Trip of a lifetime for dedicated Hobbit fans
An unexpected journey to the iconic Green Dragon Inn topped off an exclusive fans tour of Hobbiton Movie Set for overseas fans lapping up the film's release.
About 100 tourists from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Ireland and Australia were among the first to see the pub up close over the weekend.
The fans are here on a two-week dedicated Hobbit premiere tour and will line the red carpet at the world premiere in Wellington later today.
The Ring sisters - their surname a fitting coincidence - Brenna, Barbara and Kathy, came all the way from San Diego to be a part of ''Tolkien history''.
''We put the deposit down two years ago when we first heard Peter Jackson was going to make the films,'' said Brenna.
''This is Hobbiton - this is home for us.''
Many of the fans took on hobbit attire for their visit to Hobbiton and tears were shed as they caught their first glimpses of the Shire.
Six twenty-somethings from Melbourne have been saving for the past two years to make the trip to Middle Earth.
''Our whole year has been leading up to this,'' said 24-year-old fan Zac Mennen.
Mennen first read The Hobbit at age seven and has been waiting for the movie adaptation since filming started on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
''I always knew it was going to happen and then when Peter Jackson came on to direct I knew it was in good hands,'' said Mennen.
''The Hobbit is one of the first novels I ever remember reading as a kid so [visiting Hobbiton] is massive for me.''I'm just trying to absorb everything.''
On Monday, the fans attended a Hobbit pre-premiere party in Wellington, where Sir Peter Jackson made a surprise appearance.
Actor Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings films, also attended the costume party thrown by Red Carpet Tours and TheOneRing.net.
Following the premier, the tour group will spend eight days visiting Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations, ending up in Queenstown.