton with plenty of time to explore, peek into Hobbit Holes and enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. After a yummy lunch, you’ll take a boat ride through the Waitomo Caves which light up like the night sky with thousands of glow worms. All transporation, admission fees and lunch are included for $334 NZD, so book online here to reserve a spot!
1. About Hobbiton
To understand what makes Hobbiton so special, we have to go back in time a little.
In the late 1990s, New Line Cinema wanted to produce movie adaptations of the famous Lord of the Rings books, and director Sir Peter Jackson was looking for a suitable location to film the movies in his native New Zealand.
Interestingly, J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the books, never actually went to New Zealand!
Anyway, Jackson and his team were carrying out aerial searches to find the location. Eventually, they found a farm near Matamata, which is about two hours south of Auckland. It matched Tolkien’s description of Hobbiton almost perfectly, and so a deal was struck and the farm was transformed into the Shire.
After the Lord of the Rings movies finished shooting all of the Shire scenes, the production company behind the films planned to demolish Hobbiton. Some of the set was removed, but 17 Hobbit Hole facades remained, and guided tours of the set began in 2002.
Then, when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey began filming in 2011, Hobbiton began to grow once more! Many parts of the set were reconstructed for the new trilogy, including lots of Hobbit Holes and the Green Dragon Inn.
So now, visitors get a super immersive Hobbiton experience that really does take them to Middle Earth! Personally, I think the Mill is particularly beautiful.
On a Hobbiton tour, you get to explore the rolling hills of the Shire, see Hobbit Holes and the Mill, and have a drink or a second breakfast at the Green Dragon Inn. It really is a unique experience that brings the movies to life. You find out so many interesting details about the production process and realize just how much effort went into bringing these movies to life.
I had so much fun and I don’t even like the films that much!
2. How far is Hobbiton from Auckland?
Hobbiton is 168 kilometers (104 miles) from Auckland. If you rent a car in Auckland, most of the journey is along State Highway 1 and it takes between 2 and 2.5 hours to drive there, depending on traffic. That’s quite a lot of driving in one day, even though the drive itself is pretty easy.
This is one of the reasons why I think taking a Hobbiton tour like this one is a good option because it’s not as tiring when you get to chill out while someone else drives. You can even nap during the journey! The day can feel really long when you’re the one driving.
3. Why book a tour to Hobbiton from Auckland?
Booking a Hobbiton tour makes a lot of sense if you’re visiting from Auckland. For one thing, you can only explore Hobbiton as part of a guided tour anyway, so if you book a tour from Auckland you’re not going to miss out on any independent exploration.
Hobbiton is also pretty out of the way on most New Zealand road trips. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to take a huge detour when you can just visit from Auckland instead! There are lots of Auckland tours available so it’s easy to just tick Hobbiton off your list while you’re in Auckland.
And, as I say, visiting Hobbiton can be a pretty long day so it’s nice not to have to drive all the way back to Auckland when you’re tired. You can just snooze in the bus or van instead!
4. Is it best to combine your Hobbiton visit with other attractions?
Yes, it’s quite easy to combine a trip to Hobbiton with a visit to the Waitomo Caves and Rotorua. You might as well make the most out of your day by visiting one or both of these since they also top the list of New Zealand’s best attractions!
The Waitomo Caves are among the best glow worm caves in the country, and you can take a boat trip through them. Thanks to the glow worms, the cave ceilings really do look like a starry night sky, so I do think that they’re worth visiting. They’re about 87 kilometers (54 miles) further south of Hobbiton, so this does add another 1.5 to 2 hours of travel time to your day.
Meanwhile, Rotorua is a small town known for its Maori heritage and geothermal wonders, like bubbling mud pools and geysers. It’s about an hour from Hobbiton, and 2.5 hours to drive from Auckland to Rotorua.
I would recommend choosing a tour that combines a visit to Hobbiton with one or both of these places, as they’re both home to some fantastic natural attractions in New Zealand. However, you should be aware that this will mean a very long day. If you’re traveling with young children or get tired easily, you might want to just focus on Hobbiton.
5. What are the best tours to Hobbiton from Auckland?
Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves
This full-day tour combines a guided tour of Hobbiton with a boat ride through famous glowworm caves. It’s a 2-for-1 deal that I couldn’t pass up!
You head to Hobbiton first, for a guided tour where you’ll learn all about the history of the famous franchise and some awesome in-depth details about the journey from page to screen. I found all the little thoughtful details so interesting!
After the tour you head to the Green Dragon Inn for a flagon of Southfarthing Ale, although cider and soft drinks are available if you prefer. Then, you go to the Shire’s Rest cafe for lunch before you continue onto the Glowworm Caves.
Waitomo is about an hour’s drive from Hobbiton and once you arrive, you’ll take a boat tour through the glowworm-lit caves. There’s guided commentary along the way often from one of the decendents of the Maori chief who discovered the cave so you get to learn all about the Maori history surrounding the caves, which I found fascinating. Then, it’s back to Auckland!
