With the last of the Middle Earth movies now in theaters, I thought it was a good time to share our Top 5 Lord of the Rings/Hobbit filming locations in New Zealand.
Having both been fans of the books and movies, I would be lying if I said that the decision to move here wasn’t slightly influenced by wanting to experience real middle earth ourselves. It’s no wonder Peter Jackson filmed the series here with New Zealand’s beautiful and dramatic landscapes that are so varied in such a small country. Although there are tons of exact filming locations all throughout New Zealand which any avid fan could go check out with the help of the many LOTR Filming Location guides and tours out there, but we wanted to share our Top 5 locations that truly give to a sense of being in the real middle earth.
Our first, and obvious location is the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. Located on a private farm in a small town in the central North Island, the Hobbiton Movie Set is surrounded by rolling green hills, hand selected by Peter Jackson who searched for the perfect location.
Built for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, the New Zealand government decided to leave the set intact as a tourist attraction. For an entry fee of $75 you get a 2hr guided tour of The Shire, complete with over 30 hobbit holes, The Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the famous party tree. You’ll get a chance to stroll past the hobbit gardens and catch a glimpse of Sam & Rosie’s hobbit hole and Bilbo’s famous green door in Bag end. A few are even open to go inside – but don’t expect a full house – there’s just a few feet to stand inside. There are apparently some private tours that let you go up and inside Bilbo’s but it’s not included in the regular ticket price.
2. Tongariro National Park
Nowhere else in New Zealand can you get a real sense of the dark and mysterious atmosphere of Mordor. The barren volcano plains of Tongariro National Park give you the sense of walking the same path Sam and Frodo did on their journey into the land of Sauron.
Mount Ngauruhoe along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was also the stand-in for Mount Doom in the movies. If you have the same determination as Sam and Frodo, you can make the 2hr strenuous climb to the top where you can rein-act destroying The One Ring into the fire-red crater.
A drive up to the Whakapapa Ski Field will lead you to Mead’s Wall where several scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were filmed. The most famous being when Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand during the War of the Last Alliance in the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring.
3. Putangirua Pinnacles
Located outside Wellington are the eerie Putangirua Pinnacles. A short hike along the dried up river bed leads you to the ‘badlands’ where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli ride to meet the Army of the Dead in The Return of the King.
4. Weta Cave
Weta Cave in Wellington is home to the Multi Academy Award winning company that brought the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey’ to life. Life sized Orcs guard the entrance and inside is a store filled with movie relics and memorabilia.
For only $20 you can take one of the behind-the-scenes ‘Window into Workshop’ tours that give you a glimpse into how some of the incredible movie props and models are made. Unfortunately cameras aren’t allowed, but it is definitely worth the money to listen to the stories of the crew that works on helping bring these movies to life.
While you’re at Weta Cave, pop over to the ‘Middle of Middle Earth’ airport and see a number of Lord of the Rings characters including Gandolf on his eagle, Gollum and Smaug!
5. Queenstown & Glenorchy
The mountain ranges in Queenstown and Glenorchy provided the backdrop for several scenes throughout both trilogies. The Remarkables in Queenstown were featured as the slopes of Drimrill Dale when Aragon lead the fellowship to Lothlorien after the Mines of Moria.
The area around Glenorchy provides a meca of filming locations. A number of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit themed tours are offered in the area, providing access to the locations of Lothlorien forest, Ithilien Camp, Isengard and many more. The surrounding mountains were the backdrop of the Misty Mountains and can be taken in by foot, quad bike or horse!
Have you been to the real middle earth? What filming locations would you be most excited about?