So I spent the day visiting Hobbits
Many Kiwis (New Zealanders, not the birds) have said the LOTR and Hobbit movies simply look like ads for visiting New Zealand, and having seen the set I can somewhat concur. The Alexander family owned a farm on New Zealands north island, upon seeing the location from overhead via helicopter Peter Jackson determined that in was the perfect location for the shire, and the surrounding areas would become much of middle earth.
Sadly all of the other locations created for the films have been long since demolished and returned to their pre-movie ridiculously gorgeous New Zealandness.
There are three fairly easy ways to visit the set, either by driving directly to the shires rest (Gift Shop) and hopping on the tour bus, or by catching one of the larger tour buses in Rotorua or Matamata. The larger buses simply bring one to the shires rest so in the end it makes no real difference. I was unable to visit the set without a tour group so I opted for the very first tour of the day, to minimize the heat and crowds. They supply umbrellas to hold back New Zealands famed tropical downpours that arrive without any warning whatsoever, or the sun. SPF 50 or greater is a very wise choice either way as the sun here has a habit of cooking people alive where they stand.
Ordinarily movie sets are somewhat disappointing and ruin the mystique of the film itself by being merely facades held together by scant timbers or posters of long views stuck upon the walls of a sound stage. Not so with Hobbiton. The doorways to the various Hobbit holes are set into hillsides with small gardens in front, bread sits cooling on benches while tiny Hobbit clothing dries on the lines. The Hobbits appears to have gone inside mere moments before your arrival leaving tools in wheelbarrows and various debris from ongoing projects lying about. There are paths in the grass to the washing lines created by months of tiny feet trodding upon them.
The tour ends with a much needed flagon (Read: small random cups) of Hobbit Beer at the green dragon. While the beer is quite good the highlight is the incredibly elaborately decorated bar itself, with numerous ‘artifacts’ of Hobbit life including clothes to dress up in as well as a map of the shire and what I later learned are edible foodstuffs. Having seen so many incredibly realistic items of food sitting out around the Hobbits homes I assumed the cookies and such were ornamental, however they are not. If for any reason one finds oneself in the neighborhood of New Zealand I would highly recommend taking the tour if only to feel huge next to so many pieces of tiny furniture.