As Boromir and countless meme variations (including this gem from Google Maps) will tell you, “one does not simply walk in to Mordor.” So how about a quick trip to the Shire instead?
The people of New Zealand have seen a boost in tourism in the last several years due to the film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy highlighting the natural beauty of the fjords, mountains and rolling countryside. The release of the “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” a prequel to the trilogy, last week has caused the entire nation to buy into the franchise whole-hobbit.
You’ve probably seen Air New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings-inspired safety video:
The country’s tourism office has even embraced the nickname “Middle Earth”. So if you have the average $2,000 for airfare from the east coast of the United States (and can sit for more than 20 hours on a plane) there are some great tour options available for the Tolkien lover and film critic.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” were the first words Tolkien wrote of Middle Earth and now the Alexander Farm, the filming location for the Shire on the North Island, is open to the public. The working beef and sheep farm is complete with 44 hobbit holes with their signature round doors and windows. Hobbiton Tours offers several tours of the picturesque fantasy village. You will be immersed in the magical and pastoral world of the hobbits. You can stop for a light meal (mmmm second breakfast) at The Shires Rest Café and stop for a souvenir at The Shire Store.
If you are interested in a longer adventure, the one-day Trails of Middle Earth is a guided tour leaving from Queenstown that takes you on a trip to more than 20 film locations. The tour also touts that it has actual weapons and costumes for you to handle and photograph. The guide, as any guide should be, is knowledgeable and loves the books and movies like Gollum loves his precious, and will discuss them at length.
The most extensive tour I came across was Wellington’s Lord of the Rings Location Tour. The guide will take you there and back again to Hobbiton Woods, Isengard, Ford of Isen, Village of Bree, Rivendell, River Anduin, Helms Deep, Minas Tirith and Dunharrow. You will even see the location of the iconic scene where Frodo and his friends dive off the road and hide in the roots from the Ring Wraith. The highlight of the trip is a picnic lunch in Rivendell.
I hope to surprise Amanda with an unexpected journey New Zealand one day, and you can be sure that a trip to see the filming locations will be part of the quest.