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 The Ultimate Lord of the Rings New Zealand Vacation

Middle Earth

Middle-earth, home of Hobbits, Trolls, and Orcs, may have been the creation of JR Tolkien’s brilliant mind, but believe us when we tell you that the idyllic paradise, brought to life by director Sir Peter Jackson in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, really does exist in New Zealand - the perfect place for the ultimate lord of the rings New Zealand vacation. Across the country, stunning landscapes of Middle-earth unfold like a pop-up picture book right before your very eyes. But instead of viewing these jaw-dropping locations on the silver screen, New Zealand gives you free access to explore these places at your own pace. And the best news of all, many of the locations from The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are easily accessible. So grab your keys, jump in your vehicle and let us help you discover the epic landscape of Middle-earth.  

Hobbit and LoTRs Filming Locations in New Zealand
1) Hobbiton

One of the best places to begin any Lord of the Rings New Zealand vacation is of course the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located in the agricultural region of Matamata, this permanent ode to Middle-earth is like stepping straight onto the set of one of the blockbuster movies. Located on acres of private farmland, amongst the blooming flowers and happily tweeting birds, sit brightly coloured Hobbit holes in a place so incredible you feel like you could bump into Frodo, Bilbo or Gandalf at any given time. Guided tours depart daily from The Shires Rest and end with a cold drink in a replica of the Green Dragon Inn. You can even watch Hobbiton come to life with twinkling lights as dusk arrives with an evening tour of the set.

2) Hairy Feet Waitomo

Hairy Feet Waitomo is one of the newest Hobbit locations in New Zealand, and one of the most spectacular. A drive off the beaten track on a winding road through lush native bush brings you to this special location. Private farmland, framed by soaring ancient limestone cliffs, became Trollshaws Forest, is where Gandalf hands Bilbo Baggins the ‘Sting’ sword in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Other scenes, including the colourful arrival of Radagast, the attack of the Wargs and Ocrs and the area where the Company arrives at Staddle Farm, were also shot there. The sociable owners of Hairy Feet Waitomo take small groups on a guided tour of the location and give you the opportunity to have photographs taken with some of the props used in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

3) Mt Doom - Tongariro National Park

No Lord of the Rings New Zealand vacation would be complete without a visit to New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park – the home of the infamous Mt Doom. Of particular significance is the circular cone of Mount Ngauruhoe, the mystical mountain was transformed into Mt Doom, the atmospheric location of Mordor and home to Dark Lord Sauron. The wild volcanic landscapes of this area, complete with sub-alpine tussock and native flora and fauna, are spellbinding and set the scene for Emyn Muil and the Plains of Gorgonath.

4) Weta Workshop - Wellington

Nicknamed ‘Wellywood’ due to the significant role the city has played in the development of the New Zealand film industry, Wellington is a Middle-earth must-do and there are plenty of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit-themed adventures to be found across the city and beyond. There are a variety of half-day tours to choose from, taking in locations like the Hobbiton Woods, the beautiful Rivendell and a tour of the Weta Cave Workshop in Miramar, giving you the chance to experience the inner workings of Sir Peter Jackson’s world.

Take a Quick Break and see our Scenic Lotr Video
5) Putangirua Pinnacles – Paths of the Dead

The seriously spooky Putangirua Pinnacles are towering pillars of earth located at the very bottom of the North Island. Follow in the footsteps of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli down the Dimholt Road in search of the Paths of the Dead! Often missed by international tourists, these incredible geological wonders look like giant spires reaching for the sky. Standing alongside them in the Aorangi Forest Park, you'll feel the eerie stillness in the air. You can hike to the Pinnacles via two different routes taking between 2-4 hours. Wear sturdy shoes: the Paths of the Dead can be a bit rocky underfoot. Allow a two-hour drive from Wellington or just one hour from Martinborough.
 

6) Nelson & the 'One Ring'

Nelson, a sun-drenched region known for its white-sandy beaches, delectable wines, craft beers, and sublime seafood is the perfect place to start the South Island leg of your Lord of the Rings New Zealand adventure. Nelson is home to jeweler Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith, given the task of creating 40 replicas of the famed One Ring for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. At the shop, you can view some of the rings created for the movies, or buy your own slice of Middle-earth with authentic copies for purchase.

7) Pelorus River – Dwarves in Barrels

The Pelorus River was the fabulous backdrop for the famous Dwarves in Barrels scene in The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug. This wild and beautiful river flows through the South Island's Marlborough region at the top of the South Island. Recreate the epic journey for yourself (in a kayak, not a barrel!) on a river expedition following the same route as the dwarves in the movie. Or if dry land is more your thing, take a 3-4 hour trek through lush podocarp forests, over a swing bridge and past thundering waterfalls with the sounds of rushing water and native birdsong ringing in your ears.

