Thankfully the road south was much better than the logging road we accidentally took the day before. Better, meant that the road was paved, but it was still very narrow and twisting, combined with driving on the “wrong” side of the road made the 3-hour drive challenging. The good news is that the views of the ocean road were spectacular in spots, even if we sometimes felt a little bit uncomfortable with big logging trucks flying by us in the opposite direction.
We also learned if you don’t know the speed limit on a highway, it’s almost always 100km/hr no matter how windy the road is and how unsafe it would be to drive that fast!
We were on our way to the Hobbiton Movie Set but stopped along the way at some lookouts and hiked around an old mining site nearby for an hour or so. It was amazing to see photos of the damage the miners did to the river valley and how nature has reclaimed the site and is breaking down many of the mining buildings.
We arrived at Matamata in plenty of time for our tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set and had time to say hello to the resident sheep and check out the gift shop before we hopped on the tour bus that took us on a 10-minute drive to the movie set itself.
The guide we had for our tour of the movie set was wonderful. She did a wonderful job giving us the back story on some of the interesting things that happened during the creation and filming on the site, along with plenty of trivia.
There were 44 Hobbit hole facades that were built for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. We missed being able to go into one of the new Hobbit holes that were under construction while we were there by about 2 weeks.
It was a wonderful way to finish off our tour of Hobbiton before hopping on the tour bus and heading back to the gift shop and our car. As we neared our hotel in town, we saw a very appropriate-looking visitors centre for Hobbiton (aka Matamata)! It was closed, unfortunately, but when we looked through the windows in the front door we noticed that they had built a beautiful hobbit facade over top of quite a nice-looking stone building.
P.S. Thanks to our good friend Deb, we learned the many dead animals we were seeing on the road in NZ are many possums 🙁