Calling all fellow Lord of the Ring fans!
Have you ever dreamt about being teleported to Middle Earth to have your very own Lord of the Rings adventure? Well, New Zealand is the real-life version of Middle Earth, as Peter Jackson filmed the majority of the Lord of the Rings films on location all over this country!
Exploring the iconic Lord of the Rings filming locations requires you to go off on your own adventures by heading out on hikes up mountains and wandering the beautiful New Zealand hills, fields, parks and more.
And, great news – beginning May 1, fully-vaccinated Canadian travelers will be able to travel to New Zealand without self-isolation on the provision of a negative pre-departure test.
Read on to learn more about the incredible Lord of the Rings filming locations you can visit in New Zealand! If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies and are patiently waiting for the Lord of the Rings TV show that is coming out later this year, planning a trip to Middle Earth itself might be the perfect way for you to pass that time!
New Zealand North Island
In the heart of the Mighty Waikato region, you can explore the lush pastures of the Shire with a guided walking tour of Hobbiton, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies!
Choose to experience the real Middle-Earth with a fully-guided walking tour around the 12-acre set! It will take you past Hobbit Holes and the Mill and into the world-famous Green Dragon Inn. The Hobbiton film set is the only film set from the movies that was not broken down after filming; instead, it has been turned into an open-air museum for you to enjoy!
Prepare to be enchanted by Hobbiton, it is definitely a must-visit for any LOTR fan. Enjoy the tranquillity of the Shire, Bag End, Sam & Rosie’s cottage, the Party Tree. Enjoy a cool drink at The Green Dragon followed by lunch in a Marquee beside The Green Dragon (included in tour cost).
The city of Wellington played a very important role in the making of the Lord of the Rings movies. Movie locations like Rivendell, Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were filmed in the Wellington area, but Wellington is also the home of Weta Workshop.
Weta Workshop is where all special effects for the movie were created, and where a lot of the props and costumes were made. It was also used as an indoor filming studio.
Weta Workshop has opened part of the building as a museum you can visit called Weta Cave. Here, visitors can learn about the making of special effects and props, and where many of the props used in the movies are on display.
Kaitoke Regional Park
Kaitoke Regional Park is where Rivendell was filmed. Big structures were built in the forests of the park to bring Rivendell to life, all of which were removed right after filming. But, later on, a gate was placed in the park to portray the gate of Rivendell.
Dry Creek Quarry
Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith scenes were both filmed at Dry Creek Quarry. Massive sets were built in order to shoot the epic battle scenes of Helms Deep and Minas Tirith. Today the Dry Creek Quarry is just a quarry, and if you didn’t know these two massive sets and battle scenes were filmed here, you probably never even recognize the area as being part of the Lord of the Rings universe.
Fun fact: For Minas Tirith, Peter Jackson used the French town of Mont Saint-Michel as inspiration.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park was used to shoot all the Mordor scenes. This is where you’re able to see the most recognizable and most iconic landmark that was used in the movies: Mount Doom, or in real life, Mount Ngauruhoe.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Walk the popular day hike, Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It will take you right past Mount Ngauruhoe, and a side hike even goes up to the summit of the mountain. It does look a bit different in real life than it does in the movies, but with some imagination, you can easily picture yourself walking through the dark lands of Mordor. Take a guided Tongariro Crossing Trek and have a guide accompany you to tell you everything about the park and filming locations.
Mangawhero & Tawhai Falls
The Forbidden Pool location where Gollum catches a fish and then gets captured by Faramir is also shot in Tongariro National Park, divided over two shooting locations. The parts where you see Gollum in the water were shot at Tawhai Falls, while the parts where the waterfall is visible were shot at Mangawhero Falls. Mangawhero Falls where The Forbidden Pool was shot in The Two Towers.
Put on your sturdy walking shoes and embark on this half-day journey to a stunning location that was used as a filming location for the ‘Paths of the Dead’ scene in the Return of the King, the third movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Witness the spectacular Putangirua Pinnacles on 1 of 3 easy hiking trails that will take you up close to these ancient rock formations. The Putangirua Pinnacles are just an hour’s drive from Martinborough, located on the Wairarapa Coastline near Cape Palliser.
A two-hour loop track will take you to a viewpoint overlooking the Pinnacles, and then head down to the Pinnacles to walk in between them.
