...or, "I've been to Bag End, But I've Never Been to Me."
While staying at my parent's place in Waihi Beach, we decided to drive out to Matamata and take the guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set (after watching FotR the night before).
This is the original set from the first trilogy, or what's left of it. As the story goes, after filming was done for the Hobbiton scenes in FotR and RotK, New Line proceeded to demolish the set they'd built on the Alexander farm, per their agreement with the owners. Bad weather held up the demolition for six months, and during that time locals from Matamata and the surrounding area came knocking on the Alexanders' door and asking if they could have a nosey around the remaining set. One of the Alexanders (or Peter Jackson, depending on which tour guide's telling the story) saw a business opportunity, and after a couple of years sorting out the red tape, they started running guided tours. This worked out nicely several years later when they were able to come back and use some of the sets for the upcoming Hobbit films.
It has to be said that the area on which the set is built is somewhat smaller than you'd expect, and bits of it are looking a little run down, but the important parts (especially Bag End) are everything they should be. Apparently they're in the process of upgrading the tour for the release of the Hobbit films, including tourists being able to have a beer at the Green Dragon(!).
Here's a sample of the photos I took:Bag End:Sam and Rosie's:The "party tree":The Green Dragon:The tour guide called this one "the perfect spot" for a Hobbiton photo. You've got your lake, your party tree, several Hobbit holes, and Bag End overlooking them all: