I’m not sure you’re allowed to say you’ve been to New Zealand if you didn’t make the trek to Hobbiton. For those of you who somehow managed to miss the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, Hobbiton is the village where the aforementioned Hobbits live in Middle Earth. In reality, it is an impressive movie set about two hours south of Auckland on part of the Alexander family’s working sheep farm.
The drive is ridiculously scenic and easy to do yourself. If you’re without a car, there are bus options available. Before making the drive, however, get your tickets online. The first time we tried to go, we mistakenly believed we could just walk up, get tickets, and go. Not so much. This is a serious attraction, and tour times often get booked in advance. The good news is, if you book your tickets in advance and something happens on the day of (say, a kid gets horribly sick on the drive down) the people running Hobbiton are very sweet about rebooking your tour.
Also, this isn’t something that you can do on your own. The start of the tour is at The Shire’s Rest, where you can get a cup of coffee and some light nibbles. At the appointed tour time, you queue up, get on a bus, and take a drive through a farm while watching a Peter Jackson promotional video and listening to your tour guide. When you make it to the actual set (about 15 minutes later) you have to stick with your tour, on the paths, and listen to the guide’s spiel. There are a few key photo ops, but there’s no wandering around by yourself, ducking into hobbit holes.
In other words, this probably isn’t a great activity to do with little kids who have no idea what a hobbit is and don’t want to listen to an adult babble on for an hour about something of absolutely no interest. And not touch anything or run off.
At the end of the tour, there’s a stop at the Green Dragon Inn, which provides some beer and other food options. This stop gives you a very authentic (in a movie-set kind of way) staying-warm-by-the-fire-on-the-shire experience.If you’re really into Hobbiton, they occasionally host special events with full blown feasts at the Inn. Then you hop back on your bus to take the short trip back to The Shire’s Rest.
The location is absolutely gorgeous, and there is a certain novelty to the assorted sized hobbit holes that are designed to make normal sized humans look huge or small, but the novelty wears off pretty quick. Is it worth visiting? Yes - once, so you can say that you’ve been there. Outside of that, there are plenty of other equally beautiful, scenic places in New Zealand that aren’t overrun with tour busses.