I like this tour because it’s capped at 14 people, so it feels personal and not too crowded. It costs $334 NZD per person, although kids are much cheaper. It’s such a great day out and includes lunch, hotel pickup, and all admission fees, so everything is taken care of for you.
Hobbiton Movie Set Small Group Tour
If you only want to visit Hobbiton and want a slightly shorter day trip, then I think that this Hobbiton day tour is the best choice.
Hobbiton is the star of the show with a full guided tour aboard the big green Hobbiton buses! Don’t worry though, they gave us tons of opportunities to get out and walk around and take photos. Of course, after all that walking, the cold drink at the Green Dragon Inn was much appreciated afterwards! I also really liked the free time we got to relax or do some shopping.
It’s a small group tour so there’ll be a maximum of 16 people. You can opt to enjoy some extra drinks at the Green Dragon Inn or to go and buy lunch at the Shire’s Rest Cafe, which has great views of Hobbiton.
Since it’s a fairly long drive from Auckland to Hobbiton, you also get complimentary snacks and bottled water on the drive. The drive there takes you through some very scenic farmland, and your driver will provide lots of interesting commentary, so you also get to learn more about New Zealand’s landscape and agriculture. On the way home, there are some “surprise” stops that I won’t confirm or deny might include ice cream!
The tour costs $246 NZD including transport and Hobbiton admission. I think it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to make the day super long by adding additional stops, so it’s great for families with young kids. To book your day trip to Hobbiton from Auckland, reserve your spot here!
Hobbiton, Rotorua and Waitomo Caves Day Trip in Luxury Minibus
If you’ve got plenty of energy and are raring to go, then this Hobbiton tour in a luxury mini-bus is the perfect way to pack lots of amazing activities into a single day! I’ll warn you that is a long day, but it’s definitely not as bad when all of the driving is handled for you and it’s in a comfy mini-bus.
You start with a two-hour guided tour of Hobbiton as you wander around this amazing movie set. Then it’s off to Rotorua. First, you visit Te Puia geothermal park where you’ll tuck into a buffet lunch in a restaurant overlooking the famous geyser and the thermal valley. Unfortunately, there won’t be time to actually walk around the park but the restaurant does offer great views.
Then, you’ll continue onto Lake Rotorua, which is pretty and makes for a great photo opportunity. You’ll also have some time to explore the Government Gardens, which are super scenic.
The final stop of the day is the Waitomo Caves for a boat tour where you can marvel at the glow worms. It really is a magical experience and you can’t help but “ooh” and “aah”!
What’s great about this tour is that you can either choose to return to Auckland at the end of the day or get dropped off in Rotorua. So not only is it a fun day out, it can also help you get from A to B if you’re making your way across the North Island.
The tour costs $499 NZD per person and it’s perfect for those who really want to make the most of their time in New Zealand. If you’ve only got a short amount of time to explore the North Island or just want to squeeze the most out of every moment, then booking this tour will be a great addition to your itinerary!
Hobbiton and Rotorua including Wai-O-Tapu
This small group tour allows you to explore Hobbiton and visit the highlights of Rotorua in just one day. I like this tour because it gives you longer in Rotorua than the other options, so it’s a good choice if you prefer to visit fewer places and take your time.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel around 6 am, so be ready for an early start! Then, you’ll drive through the beautiful countryside towards Hobbiton for your guided tour which ends, as always, with a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon Inn.
After that, you pass through Tirau, a quirky town which is famous for its two big corrugated iron buildings that look like a dog and a sheep. There are also lots of sculptures to spot, which your guide will point out to you.
Then, you’ll take a guided tour of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, where you’ll see amazing mud pools, crafters, and the Devil’s Bath, which is a neon-green pool of stagnant water. It looks like it’s radioactive but don’t worry, it’s not! The color actually comes from sulfur deposits, not anything untoward.
You’ll also find the famous Champagne Pool here, which is named because it constantly bubbles, just like champagne. The water is mostly blue-green, but is orange around the edges due to sulfides. It’s pretty cool to see!
After Wai-O-Tapu, you’ll take a driving tour through the town of Rotorua to see its main highlights, including the lake, before heading back to Auckland.
This tour is a fantastic way to see some of the best attractions on the North Island in a single day, and I think it’s perfect for anyone who wants to visit Hobbiton and see some geothermal wonders up close.
It costs $349 NZD, but this doesn’t include lunch which you will need to buy on your own. For a full day of exploring North Island highlights including Hobbiton, book this full-day tour from Auckland with Viator!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Related Read: While in Auckland, don’t miss taking a trip up the Auckland Sky Tower for the BEST views!
6. What is the best time of year to visit Hobbiton?
As you plan when to visit New Zealand, I’m happy to report that you can see Hobbiton at any time of year – even on Christmas Day!
However, my personal favorite time to go is in the late spring, around November. It’s much quieter during this time than it is in the peak tourist months of December to February, but it’s also cooler. There’s no shade in Hobbiton so this does make a difference! Everything is coming to life at this time of year and the whole set looks even more beautiful than normal.
