Hobbiton and Waitomo Glowworm Caves

I’m not much of a Lord of the Rings fan. Yes, I did read all three books in college, but only once (and I’m not sure if I read The Hobbit or not). I much preferred Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings and have reread it many times. And I fell asleep watching the first LoTR movie and never bothered watching the other ones.

But I couldn’t take a trip to New Zealand without seeing Hobbiton in person, so Diane and I signed up for Auckland Scenic Tours Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour. And there we were in the hotel lobby at 6:15am ready to meet Brenda, our driver and guide for the day.

The drive from Auckland to the Shire was about 2-1/2 hours. The day started out foggy, but by the time we got to Kaihere lookout to stretch our legs, it was gloriously sunny.

We reached the entry to the set a few minutes before our 9:20am tour. We made a brief trip to the gift shop but left empty-handed, though we did have a chance to visit Gandalf before hopping onto the bus which would take us to the set.

The set was built for the first trilogy, then burnt; when they rebuilt it for the Hobbit trilogy, they decided to make it a permanent attraction…and here we were.

Our guide Rob told us that the Hobbit holes were built to different scales (from about 30% of human scale to nearly full-scale) to meet the needs of the film. Here’s one of the smaller ones.

Until last December, visitors couldn’t go into any of the Hobbit holes, but now they’ve added an “interactive attraction” which lets you go into Samwise’s cottage.

After the tour of the Shire, we repaired to the Green Dragon for some ale, ginger beer, and relaxation.

We left Hobbiton to go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves with a stop at the Waitomo Homestead for lunch. Along the way, we saw a larger-than-life kiwi and a reconstructed moa (actual size).

The Glowworm Caves were very interesting and beautiful; unfortunately for us, they’re also a sacred site to the Maori, so photography wasn’t allowed inside, though our guide said it was OK as we approached the exit.

And then it was back on the bus for the three-hour drive to Auckland. We saw lots of green land, a couple of small towns, and these Maori poles on Highway 1 at Huntly. Brenda told us that the faces represented Maori chiefs, and they were looking all around at points of importance.

We got back to Auckland just about 12 hours after we had left. It was a long day, and I’m glad we did it. I’m also glad we aren’t taking a long tour tomorrow so we can have breakfast!