New Zealand’s awe inspiring scenery was a perfect match for setting of this cinematic masterpiece - its dramatic and diverse scenery was a compelling part of Sir Peter Jackson's reason for using New Zealand as the location for this epic production.
For many people the idea of visiting our country was planted by the Lord of the Rings trilogy and to some people the trip can be considered a pilgrimage. Whatever your level of appreciation, this itinerary is designed for you. It takes you to some of the most impressive scenic locations chosen for the filming of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and more recently The Hobbit Trilogy. (Find out more about New Zealand as the home of Middle-earth here.)
Please note that some of the original Lord of the Rings set locations have been returned to their natural state. In some cases access can be limited due to the remoteness of the site. You can however still visit some of the impressive natural features that served as a backdrop for the filming.
Most trips begin or end in Auckland. No doubt you’ll be in Auckland for a short while at some stage during your trip. There's plenty to do here - shopping, fine dining and various adventure activities.
After a short drive south of Auckland you arrive in at Matamata in the verdant district of Waikato, home of Hobbiton and The Shire. Be sure to visit the Shire’s Rest Cafe. Tours visiting Hobbiton depart here 7 times a day
The tour itself lasts 2 hours and guides you around the film site and includes Bag-end, The Mill, The Green Dragon and the landmark party tree. Your guide will escort you through the 10 acre site - recounting details on how the set was created and changed over the years.
South of Taupo lies Turangi - a popular destination for anglers and hikers. The ‘Grand Chateau’ hotel lies at the foot of Mt Ruapehu with a view of ‘Mount Doom’ Ngauruhoe. The Lord of the Rings crew used this as their base of operations while filming the Mordor scenes. A 15 minute ascent of the mountain takes you to the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, the very heart of Mordor.
You can see the blasted landscape used in the cinematic ‘battle of the second age’ . We recommend decent walking shoes as the terrain can be quite rough.
To really immerse yourself in the isolation and atmosphere in Mordor, the Tongariro Crossing is a recommended 7-8 hour walk and also the setting for Emyn Muil and Mordor.
Wellington lies an easy 3-4 hour drive south and was central to the film’s production. Home to the cast and crew for over 3 years, you can still find Weta Workshop and their Weta Cave Museum in Miramar where you can see the real life characters, props and displays used in the movies. Entry is free and there is a wide range of interactive attractions and collectables.
Wellington is also home to several filming locations, with Mt Victoria being used as the outer reaches of the shire during the Hobbits' flight from the Nazgul.
Other filming areas easily accessible from Wellington include the hidden refuge of Rivendell and the encampment of Dunharrow. Over the hills from Wellington you can find the haunting Putangirua Pinnacles which served as the backdrop for Dimholt Road and the Paths of the Dead.
Canterbury and Nelson
Nelson is a short trip south of Wellington after catching the interislander ferry.
Blessed with a mild climate all year around, Nelson is home to a number of artisans who worked on Lord of the Rings.
Harrington Brewers in Richmond were responsible for creating all the beer used in production and made over 20,000 litres of beer for the production.
Nelson is also home to a number of artisans including Jens Hansen - the goldsmith responsible for creating the 40 different rings used in production, one being as large as 16cm in diameter! One of the original rings is on display and copies can be bought in 9 and 18ct gold.
High up in Ashburton’s rugged high country lies Mt Sunday, a sheer sided hill that was the set for Edoras - the home to the Rohan people.
Mt Sunday is 85km from the nearest town of Methven; the set took over 9 months to assemble by helicopter. While very little remains of the set today, guided tours are available and are well worth the effort as the area boasts so spectacular views and photo opportunities.
A short drive up Skippers Canyon Road, you can find the site of the magical flood summonded by Arwen. While the scenery is spectacular, it is recommended that you use a local 4WD drive operator as the road is closed to rental cars and it is steep and difficult in places. The scenic drive to Glenorchy follows the shores of Lake Wakatipu for 45 km. Closeburn is 8 km from Queenstown and while the actual location of Amon Hen is not accessible, a stop on the lake shore is suggested here.
The area for filming was set amongst the pine trees on the peninsula to the left of here. Filming for the dramatic finale of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' was undertaken at Closeburn, Paradise and Mavora Lakes. There are a number of walks and mountain bike tracks here that will take you into Ithlien Camp. Carry on to the village of Glenorchy at the northern end of lake Wakatipu where the jagged peaks of the snow capped misty mountains act as a spectacular back drop. A couple of days can easily be spent in the area, walking, jet boating and horse trekking to Isengard, Amon hen and Lothlorien. An exciting way to see the river is via jetboat.
Another way to see the misty mountains is with a local helicopter operator. You can see the snow capped slopes of the mountains to Dimrill Dale and the gates of Khazad-dum and stop at the Fangorn forest on the way back.
Fly over the outskirts of Lothlorien and Fangorn returning towards Queenstown via the Great River. A longer Heliworks tour can also take you into the Fiordland National Park to include the Kepler Mountains and Norwest lakes and this is a good option for those with time to spare.
Thrifty Tours are the New Zealand travel specialists and have several Lord of the Rings themed coach tour itineraries on offer, such as the Land of the Rings (9 days), Middle Earth Escape (2 days) and Middle Earth Discovered (8 days).
Thanks for reading our Lord of the Rings Guide to New Zealand, check back soon to hear more about The Hobbit locations!
Have you got a great story to tell? Add your own article