7. What to bring on a tour to Hobbiton?
Hobbiton gets hot during the summer and there’s no shade, so you need to protect yourself from the rays! I recommend wearing sunscreen, a hat, and a pair of good sunglasses. Some people even had umbrellas walking around the set, which was a bit weird to see but could actually prove very useful!
The tour is long and you’re walking around the whole time, so make sure to bring some water with you to sip as you go. This is especially important during the summer when it’s hot, but it’s a good idea all year round. You don’t get a drink until the end when you visit the Green Dragon Inn.
You do a lot of walking on a Hobbiton tour as you explore the entire movie set on foot. You’ll definitely rack up some steps, so make sure that your shoes are comfy and suitable for walking. Don’t wear brand-new shoes or ones that are going to hurt your feet. Comfort, not fashion, is the name of the game here!
8. Is visiting Hobbiton worth it?
Yes, I loved it! The Lord of the Rings movies are absolutely iconic so this is a quintessential New Zealand experience.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of the movies, the set is still so beautiful and you learn so many interesting details about how the films were made. It was one of the best tours I took from Auckland and if you’re a big LOTR fan, I can only imagine how wonderful your experience will be!
Related Read: If you are a die-hard LOTR fan, don’t miss the chance to see more filming locations on the Lord of the Rings Tours in Glenorchy!
Other Things to do While You’re in Auckland
As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is filled with amazing things to do and see! While you’re here, make sure not to miss out on some of the top attractions and activities to add to your Auckland itinerary.
- Take a harbor cruise – Nicknamed the City of Sails, there are SO many boats in Auckland, the harbor is a must-see aboard one. I love this 1.5-hour harbor cruise that takes you past the Auckland Bridge and you even get to help the crew steer!
- Hike Mt Eden – One of the best hikes on the North Island is to the top of Mt Eden. This dormant volcano has amazing views of Auckland and the loop trail is only a 40-minute walk.
- Go to the beach – Only 45 minutes from Auckland is the famous Piha Beach! This is one of the best beaches in New Zealand and one of the most beautiful with bright blue water. You can drive yourself or join a guided tour to get here.
- See dolphins and whales – One of my favorite Auckland activities was joining this dolphin and whale watching tour to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. You’re on a luxury catamaran looking for all the amazing animals around here. Plus if you don’t see any dolphins or whales, you can do the tour again for free.
- Bungy jump – For the adrenaline chasers, there’s no more memorable activity than bungy jumping from the iconic Auckland Bridge. It’s one of the top places to bungy jump in NZ and you can even have your head touch the water!
- Explore Ponsonby – Easily the coolest Auckland neighborhood, Ponsonby is full of trendy bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Make sure you stop at Prego for Italian food and Bedford Soda & Liquor for the best cocktails in the city!
Where to Stay in Auckland
Auckland is a huge city, so deciding where to stay in Auckland can be a challenge. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Auckland countless times (and even lived there for a few months) so I know the best areas to stay. Below are my favorite hotels/hostels in Auckland to suit all budgets and travel styles:
$$$ – The Grand by SkyCity
The Grand by SkyCity is an Auckland accommodation unlike any other. Treating you to a lavish stay right in the heart of the city, this five-star hotel is exactly where you want to be if you’re after luxurious rooms and city views. Rooms are typically $400 NZD and up, but I have found some stellar deals on Booking.com so it’s worth checking before you book!
$$ – Marsden Viaduct Hotel
One of the Auckland hotels with the best views, the Marsden Viaduct Hotel puts you right on the harbor without breaking your budget. This world-class accommodation is within walking distance to the Wynyard Quarter and the restaurant and bars in the Viaduct Harbour, so you’re pretty much in the center of it all. Rooms are around $300 NZD nightly and can be reserved on Booking.com.
$ – The Attic Backpackers
The Attic is one of my favorite budget-friendly accommodations in the heart of Auckland city. Although The Attic isn’t as high-end as the other hotels in the area, you can still call it your home-away-from-home, and it’s actually pretty cozy. You have some chill-out areas a few steps away from the room for chatting with friends and watching TV.
There’s also a spacious outdoor covered deck to enjoy the sun in. Dorm rooms start around $50 NZD nighly and private rooms are available for $120 NZD. You can book The Attic online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
For more detailed info on the best areas to stay in Auckland and the best hotels, check out my blog!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully, this guide on the best Hobbiton tours from Auckland has helped you narrow down which one to choose! Whether you opt for some additional stops along the way or just focus on Hobbiton, I think you’ll have fun exploring this movie set come to life. And take it from me, you don’t need to be a Lord of the Rings fan to be a fan of Hobbiton!
If this guide was helpful to you, make sure to check out my other North Island blogs before you go. I have lots of ideas for road trips, must-see attractions, and even hidden gems. After living and traveling around this country, I have lots to share!