New Zealand South Island
After the memorable escape from Moria, after Gandalf and the Balrog both fall into a deep abyss, the Fellowship exists Moria and runs into the woods and hills. These scenes were filmed on Mount Owen on New Zealand’s south island. Getting to this filming location is no easy feat since the area is only accessible by foot or by air, so unless you have a helicopter, you’ll have to embark on a 6-8 hour hike.
Mount Sunday is a stunning sight to see! With picturesque views of the Rangitata River and the surrounding mountains, it provided the perfect setting for Edoras, Rohan’s capital city in Lord of the Rings.
This is one of the most remote Lord of the Rings locations, but there are tour groups that come from Christchurch every day, making it fairly accessible. Getting to Mount Sunday requires about a 2-hour drive from Christchurch. The 30-minute hike to the top is steep in spots and can be slippery. And be prepared for strong wind, but the views at the top are worth it!
It took a total of nine months to build the Edoras set, with the beautiful Golden Hall on top of the cliffs, and the city gate and walls at the foot of the mountain. Like most of the other sets, this one was completely removed after filming, but landscapes of Mount Sunday are still a must-visit for any Lord of the Rings fan.
These fields are on private land, but if you want to, you can book a Pelennor Fields tour. Even if you’re not interested in a tour, the area is just gorgeous with mountain ranges in all directions and Mount Cook National Park is located just around the corner.
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is where the forces of Gondor and their allies fight Saurons army in front of Minas Tirith. It is perhaps the most epic battle scene in the entire Lord of the Rings saga. The battle was filmed on the fields surrounding the small town of Twizel, and involved over 1700 people on set, having almost everyone living in the town as extras.
Drive through this nature reserve and be instantly transported to Rohan with its big desolate plains, beautiful blue water and uniquely shaped rock formations. Plenty of other Rohan scenes, like the villages in Rohan that get attacked and shots of the vast Rohan plains, were shot at the Poolburn Reservoir.
Fiordland National Park
The unforgettable Fiordland National Park is full of huge mountains, glacial lakes and rivers, thick forests and green plains, which made it perfect for filming many scenes for the LOTR movies. If you like hiking, try hiking the Keppler Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. On the Keppler, you’ll find the Kepler Mire, which was used as the Dead Marshes.
Mavora Lake was used to film the scenes where the fellowship reaches the shores of Amon Hen, and where they later release the body of Boromir in a small boat and it falls down a massive waterfall. Some other parts of the River Anduin were also shot in Fiordland National Park, on the Waiau River.
Close to Mavora Lake is Snowdon Forest. This forest was used to film Fangorn Forest scenes, where Merry and Pippin get saved by Treebeard.
If you are in Fiordland National Park, make sure to visit Milford Sound, one of the most iconic destinations in New Zealand.
Queenstown, Glenorchy & Paradise
The area surrounding Queenstown and the nearby villages of Glenorchy and Paradise are some of the most beautiful areas in New Zealand, so it makes sense that this area is where many scenes for the movies were filmed. Exploring the lakes, snow-capped mountains, forests and lush fields really make you feel like you’re walking in Middle Earth.
Here are some of the filming locations you can visit in the area:
- The woods of Closeburn, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, was used to film some of the last scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring.
- Just around the corner from Closeburn, at the Twelve Mile Delta. This is where Sam, Frodo and Gollum first see Faramir and his rangers.
- Alongside Lake Wakatipu, visit the picturesque village of Glenorchy; just off the bank of the Dart River is where Isengard was filmed.
- Even further down the road is Paradise (yes, this place is actually called Paradise, and it lives up to its name). From here, you get to the forest where they filmed Lothlórien.
- The Kawarau River was used to shoot parts of the River Anduin and the Argonath, the river that the fellowship uses to get from Lothlórien to Amon Hen.
- The fields and hills on the south side of Queenstown called Deer Park Heights were used to film parts of the lands of Rohan. Specifically, the journey from Edoras to Helm’s deep, where the warg riders attack and Aragorn falls off the cliff.
If you’re up for an adventurous afternoon of fun activities and Lord of the Rings sightseeing, then book a funyakking (a funyak is a one-person inflatable raft) tour over the Dart River, to explore many of the LOTR filming locations by water that is otherwise not accessible.
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