If your kids are mad for The Hobbit franchise, there is a way you can take them to Middle Earth. In Waitomo, New Zealand, there are hobbit tours where you can visit actual sites where scenes from the movies were shot. Suzie Denize of Hairy Feet Waitomo owns a farm in the Mangaotaki Valley with stunning limestone cliffs and rustic bushland which became the home of three trolls, a couple of wizards, some dwarves and a hobbit named Bilbo. Now the farm is open to visitors who want to hear stories about the filming and to step foot where Peter Jackson and Martin Freeman walked. For a truly memorable family holiday, Denize tells suitcases&strollers how to do New Zealand with kids, hobbit style.
What was the property used for before it became a film set?
It is still a sheep and beef farm actually. We did need to lock the animals out of the one paddock they used for several months so the grass would grow long prior to filming. Now the sheep are back in the paddock and we run the tours with them grazing around us.
Which scenes were filmed here?
Visitors get to join us on our farm and see towering limestone cliffs, unusual rock formations and an ancient native forest, as well as see the location used for the Trollshaws Forest in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The following scenes were shot here:
· The company [of dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf] arriving on ponies at a destroyed farmhouse, Staddle Farm;
· The exit from the cave containing the troll hoard;
· Gandalf bestowing the sword "Sting" upon Bilbo;
· Radagast [the wizard] arriving;
· The orcs and wargs attacking.
Visitors get to stand EXACTLY where Bilbo first receives the sword Sting.
There are plenty of photo opportunities, filming facts and farm stories.
[For more travel tips on other movie-themed family holiday ideas, see the suitcases&strollers story Having a Harry Potter Experience in London.]
Are there any parts of the "set" that have been left on the property?
The destroyed farmhouse set was made of polystyrene and is no longer here. However, we have a very distinctive landscape and a few also a few special surprises.
Is there an age limit for children coming on the tour?
There is no age limit, however we do drive to the site in a van, so ALL passengers, even those in capsules and car seats, need to have a seat. For that reason, children aged 0 to 14 years old are charged NZ$25; adults are NZ$50.
Is it possible to push strollers around the property during the tour?
Yes, but the track narrow (less than 1 metre) is gravel and over uneven ground (we don't have much flat ground around here!) with a few steps. Everyone, even energetic kids, must stay on the track and with the group. As I said before, it is still a working farm so parents must be aware that it isn't a playground.
Our nearest town, Piopio, has an excellent playground with a very good cafe right next to it called the Fat Pigeon Cafe. [There] kids can get rid of some energy while mum and dad have a strong latte!
Where else do you recommend Hobbit fans should visit in New Zealand to complete their Hobbit experience?
Hobbiton at Matamata, of course.
But [keep in mind that] lots of the other tours are probably not suitable for [very] little kids (like walking up "Mount Doom" which is the Tongariro Crossing or kayaking on the Pelorus River which is where the dwarves road in the barrels in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).
For more places in New Zealand where you can visit sites from the Lord of the Rings Films, see the suitcases&strollers story Ski New Zealand 2: Wanaka
Image: Todd Eyre