Wellington for hobbits
The Hop Garden, in Wellington, has a great selection of New Zealand microbrews to intice any hobbit. (Phil Cook)
Adding to the excitement surrounding the much anticipated film based on JRR Tolkien’s inaugural fantasy novel, director Sir Peter Jackson released a video diary last month that takes fans behind the scenes of his movie set in Wellington, New Zealand.
His glimpse into the making of The Hobbit movie, scheduled for release next year, has undoubtedly whetted the palates of fantasy geeks around the world. So we've put together a tour of Wellington that should all but satisfy their hunger for all things Lord of the Rings - in other words, an itinerary fit for a hobbit.
1) Get yourself a hobbit name
Use "The Hobbit Name Generator" to discover your secret hobbit name. ("Bilbo Baggins" returns the name Bilbo Baggins, so it's legit.)
2) Find a dwelling in Middle-earth
Booklovers Bed and Breakfast in downtown Wellington is a dream for, well, book lovers. Converted from a historic home, Booklovers was opened in 1999 by author Jane Tolerton who has stocked the inn with books over the years. The coolest thing about this B&B is that guests can choose from the literary collection and take books with them.
3) Devour breakfast... and then second breakfast
Freshly cooked breakfast is included in your stay at Booklovers, which offers eggs, bacon, fresh fruits, homemade granola, local juice, fair-trade local coffee and more. Since hobbits are known to enjoy "second breakfast", we recommend Vista Café, just north of Booklovers, which serves breakfast until 4 pm. In addition to brunch staples like eggs benedict and pancakes, Vista serves corn and herb fritters with a tomato-onion salsa, banana-coconut bread and homemade ciabatta bread.
4) Follow the trails of Frodo and Gandalf
Follow in the footsteps of actors Elijah Wood and Sir Ian McKellen by choosing from the movie tours offered by Wellington Rover Tours. Depending on which trip you select, you could recreate up to 25 scenes from the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. Possible locations include "outer shire", outside of Downtown; suburbs to the south of Downtown where LOTR actors have lived; the WETA Cave, a pop culture museum co-founded by Jackson; Stone Street Studio, where The Hobbit is currently in production; and Hutt Valley and Kaitoke Regional Park, home to gardens, rivers and elfish trees featured in the movies. Wellington Rover Tours says its proudest feature is its knowledgeable guides, who have numerous anecdotes and secrets about the LOTR movies.
Serious fanatics may want to head out of town for a weekend to take the Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tour in Matamata - about six hours north of Wellington. Peter Jackson used Hobbiton's private farmland - the Alexander family farm - as The Shire in his films.
5) Have a spot of afternoon tea
It's no surprise that hobbits take afternoon tea, since their creator was an Englishman. Hippopotamus Restaurant serves high tea with multiple menus from which to choose. Tea varieties range from Mediterranean mandarin to natural rosehip and hibiscus to traditional Ceylon. Hobbit wannabes looking for an afternoon tipple will be pleased by Hippopotamus's selection of high tea cocktails. The Skye Bridge cocktail is made with 10-year-old scotch and Manuka honey.
6) Crash the set of The Hobbit
A tweet from Sir Ian McKellen leads us to believe that he and his cast-mates are currently shooting scenes at Stone Street Studios in the Miramar area of Wellington. The company does not offer public tours, but if you hang out outside for long enough, you're likely to spot members of The Hobbit's star-studded cast.
7) Chow down some more
As Pippin notes in the first Lord of the Rings movie, hobbits love to eat: "What about breakfast...What about second breakfast?...What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper?" That means, it's time to eat again. Not far from Peter Jackson's Miramar sound stages is Café Polo, named after the polo grounds nearby. According to Tolkien, mushrooms are a favourite hobbit food which grows in the Shire. Café Polo's menu features wild mushroom arancini and a main course of sirloin steak with mushrooms in garlic butter.
For supper with a side of celebrity, restaurants with a reputation of attracting LOTR stars include Green Parrot and Matterhorn, just a few blocks away from each other in Downtown Wellington.
8) 'It comes in pints!'
After your day (or weekend) of Tolkein-esque attractions, wind down with some ale, glorious ale. If there's an activity hobbits enjoy more than eating, it's probably drinking. If hobbits weren't fictional, we have a feeling they'd be at the forefront of the microbrew scene. For a night of frothy craft ales, start at Mac's Brewbar, on the harbour downtown. Mac's own award-winning beer includes the English-style Sassy Red, the chocolaty Mac's Black and Isaac's Cider, a hard cider made from local apples.
Next, head south to find The Malthouse, which isn't a brewpub but it does serve 80 craft beers from around the world. To find out which creative beers the bar is rolling out, check in with its blog. Finally, travel a few blocks south to find a gorgeous pub just a stone's throw from Booklovers B&B.
The Hop Garden has a lovely glass-encased garden-patio in addition to its great selection of New Zealand microbrews. With the option of ordering half-glasses of beers including Emerson's Bookbinder and Renaissance's Stonecutter Scotch Ale, you can sample as many craft brews as your little hobbit liver allows.