Getting the Hobbiton Habit
With the final Hobbit movie now on screens, and breaking even more records, there won’t be a better time than this to experience the magic of Middle Earth.
And the best way to get there is to find a company expert in cheap car rentals, hire a vehicle that suits your needs and head to Bilbo Baggins’s home village of Hobbiton.
Nestled in rolling lush countryside near the town of Matamata, 160 kms south of Auckland, Hobbiton is just as it is in the movies.
There’s the village pond and water-mill, the pub serving real ale, Hobbit holes looking snug under grassy knolls and country gardens.
The story of Matamata is one of a small country town transformed by one of the largest movie franchises of all time.
Back in 2000, when the town’s annual visitor numbers were a sleepy 51,000, none of the locals would have thought four years later this figure would have ballooned more than seven times to 370,000.
By 2011, visitor numbers were still running at almost a quarter of million a year.
The marketing campaign for the last movie in the trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, promises one last trip to Middle Earth.
But for anyone travelling to New Zealand, visiting Hobbiton at the heart of Middle Earth is easy and affordable, any time, especially in a cheap car rental.
Matamata is a two hour drive along State Highways 1, 2 and 27, so is an easy day trip or a place to visit as you head further south.
And with your own rental car you can be flexible and visit as many as you like. Here are just a chosen few:
- Hobbiton Movie Set – this is an absolute must and the main reason why people flock to Matamata. Set in lush farmland there are 44 Hobbit holes, including Bilbo Baggins’s Bag End, the double arched bridge and the famous Green Dragon Inn where you can enjoy a drink and a famous beef and ale pie. Hobbiton Movie Set tours depart all day from the i-Site information centre in Matamata, which itself looks like it should be in Hobbiton, and last around three hours, including travel. The guided tour includes a fascinating commentary about how it was all created.
- Lake Karapiro – in Matamata you may be inland but just 35 kms south west of town there’s the fresh water playground of Lake Karapiro. World famous as a rowing venue, people also visit the lake to kayak, water-ski, fish, swim, go boating, or just take a leisurely walk along the water’s edge.
- Kaimai Cheese Factory – the Waikato region is steeped in dairying history so a visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to sample some famous cheeses. Situated just north of Matamata, in the town of Waharoa, Kaimai gourmet cheeses are renowned for their freshness, flavour, texture and taste.
- Firth Tower Museum – if heritage and history, combined with stunning countryside, is what you’re after a visit to the tranquil gardens, wide lawns and shady trees surrounding the Firth Tower will be on your list of things to do. Picnic under the venerable oaks, take a stroll and learn something about the historic tower; built in 1882, it provides a lookout over the country side and was used as the estate office and sleeping quarters for single men!
- Wairere Falls – and if you are looking to stretch your legs nothing could be better than a tramp, or hike, to the spectacular Wairere Falls, the North Island’s highest at 153m. The start of the track is just ten minutes from Matamata and the round trip walk will take about 3-4 hours. The track winds through beautiful lush native bush, across small wooden bridges and there are staggering views of the Waikato Plains below and lots of opportunity to cool tired feet in the refreshing water.
There’s so much to do in this small town you may need some advice on how to plan your visit. If so, go to the iSite information centre in Matamata and ask about times and book tickets.
And if you have some spare time before your next adventure you can always enjoy one of the many great cafés in the town centre.
Travelling to Matamata is very affordable if you rent a car from a company like New Zealand Discount Car Rentals where prices start at $14.95 for a short term rental and could be as low as $9.95 a day for a minimum of 40 days.
You can visit its website here to get a quote for a car and rental period that suits your plans.
Of all the cheap car rentals on offer in Auckland, you won’t find a better value one. It has a large fleet of high quality vehicles from small hatchbacks to people movers and executive cars and you will always be welcomed with a friendly Kiwi smile and fantastic service.
And if you spend a little less on travel you can afford a few more treats along the way!