Any Lord of the Rings fans worth their salt owe it to themselves to make a trek to "Hobbiton" in New Zealand. NY1's Valarie D'Elia filed the following report.
If you're a Hobbit fan, then your journey to Middle Earth can start just as soon as you set foot on your flight, especially if you find yourself on Air New Zealand's only Hobbit-themed 777, as I did, courtesy of the airline. You will also see familiar characters in an amusing onboard safety video.
Indeed, New Zealand is a Mecca for fans of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the new Hobbit movies. And nowhere do the Academy-Award winning films come to life as in "Hobbiton," the actual on-location set now turned into a tourist attraction.
It is operated by sheep and beef farmer-turned-businessman Russell Alexander and his family, in partnership with Peter Jackson, who directed the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as well as "The Hobbit."
In 1998, a location scout knocked on Alexander's farmhouse door, and the rest is Hobbit history.
"I suppose, to take it from the movie, it's been an unexpected journey," Alexander said.
The "Hobbiton" tourist attraction sits on just 1 percent of the farm's rolling 1,250 acres. Bucolic walking tours take you through the Shire, or countryside, past 44 hobbit holes, where many scenes were filmed, including Bilbo Baggins' famous green door.
Other recognizable landmarks are the Party tree, the mill and bridge and the brand new, fully operational Green Dragon Pub, which existed only as a facade in the movies.
Hobbiton is located in Matamata, on the north island, south of Auckland. Guided tours are two hours long, and include van service to the shire from the visitor's center and a complimentary drink at the inn.
Admission is $75 for adults, $38 for youth and $10 for children.
For more information, go to www.hobbitontours.com.