Visiting Hobbiton and Waitomo Glowworm Caves

New Zealand’s Most Famous Attractions

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Year visited: 2017

Time of year: March

The Dream of Visiting Hobbiton 

I was 13 my first time. We were in the back of a van, and we stuck a blanket to the ceiling with bandaids to block out the sun.We were also using a portable DVD player that went back to the beginning if you accidentally bumped it, and had no remote to get back to where you were.

I am, of course, referring to the first time I ever saw The Lord of the Rings. It changed my life. We also got 3/4 of the way through this 3-hour long movie…and bumped the DVD player. There was no way we were going through 2 1/2 hours again. So as soon as I got home, I went to the library and got The Fellowship of the Ring. On VHS.

My point is…at some point I finally made it to the end of the trilogy. That part where all is good with the world again, and the hobbits are peacefully living in Hobbiton and drinking ales in The Green Dragon as the sun sets.

I watched that beautiful scene in Hobbiton, and something in my soul stirred. Something said, “I want to go there!”

Now the practical part of me knew that “there” (meaning Hobbiton), wasn’t a real place, so of course I could never go there. But I knew that it had to be filmed somewhere, and so wherever that was is where I wanted to go.

But here’s the thing: Hobbiton is real. Well…I mean you can’t actually live there and be a hobbit, but you CAN go there, see the hobbit holes AND drink in The Green Dragon! Woohoo!!!

How to Get to Hobbiton

The view from Bag End, looking down on The Shire and The Green Dragon—which is actually a real pub inside. More or less.

Most people visiting Hobbiton stay in Auckland, which is actually a 2 hour drive from the Hobbiton Movie Set. You will most likely fly into Auckland, and it is easy to visit Hobbiton as a day trip from the city.

Book a Tour

You can book a tour that will pick you up at your hotel in Auckland and include transportation to Hobbiton (in other words, they will bring you “there and back again”).

We booked with Red Carpet Tours when we visited Hobbiton back in 2017. Our tour guide was fantastic, but unfortunately they no longer offer single day tours to Hobbiton. The only tours they now offer (which include Hobbiton) are multi-day LOTR trips around New Zealand.

You can find lots of Hobbiton Movie Set tours available online.

Rent a Car

Your other option for how to get to the Hobbiton Movie Set would be to rent a car and drive yourself.

Our Hobbiton tour included transportation, but we rented a car to visit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves on a different day.

Driving a rental car in New Zealand is not too scary (me speaking from the experience of the one riding in the back seat—but the driver said it wasn’t too hard! Except… every time she tried to turn on the turn signal she turned on the windshield wipers instead…).

But be prepared for roundabouts. Lots of roundabouts. And if you have three people trying to give you directions as well, be prepared for them to shout “left!” meaning stay on the lefthand side, and “right!” meaning turn right all at the same time.

  • Tip: Get an overseas data plan or SIM card so you can access maps while you’re driving.

Is Hobbiton Worth Visiting?

Before we go any further with this trip planning thing, I want to answer the question: Is Hobbiton worth visiting?? Is Hobbiton over-crowded (like Disney World) and over-priced (also Disney World)?

Well…the answer to this question is different for every person. For one thing, it depends on how LOTR obsessed you are (Hint: if you don’t know what LOTR means, you’re definitely not obsessed enough with it).

Hobbiton IS crowded. It is THE main reason thousands of people flock to New Zealand every year (a Mecca of sorts, for LOTR fans, as my one travel buddy put it).

And the absolute worst part is that you’re herded through on a quick tour and don’t get the time you really need to explore and enjoy this place you’ve traveled so far to get to.

Is that lame? Yes. But is is still worth it? Well, if you’ve traveled all this way to get to Hobbiton, heck yes, it is worth it.

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, I say yes, Hobbiton is worth it. Because it’s Hobbiton, guys, come on!

Just know that it is insanely crowded and your tour will quickly move from one spot to the next to make room for the next tour group.

But that being said, it’s not like you have no time at all to explore. You definitely have time to take pictures, and you’ll be able to get them without people in them. Even if you have to have two big guys block the path for you so that people stop walking into your picture that you’ve been waiting ten minutes for!

The Tour of Hobbiton

Arriving in Hobbiton

When you first get to the Hobbiton Movie Set, you arrive at the gift shop where you can park if you drove yourself and you pick up your tickets for the tour.

There are huge tour buses lined up in the parking lot that will take you into the actual Hobbiton Movie Set. Be sure to arrive early before your tour, and you can keep yourself busy browsing the gift shop and eating at the little café.

On the Tour

Once it’s time for your tour, head out to the parking lot where you will meet your tour guide and get onto the bus. The bus will take you into Hobbiton, with a brief video explaining how it ended up being the filming site for the movie. Then you get out by the “Welcome to Hobbiton” sign, and follow your tour guide inside!!

At the end of your tour you get one free drink in The Green Dragon. And then you’re herded onto your bus back to the gift shop.

UNLESS…you’re us, and you’re super cool and important. And by that I mean that you booked lunch with your tour.

There is a huge party tent with a sign out front that says something like “for distinguished guests only” or something like that…which we were, because we were on the list! So we got a great buffet of lunch and desserts.