8) Mt Potts Station / Mount Sunday: EDORAS

Who can forget this iconic Two Towers movie scene: as Eowyn leaves the Golden Hall of King Theodin, the flag of Rohan comes loose and soars away over a desolate landscape as all hope seems lost. On the sheer-sided hill of Mount Sunday no trace of the Golden Hall movie set remains, but its ghost lives on at the hauntingly beautiful Mt Potts High Country Station, where Tolkien's Edoras came to life. Only 2.5 hours from Christchurch, it's a location any Lord of the Rings fan must visit while travelling the South Island. Channel your inner Eowyn experience Mt Sunday's spectacular 360 degree views with a guided 4WD tours departing from Christchurch or Methven. Specially designed for Lord of The Rings fans, you can even take your own iconic Mt Sunday selfie with a replica Rohan flag!
 

9) Queenstown District - A Hobbity Feast of Locations

Surrounded by snowy mountains, endless lakes and rushing rivers, you'll soon see why so many Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie scenes were filmed around our Adventure Capital. Here are some highlights:

•    Skippers Canyon: where Arwen fought off the Black Riders
•    Lake Alta: Dimril Dale, where the Fellowship escape from the Mines of Moria
•    Kawarau Gorge: where the Fellowship sail between The Pillars of the Argonath
•    Paradise: the Gardens of Isengard
•    Earnslaw Burn: Rivendell (The Hobbit)

Some locations are easier to access than others, and there are companies specialising in 4WD and helicopter tours of the hard-to-reach places. If you can linger a bit longer, combine your love of Middle Earth with some classic Queenstown adventure activities! The Kawarau Gorge is home to the world's first commercial bungy jump site, and you can ride through the heart of Isengard (Paradise) on a half day horse trek.
 

10) Fiordland - Welcome to Middle Earth

Fiordland National Park could easily be renamed "Middle Earth": the entire 12,000 square kilometres of this World Heritage Area could have leapt from the pages of a Tolkien novel. This popular Southland tourist doubled for a huge number of Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit locations including:

•    The Dead Marshes - where Gollum pulls Frodo from the ghost-filled waters (Kepler Mire)
•    Fangorn Forest - magical home of Treebeard and the Ents (Snowdon Forest)
•    The Anduin River - where the Fellowship bid farewell to the elves of Lothlorien (The Waiau River)

Base yourself in Te Anau and explore by helicopter, jet boat or on foot. To truly immerse yourself in Middle Earth, grab your backpack and take a multi-day hike on the Milford Track. Hiking through ancient forests, past cascading waterfalls and misty mountains, you can't get much closer to a Hobbit's journey. (There are day walk options too if you just want a little taster!)
 

The perfect Self-Drive Lord of the Rings vacation: 

A 14-day self-drive expedition is a perfect way to enjoy an unexpected Lord of the Rings New Zealand adventure. Beginning your journey in Auckland – New Zealand’s City of Sails – in the North Island it is approximately 2.5 hours of scenic drive through rich agricultural landscapes to reach the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata in the Waikato region.

Hairy Feet Waitomo in the small New Zealand farming town of Piopio will be your next stop and takes approximately 2 hours to drive from Matamata. From here your options are endless – and a visit to the geological wonderland of Waitomo Caves, where thousands of twinkling glowworms light the way, is another New Zealand must-do.

A drive to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington will take approximately 5.5 hours and from Waitomo and a breathtaking ferry trip across the Cook Straight (this takes approximately 2.5 hours) will bring you to Picton, a small seafaring town at the top of the South Island.

It takes approximately just 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive from Picton to Nelson where you will encounter some of New Zealand’s most precious landscapes. At around 9-hours the drive from Nelson to Canterbury is the longest on this suggested itinerary – but this can be broken up stopping in various places along the way.

From the Lake Pukaki area, it’s a 3.5-hour drive back to the ‘Garden City’ Christchurch where you can depart New Zealand.

Would you like to add one of these amazing scenic wonders to your dream New Zealand holiday? To receive a free, no obligation, personalised itinerary - just follow the link and answer a few brief questions

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Tags
Lord of the Rings
"The Hobbit"
Elizabeth Marshall
Submitted by
Elizabeth Marshall
: 26 Mar 2015 (Last updated: 23 Apr 2020)

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