Matamata.

Matamata

Matamata Photo © www.heelsandwheelsonline.com

Matamata

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Most famous for being the home to Hobbiton, Matamata is a quaint rural town in the New Zealand farm district of Waikato. The town became a mecca for Lord of the Rings fans following the filming of the trilogy, and later The Hobbit, in the area. During filming, 300 locals got work as extras.

History

The land around Matamata formed part of the territory of the Ngāti Hauā (Wikipedia
	Article) tribe in the early 19th century. The pa (fortress) of the tribe was built 3.7 miles to the north of present day Matamata, near Waharoa.

It is thought the first European to visit the Matamata area was trader Phillip Tapsell, around 1830. In 1833, Reverend Alfred Nesbit Brown visited the area, and in 1835 opened a mission near Matamata Pa. This closed the following year when intertribal warfare broke out. In 1865, Josiah Firth negotiated with Ngāti Hauā leader, Wiremu Tamihana, and leased a large area of land, including the future site of the Matamata town.

Geography

Located at the base of the Kaimai Ranges (Wikipedia
	Article), the Matamata region is home to stunning scenery. From spectacular mountain ranges to sprawling green farmland, you will feel in the very heart of New Zealand.

Hobbiton

A farm nearby Matamata was the location for the Hobbiton movie set in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. After shooting wrapped, the New Zealand government decided to leave the hobbit holes built on location as a tourist attraction. The holes were designed to blend seamlessly into the environment and have become part of the landscape.

Tours are available from Matamata through Hobbiton Tours. Tours begin with a drive through the stunning 1,250-acre sheep farm, with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. Visitors are guided through the ten-acre site, as details of how the Hobbiton movie set was created are recounted. Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and other structures can be viewed, and you will learn how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle Earth.

Tours leave from the Shires Rest on Buckland Road in Matamata, or from the Matamata i-SITE information centre. Prices are $ 75 USD for adults, $ 38 USD for youth (10-14 years), and $ 10 USD for children (5-9 years). Children under age 5 are free. Including transport to and from the movie set, the tour takes approximately 3 hours.

Tours are also available leaving from Rotorua. Prices are $ 110 USD for adults, $ 73 USD for youth (10-14 years), and $ 45 USD for children (5-9 years). Children under age 5 are $ 35 USD . Including transport to and from Rotorua, the tour takes approximately 4.5 hours.

Tickets for tours are available from the Shires Rest Ticketing Center on Buckland Road, or online. Booking ahead is strongly recommended.

Firth Tower

3km east of town on Tower Road, the Firth Tower Museum is worth a visit, with its beautiful gardens, lawns and trees. The Firth Tower was built in 1882 by Auckland businessman Josiah Clifton Firth, to provide a lookout over the countryside. The 18m concrete tower was a sort of status symbol, and now is home to a museum displaying Maori (Wikipedia Article) and pioneer artifacts. The property includes 10 other historic buildings, including a schoolroom, church, and jail. Bring a picnic and enjoy lunch under the stunning oak trees.

Tours cost $ 5.00 USD for adults and $ 1.00 USD for children. Entrance to the grounds is free. The buildings are open 10 a0 feet - 4p0 feet Thursday to Monday, and the grounds are open 10 a0 feet - 4 p0 feet daily. For more information go online.

Wairere Falls

If you’ve had enough of hobbits and hairy feet, head out of town to Wairere Falls. The beautiful, natural attraction lies 15km northeast of Matamata township. At 502 feet high, the waterfall is the highest in the North Island. From the car park, it is a 45-minute hike through beautiful native bush to the lookout. For the more adventurous (and fit), tackle the steep 90-minute climb to the summit.

If your muscles are sore after the climb, check out the nearby Opal Hot Springs for some rest and relaxation.

Accommodation

Motels dominate the accommodation options in Matamata. Check out Broadway Motel and Miro Court Villas, or O’Reillys Motel on Firth Street. For a bed and breakfast option, try Firth Street Mews B&B.

Eating

For when your appetite strikes, try Workman’s Café Bar on Broadway. A quirky locale offering delicious food, it transforms into a watering hole at night.

The Kaimai Cheese Café on Hawes Street is the place to try incredible local cheese. The building itself is a replica of a 1920s butter factory, and makes a perfect place for a cheese tasting or a meal in itself.

Getting There

State Highway 27 runs through the town, providing easy access by car. Matamata is 2-hour drive from Auckland, 1 hour from Rotorua, and 45 minutes from Tauranga.

By air, the closest airport is in Hamilton City, 45 minutes drive away. New Zealand’s biggest international airport is located in Auckland.

Other information

The i-SITE information center is handily located on the main street, and will help you with all your questions and bookings. Check them out at their website.

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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Jul 06, 2015

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