Can you go inside the Hobbit holes on the tour?

When we visited in 2017, you could not go inside any Hobbit holes. BUT, in December 2023 they opened two furnished Hobbit holes you can visit!! You only get to go inside one (they split up the tour groups to help manage the crowds), but it is so amazing that we can now go inside the Hobbit holes!!

I obviously have to plan a return trip to New Zealand soon…

How to Enjoy the Tour Better

The hard part about being busy taking pictures is that you aren’t paying attention to all the fun facts the tour guides are giving you, which really are interesting.

Honestly, if you could take two tours while you’re there, one to just listen to the tour guide and take it all in, and one to go back and get super awesome pictures, that would be ideal (of course, that would also cost more…).

Since my husband and I had only been dating a couple of months when I went to New Zealand, he obviously hadn’t been invited. And I’m not sure if he’s quite forgiven me for that (he did give me an Evenstar necklace to wear before I left though!). So someday maybe, I’d love to go back, and then I can take more time to fully enjoy Hobbiton.

Different Tours to Book

When you’re booking your tour to the Hobbiton Movie Set, whether with a tour group or directly through their website, pay attention to what tour you’re booking. There are several different options you can choose, from just the tour, to ones that include meals:

Best Time of Year to Visit Hobbiton

Seasons in New Zealand

One thing to note when planning a trip to New Zealand, is that they are in the southern hemisphere, thus their seasons are the opposite if you’re coming from the US or Europe.

When we visited at the end of March, it was the end of summer and beginning of the fall season in New Zealand. The gardeners at the Hobbiton Movie Set were having a contest to see who could grow the biggest pumpkin!

March or April was a perfect time to come; good weather and less crowds than in the summertime (January).

Festivals & Special Events

When you’re choosing when to visit Hobbiton, pay attention to any special events that are happening that you might want to attend (or avoid…).

Here are some of the special events that are hosted at the Hobbiton Movie Set:

Add a Tour to Waitomo Glowworm Caves

We couldn’t take pictures during our blackwater rafting glowworm tour—but here is the postcard I picked up in the gift shop.

New Zealand’s Two Main Attractions

Before people started flocking to New Zealand to visit “Middle Earth,” one of the country’s most famous attractions was the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

When I found out that these caves were also in New Zealand, I COULD NOT WAIT to visit! The glowworms and the Hobbit holes were the top two things on my list!

Different Tours of the Glowworm Caves

There are also a lot of different ways that you can experience the Waitomo Glowworm caves. You can just take a walking tour, you can take a boat on the underground river, or you can go blackwater rafting,” which is what we did.

The black water rafting was fun, but honestly not quite as epic as it sounds. And we were under the glowworms the whole time that we were in the cave. We saw several different spots of them, but the main glowworm caves we saw was about 5 minutes of our 3 hour tour (did anyone else just start singing Gilligan’s Island?).

It was an amazing 5 minutes, and the rest of the tour was fun, but much like Hobbiton, it felt like we didn’t really get to spend the time appreciating it that I would have liked.

If I go back, I would probably choose one of the walking tours, so I would have more time to experience the glowworms.

You can book tours that will include the Hobbiton Movie Set and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in the same day. But I personally think that would be a very long, tiring day, so if you have time, I would book them each on their own day.

You can find all sorts of Waitomo Glowworm Cave tours on this website.

Where to Stay in Auckland

At the fireplace in the cozy Green Dragon Inn.

As I mentioned earlier, Auckland is about a 2 hour drive from the Hobbiton Movie Set, so you can stay somewhere closer to the attraction, especially if you are driving yourself.

But the easiest thing to do is to fly into Auckland and then book a tour that will pick you up at your hotel. You can easily get transportation (we took a green cab) from the airport to your hotel.

We stayed at the Grand Millennium Auckland Hotel. It was a bit more than we would have liked to spend, but apparently there was an Adele concert happening the same time we arrived, and most of the hotels were booked.

However, if you want to spend the money on it, it was a beautiful hotel and the staff were super helpful. It was within easy walking distance of a lot of restaurants (including McDonald’s!) and the Sky Tower.

Other LOTR Things to Do in New Zealand

There are so many Lord of the Rings sites to see all over New Zealand!

You can take one and two week guided trips with Red Carpet tours to see Lord of the Rings locations in both the north and south islands.

If you want to plan your own New Zealand itinerary, here is another Lord of the Rings activity that we did on our own in Queenstown.

Lord of the Rings Safari

We took a half-day safari out of Queenstown, New Zealand to see some of the filming locations (and other awesome sites!) of Lord of the Rings. The company we went with was Nomad Safaris, and they offer full and half-day tours, plus other tours that are not LOTR themed (but why though??).

We only saw three filming locations on the 4 hour tour, but the rest of tour was also so epic and so much fun. It was absolutely my favorite thing we did in New Zealand!!!

Our Red Carpet Tours guide showed us this copy of Bilbo’s contract from The Hobbit trilogy!

I hope you find this information helpful for planning your own trips to “Middle Earth” and the Hobbiton Movie Set!

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