Visiting the Shire: Hobbit Movie Home in New Zealand

Cultural Travel

By Jessie Voigts

Destination: New Zealand

Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hobbit movie set
Hobbit movie set you can visit in New Zealand. Photo by Ian Brodie.

Last summer, my students and I read The Hobbit together. It had been 30 years since I’d read it. I have to admit, I reveled in the classic story, long buried in my brain under years of reading. As you know, it is a classic tale of a quest; a long, life-changing journey. The travelers have to battle (and avoid) various creatures, traverse extraordinarily vast plains, wend their way through mountain paths, and pursue their quest across Middle Earth.

Then, there was a movie (isn’t there always?). Directed by Peter Jackson, this is the first installment of three movies based on The Hobbit. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a sweeping reintroduction to the lands (and characters) we loved in Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s passion for Tolkien’s books can be seen in the extreme care he takes in the films. For instance, Bilbo’s house is a work of art, beautifully created and shaped from Tolkien’s words. And, Jackson’s love for his country can be seen in the beautifully captured landscapes in the movie, as he introduces us to New Zealand.

Hobbit Land near Queenstown.
Queenstown driving tour to Glenorchy. Photo by Miles Holden, Tourism New Zealand.

If you, like me, love literary travel and want to visit Hobbiton and see the landscapes of Rivendell, get yourself to New Zealand.

  • The film locations for The Hobbit  are amazing.
  • There’s even a self-drive tour.  
  • In Matamata (in the Waikato region, North Island), you can visit the Hobbiton movie set, which offers tours.
  • Visit Mt Ruapehu (Mt Doom), or
  • Queenstown (Pillars of Argonath, Eregion Hills).
  • If you’re brave, you might visit Harwood’s Hole, on the South Island. It’s one of the deepest explored caves in NZ.
  • Also on South Island, look for The Remarkables – a mountain range whose high point is Double Cone.
  • If you’re in love with Rivendell, head to Braemar Station at Lake Pukaki.
Hobbit land Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook
Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook, Photo by Rob Suisted, Tourism New Zealand


  • While you’re there, check out Mt Cook. It is New Zealand’s highest mountain – and Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on it, in preparation for climbing Everest.
  • The scenery I was most impressed by in the movie, however, was Strath Tieri (central Otago), where the company was hunted by Orcs on Wargs. The wide, sweeping landscape, dotted by enormous schist rocks, is incredibly beautiful. While you’re there, take the Taieri Gorge Train to get a feel for the land.

While I usually prefer books to movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought the book to life for me. It propelled New Zealand to the top of my travel list.

Hobbit's Rivendell setting
The Hobbit movie set for Rivendell at Kaitoki Regional Park, New Zealand Photography by Rob Suisted

Whether you are discovering Rivendell or New Zealand, please remember, as Gandalf says to Bilbo, “You’ll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire. But home is now behind you. The world is ahead.”

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

8 thoughts on “Visiting the Shire: Hobbit Movie Home in New Zealand

  1. Great read and resources – if I find myself in New Zealand, I’m definitely going to take advantage of the Middle Earth tours!

    I think the passion for visiting places featured in the various movies (even featured only briefly) is a testament to Tolkein’s unparalleled fictional world-building. More so than any other series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit create a world that lives and breathes – even though we of course know it to be fictional, we also know that it’s real…. if that makes any sense haha.

    Sometimes when we visit movie sets, or locations where shots were filmed, we visit to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the movie – with the LOTR movies and The Hobbit, we go to visit Middle Earth…

    1. good food — and good music! I’ve a friend who teaches Scottish style fiddle there often and another friend originally from North Island who now lives in Scotland who’ve both got me knowing there is all sorts of good music there. thanks for this great story, Jessie.

      1. I know you’re not particularly referring to opera, Kerry, but I can’t think of our farm stays in New Zealand without thinking of the opera that inevitably was playing on the farmer’s stereos.

        1. would it surprise you to know that I spent several seasons working on the tech crew of an opera company? and Kiri Te Kanawa is one of the artists who always comes to mind when I think of NZ — I’m liking the idea of your memories of opera playing on the farmstead stereos. though I’d certainly like to hear NZ fiddle music too.

          1. Yes, that is a surprise. And, Kerry, some time you really should make it to Wellington during their once every two years cultural festival. We heard Maoris singing and stomping in the old town hall with wooden floors–with an audience of nearly all Maoris. Then we went to a jazz performance in a tent with no Maoris at all, and wondered where’s the cross-cultural that’s supposed to be going on here? And Kiri Te Kanawa was scheduled to perform the week aftr we were there.

  2. Jessie: I’m glad that the Tolkien movies are drawing attention to New Zealand because it is the most amazing place to visit. Such a magical country that it is very fitting to have it as a background for these movies.

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