Hobbiton Evening Banquet Tour

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Most of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series was filmed in New Zealand.  In fact, one could argue that the movies were the best tourism pitch director Peter Jackson, who lives in Wellington, ever portrayed for his country.  That being said, a trip to Hobbiton near Matamata in New Zealand's north island is essential if you've ever seen the movies.  Hobbiton offers several different tour options, from a standard movie set guided tour, to a guided tour coupled with lunch, and the evening banquet tour as the flagship offering.  During the peak summer season, the evening banquet tour has to be booked months in advance.  But during the low winter season, you could secure a spot even a week in advance.

All tours begin at the Shire's Rest, which is little more than an overpriced gift shop and cafeteria.  After a 10-minute bus ride, we arrived at the entrance to Hobbiton.

As the last tour of the day, you pretty much have the entire Hobbiton movie set to yourself, which made way for an array of photo ops.

Most of the shire structures are external features, though a couple do house interiors, including Frodo and Sam's houses.

The tour runs you through all 44 of the houses and takes just over an hour.  It's timed so that when dusk approaches, we conclude at the Green Dragon, where the banquet begins.

Included in the banquet is all the food one can muster to ingest and one alcoholic drink.

Local pasture-raised lamb shanks hit the spot on the protein bomb

The local New Zealand salmon and free range chicken were proteins to die for

The food was a good mix of proteins, vegetables, and, of course carbs.  There was plenty to go around and I went absolutely ballistic on the proteins, especially the salmon and chicken.  Despite that, my side of the table still wasn't able to fully finish any of the plates.  Oh yeah, and I completely forgot about the desserts....

Full set of cheater foods galore

When the dessert came along, it was clear that this was going to be a cheater meal x3.  For a banquet meal, the selections were delicious and appetizing, and Hobbiton goes overboard on the portions.  After downing a month's worth of cheater foods, we headed out in the dark with lanterns and walked to the center of the Hobbiton.

Sheer beauty

After a staged and lighted photo op, we boarded the bus and headed back to the Shire's Rest.

Bottom line

I admit it: cheating is necessary at times.  The evening banquet made this a great tour, especially since we had the entire Hobbiton and Green Dragon to ourselves coupled with delicious New Zealand entrees.  Hobbiton is also absolutely gorgeous when lit up at night, especially with a full moon as your backdrop.  I would definitely recommend the 4-hour evening banquet tour to anyone visiting the north island.  You do pay a significant premium at ~$125 USD as opposed to $54 USD for the 2-hour standard tour, but factoring in the food and drink, and the beauty and solace of having this place all to yourself at night, it's totally worth the extra.  And only the best tour guides are placed on the evening banquet tour, as they were both very professional with great a great sense of humor.


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