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Take a kayaking tour on the beautiful Pelorus River and you’ll be doing exactly what the dwarves’ did in their dramatic escape from Thranduil in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Well, with expert guides leading you on a gentle paddle down the river while you take in the beautiful surroundings, it's not quite as dramatic as the dwarves' barrel run. But it's just as memorable. No previous experience is needed and it’s family-friendly, suitable for kids over 4.
Just outside the sleepy, Shire-like town of Matamata you can find the reconstructed set used in filming Hobbiton for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series. Walk around colourful, grass-covered hobbit holes under the shade of trees and feel transported there and back again.
Fans of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey should find the area around Piopio familiar, because this is Trollshaws Forest. Have your photo taken standing on the spot where Gandalf first bestowed Sting to Bilbo, or just soak up the dramatic limestone cliffs and stunning surroundings.
Tongariro National Park (Manawatu)
The barren plains of Mordor and fiery slopes of Mount Doom are hardly any less striking in real life: Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Site. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hiking trail is a great way to see this real-life Mordor from all angles, including unforgettable views of the fiery volcanic tip of Mount Doom/Mount Ngauruhoe.
Wellington – Peter Jackson’s hometown – is the capital of the country as well as, arguably, of LOTR tourism. Visit the filming locations for Helms Deep, Minas Tirith, Isengard, and Rivendell, get a photo at the famous ‘Legolas Tree’, or visit Weta Workshop, the award-winning company responsible for the costumes and props used in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.
You won’t find the ‘one ring to rule them all’ at Mount Doom or Hobbiton, but in the sunny town of Nelson at the top of the South Island. Jens Hansen, who crafted the gold rings used during filming, has a workshop you can visit. Just outside Nelson are also the filming locations for Chetwood Forest and Dimrill Dale.
Wanaka and Queenstown (Otago)
The Cardrona Valley, just 10 minutes outside Wanaka, is where the computer-generated Pillars of Argonath looked over the River Anduin in The Lord of the Rings. A short drive further on towards Queenstown is Arrowtown and the Arrow River, used to film the Ford of Bruinen, where Arwen famously dares the Black Riders to cross the Loudwater River and claim Frodo. Following Lake Wakatipu around from Queenstown you get to Glenorchy and the ‘Isengard Lookout’, offering a panoramic view of Saruman’s home.
Fiordland National Park (Southland)
The towering peaks between Te Anau and Manapouri were the wild country surrounding Rivendell, and the Waiau River is also the Anduin, which the fellowship travelled on from Lothlorien. Close to Te Anau, too, is Snowdon Forest, which became Fangorn Forest, where Aragorn tracked the hobbits’ footprints and Gandalf whistled for Shadowfax.