Storybook memories are strong in us all, so it’s unfortunate that most of the wonderful places that are very real in our minds are not “real” in the sense that we could go visit them, enjoy their beauty, smell their flowers, knock on their front doors. But there is one place on earth – specifically “Middle Earth” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy - that can be visited, and it’s only 1.5 hours from the Lodge. They call it “Hobbiton”, but we prefer to call it “The Shire”, as did Tolkien.
Whatever you call it, I have to tell you that a visit there is thrilling for children, but – and this kind of surprises people – it’s also an amazing, happy, and moving experience for a person of any age.
So, what to expect? First, you’ll be in a little tour group of maybe 20 people as you walk through The Shire. If it’s a typical day, the group will be mostly adults and it will include people from at least a dozen different countries from all over the world.
Second, if you’ve seen any of Sir Peter Jackson’s six movies about the Hobbits, you will know that this is the real thing. It’s the actual movie set where all the scenes of The Shire were shot, perfectly preserved. There is smoke coming out of some of the Hobbit hole chimneys just as when Gandalf first piloted his little fireworks wagon through the town having a merry chat with Frodo. In fact, you will walk through the pass in the little hill where the great wizard first entered town. There are beautiful gardens in front of every round Hobbit door…and there are not 5 or 10 Hobbit homes, there are more like 35-40…it’s a real village and it’s all lush green and glorious, even if the outside world has been suffering from extended drought.
There are many things to see and enjoy: from the top of the Shire’s hillside, (where Bilbo Baggins) lives down to the party tree and reflecting lake where the huge “dragon” fireworks were accidentally sparked by the incorrigible Merry and Pippin Took.
To get to this “very real fantasy place”, you drive from the lodge to Waihi town and take Route 2 west until you get to Paeroa (about 27 km from the Lodge) and turn left onto Route 26 toward Te Aroha and Hamilton. When you get to Te Aroha, by the way, there’s a great little café where you can get a spot of lunch either before or after your visit to the Shire. It is the Ironique Café and it’s on the west side of the main street, just after route 26 turns abruptly to the right (159 Whitaker Street, Te Aroha, if you want to put it into your NAV).
From Te Aroha, you want to get to Matamata. We usually do that by taking that abrupt west turn of Route 26 and then turning left when you come to Route 27. When you get to Matamata the directions are at the end of this page, or you can just set your navigation for 501 Buckland Road, Matamata