Updated: 10 January 2017
Ever wondered what it would be like to take a trip to Middle Earth? Would you have fancied taking the ring back to Mount Doom with Frodo? If you are a Lord of the Rings fanatic then New Zealand is the place for you. All three of the trilogy movies were filmed in New Zealand as well as the subsequent Hobbit Trilogy so if you want to ‘geek’ it up, then check out some of the filming locations below and plan your New Zealand trip around them.
New Zealand is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth. Whether it’s the stunning coastline or the crystal clear lakes, the rolling hills or the snow-capped peaks, everywhere you look will have you ‘oooohhing’ and ‘aaaahhing’. It’s no great surprise then that it was selected as a venue for ALL of the filming of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Not just a scene or two. All of it.
Check out our list of locations below, grab yourself a good steed (sadly Shadowfax is unavailable so maybe take the Tucson instead!) and employ a fearless guide (again, Gandalf is currently off on one of his wanders so a GPS will have to do!) and away you go!
Ideally you will start your adventure in the North and head south as it has a nice flow to it! Matamata should be your first stop and the chance to visit The Shire and the Hobbiton Movie set. Here you can book yourself on a guided tour and even have a pint down at the Prancing Pony. This is a must do for any Lord of the Rings fan and a great opportunity to fill up your camera’s memory card!
Matamata is a really cool place to visit anyway and is about a 2 hour drive from Auckland.
After a lovely time spent in Hobbiton, it’s time to crank this adventure up a notch with a trip to Mordor! Maybe a little early in your Lord of the Rings adventure and not quite as tricky a journey as Frodo and Sam faced, head south from Matamata around the shores of the magnificent Lake Taupo and into the Tongariro National Park.
The Tongariro Crossing is considered to be one of New Zealand’s finest one day walks and the 19.4km track takes you through the heart of Mordor past the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. You will immediately spot the iconic Mt Ngauruhoe as the mountain used to depict Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those who are fit enough can take a detour up to the summit which is a spectacular site.
Wellington and around
From Mordor, take the road south where you will find some of the most accessible Lord of the Rings locations. Before you hit the city, down the east coast of the Wairarapa region you can visit the eerie Putangirua Pinnacles where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli took the Paths of the Dead. Into the Upper Hutt you can visit Kaitoke Regional Park which became Rivendell. The location is well signposted from the car park.
From here, you can head to the Lower Hutt where Minas Tirith, Minas Morgul and Helms Deep were all filmed. This is a popular areas with Lord of the Rings fans with so many filming locations situated close together. The scenery at all of these locations is stunning and well worth the visit whether you’re a Lord of the Rings buff or not.
If you decide to head to Wellington via the west coast you can head the Waitarere Forest which was used to film the scenes in the Osgiliath Wood before heading down to Queen Elizabeth Park near Paraparaumu which was used for filming the Nazgul and mumakil in the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Finally, one of the most accessible Lord of the Rings locations is found at Mount Victoria within walking distance of the city centre. The forested mountain was used to depict the woods of Hobbiton where the little hobbits first hid from the black rider.
Take the ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton in the Marlborough Sounds, and drive across the winding ranges to Nelson. Jens Hansen is the acclaimed jeweller responsible for creating the One True Ring as well as about 40 other rings used in the movies. In the store, you can check out one of the original rings and even purchase your very own ring.
Nelson is not only home to the legendary ring forger – you can also check out a couple of filming locations whilst you’re here. Best seen by helicopter, the Dimrill Dale filming site is where the fellowship hid from the black crows. A helicopter flight will also give you a pretty awesome experience to see the magnificence of the Abel Tasman national Park – a view which is difficult to imagine from ground level.
Canterbury, with its vast plains and stunning mountains was an obvious choice for film director Peter Jackson. The first place you will come across is Edoras, the main city for the people of Rohan. Perhaps one of the most recognisable of all film locations, Mount Sunday is a sheer-sided hill set against the backdrop of the Southern Alps. Although nothing remains of the set, you can take a walk up to the site which is well worth it for the stunning views.
Near Twizel you will find Mackenzie Country – location for the epic battle of the Pelennor Fields. In the movie we see what appears to be thousands of orcs bred by Sauron clash with the men of Gondor and Rohan. It’s a pretty awe-inspiring location but it does sit on private land so you can’t just go wandering otherwise you might face a battle of your own. Tours can be arranged in Twizel though!
The Otago region is home to a number of film locations. Glenorchy was used for Lothlorien, the beech forest on the road to paradise and is found at the northern tip of Lake Wakitipu. This is a truly stunning drive and although this was the only filming location along the way, you will be forgiven for thinking the whole movie could have been shot here. Simply stunning.
Close to Queenstown, you can take the drive out to Arrowtown, a quaint little town with a lovely high street. From here you can take the walk to the Ford of Bruinen on the Arrow River.
For a stunning panoramic over Middle-Earth, take a drive up to the summit of Mount Cardrona. From here you will get a vista across middle earth – to the left you will see the River Anduin and the Pillars of the Argonath. Sadly these were computer generated in the movie but hopefully you will get the idea.
This is a must do for anyone travelling around New Zealand’s South Island – the Lord of the Rings locations are a bonus! One of the best locations to check out is Fanghorn Forest which is situated close to Te Anau – ask for directions to Takaro Road and you will soon get a feeling that the trees are watching you! Whilst you’re down this way, it would be rude not to visit Milford Sound!
Other notable locations
- Southern Alps and West Coast – used to film the Misty Mountains
- Weta Workshop – a great place to see where the filming and animations took place in the famous studios
So, that concludes our journey through Middle Earth. Between the team at GO Rentals (the LOTR nerds anyway) we have visited all of these locations and they are definitely worth a trip.
If you’re planning a trip around New Zealand, be sure to check out our Trip Planner itineraries, many of which will take you through these stunning locations.
“I think I’m quite ready for another adventure!”