Wizards, wands, enchanted forests, dragons, treasure…and some pretty fine local wines. What more could you need on a family holiday? New Zealand has again become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, as Peter Jackson once more casts the country’s undulating pastures and jagged snow-tipped mountain ranges as the star in his Tolkien epic, The Hobbit.
As all Middle Earth fans out there know, The Hobbit is actually the prequel to its more well-known big brother, The Lord of the Rings, and it’s drastically shorter length and less complex storyline has earned it a far more child-friendly reputation, so New Zealand is answering with some fantastic family-friendly travel tours and ideas.
The best place to start your ‘Unexpected Journey’ of Middle Earth (or New Zealand, as it used to be known) is where Bilbo Baggins did; in Hobbiton, or thereabouts. The Hobbiton film set is being permanently maintained as a theme destination and is now complete with the Shire’s Rest Café and Gift Shop. Both are nestled amongst the softly lit, emerald dappled hills of Matamata, the perfect rural idyll and just as Tolkien must have imagined.
Matamata lies in the middle of the north island and about two hours’ drive from Auckland or 45 mins in the car from Rotorua, but of course if you want to discover it in true style (although admittedly not like Bilbo did) we recommend choppering in – you can always pretend you’re on the back of a dragon. Helipro is a great company to hire your ride with – they are used to kids and know all about Hobbiton tours. In fact, they recommend the flight from Taupo to Hobbiton for its fantastically atmospheric views which include the Huka Falls and the active geothermal areas of Orakei Korako.
Main image: Hobbiton Movie Set, images courtesy
of Ian Brodie Photos. Film Stills courtesy of New Line
Cinema's and MGM's fantasy adventure 'The Hobbit: An
Unexpected Adventure', a Warmer Bros. Pictures' release