Australia may have gotten away with all the biodiversity, but New Zealand has pretty much any kind of climate/landscape (rainforest, beach, snow-capped mountain, lake, etc) you could possibly want to see all crammed into its two relatively small islands. This plethora of natural features unblemished by power lines, roads and signs of modernity is why Peter Jackson, apart from being a kiwi himsef, wanted to film The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies there. Many of the filming locations are on the South Island, which I did not visit on this trip, but about two hours south of Auckland is the Waikato region, whose rolling green hills serve as the back drop for the shire, home of the hobbits.
All tours begin at the Shire's Rest, where buses depart for Hobbiton (only about ten minutes away but completely hidden by hills from the main road). And as you walk between the hobbit holes and around the lake and party tree, you learn quite a bit about the production as well.
A few fun facts:
- Around 40 hobbit holes were constructed, generally to a scale between 40-60% in order to force perspective and make two normal-sized actors match the expected heights of their characters (e.g. Gandalf and Frodo). Bag End is the only full-size hobbit hole.
- The sheep farm where Hobbiton was built is so remote that, before filming for LotR, Jackson - via the government - enlisted help from the New Zealand army to construct a road so that cast and crew could access the site easily.
- Jackson is a perfectionist and sought to remove all native plants and animals from the set; the plants were easy but the animals less so. Frogs from the original pond were simply moved to another further away, but in order to get the native birds to leave the crew regularly set off explosives in the days leading up to filming so that the noise would scare them off.
A few photos below. See the rest here.
(That moss in the first picture is fake, btw. Looks real though doesn't it?)