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Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit Destinations around New Zealand

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

New Zealand’s dramatic and ever-changing mountainous landscapes provided the perfect setting for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, and there were more than 150 different sites throughout both the North and South Island. So where can we find them? Let me help you out! There’s honestly too many locations to name, so I’ve given you some of the best; 

Overview:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 2013
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 2014

North Island

🧙‍♂️ The Shire & Hobbiton

The LOTR Trilogy & Hobbiton Trilogy

One of the most recognisable movie locations EVER, Hobbiton offers daily tours to The Shire from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbiton films. The movie set tours allow you to take a guided walk through the 12achre set, past Hobbit holes, the Mill, and more before finishing the experience with a chilled Southfarthing beverage at the Green Dragon Inn. Throughout the walk-through your guide will recount fascinating BTS details of how the sets were created, and stories from during filming. There are 37 Hobbit Holes to explore as you have a middle earth adventure of your own. Though the movies are no longer being filmed, the area is still kept new and gardened. Props are changed around regularly including the Hobbits washing that hangs on the clothing lines – some of which were actually in the films.

After the trilogy was filmed the set was due to be demolished. As this was due to begin a storm hit the farm, delaying this by several months. During that time, fans found out about the set location and came to ask the farms owners if they could have access to see it. Word spread and soon enough the farm was famous! When The Hobbit trilogy began production, Peter Jackson asked the Alexander Family permission to build the set again. They of course accepted, and have kept the site as an attraction to this day!

The Green Dragon Inn has small bakery style foods available and a variety of classic Hobbit-style drinks; ale, cider or gingerbeer. I opted for a Sackville Southfarthing Cider & even grabbed one in the giftshop to take home.

Hobbiton is located a 2hours drive away from Auckland. The only way to enter the set is by paying for a tour which costs $75NZD. It might sound expensive, but trust me, it is totally worth it.

Alexander Farm, nearby the town of Matamata



🐟 The Forbidden Pool

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Forbidden Pool is where Gollum catches a fish and then gets captured by Faramir. The scene was shot over two locations – Tawhai Falls and Mangawhero Falls.

Tawhai Falls and Mangawhero Falls, Tongariro National Park

🔥 Mordor & Mount Doom

The LOTR trilogy

Mordor can actually be found in Tongariro National Park, the 4th World Heritage Site ever established. Though Mordor, the dark and firey home of the evil power of Sauron, could look further from that in real life. If you are an avid hiker you could take the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which takes you past Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) and up to the summit. This is one of New Zealand’s most popular day hikes.

The mountain itself does look a little different in real life, though it’s a great place to try and picture Sam and Frodo’s journey to destroy the Ring.

Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

🏹 Plateau of Gorgoroth

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

This is where the opening scene of The Fellowship of the Rings happens; the battlefield out on Mount Doom and then the ring was taken from Sauron by Isildur.

Mount Ruapehu in the Whakapapa Ski Field.

🚶 Dimholt Road

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Another pretty recognisable spot is Dimholt Road, otherwise known as the Putangirua Pinnacles. This is where Aragon, Gimli and Legolas enter the Paths of the Dead. The Pinnacles are located a short distance away from Cape Palliser on the North Islands south coast. For those who want to get up close, there is a 2hour Pinnacles loop track that takes you to a viewpoint that overlooks the pinnacles and then trails down so that you can walk between them.

Putangirua Pinncales

💻 Weta Workshop

Though most of the filming throughout the LOTR trilogy was filmed on the South Island, Wellington also played a pretty significant role. Not only where some of the shoot locations within this region, but it was also the base of the Weta Workshop. The Weta Workshop is where all of the special effects, costumes and props were created. It was also home to one of the indoor studios. Though the Weta Workshop is not open to visitors, they have created a museum of sorts called the Weta Cave.

Access to the Weta Cave is done in tours. It’s $28NZD for entry, and it’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak seasons. The tours run for about 45minutes and here you can come to learn about the props and costumes and their concepts and creation. As well visitors can get an idea of all of the filmmaking and practical effects that were used throughout the trilogy.

1 Weka Street, Miramar, Wellington

🧝‍♀️ Rivendell

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Rivendell is one of the few filming locations that you’ll find that actually signposts itself as such. Rivendell was filmed within Kaitoke Regional Park, and today there is a large gate in the park to represent the entrance into Rivendell. During filming some large structures were added to the woods to better represent Tolkien’s descriptions, but these were removed after filming.

Rivendell is where Frodo recovered from his knife attack. The exact location is signposted from the carpark.

Kaitoke Regional Park 

🗡 Trollshaws Forest & Staddle Farm

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

This area was the filming location for a number of scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This includes The Company arriving at a destroyed farmhouse, Gandalf presenting Sting to Bilbo, the Gundabad Wargs and Orcs attack and many more. The limestone rock formations and surrounding forest of Piopio was clearly the perfect base!

Mangaotaki Rocks, Piopio

🐉 Lonely Mountain & Hidden Bay

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Though this area is more well-known for it’s mountain biking and hiking trails, you would never suspect that they spent just one day filming here for the Hobbit trilogy. Tūroa ski fields on Mount Ruapehu was the actually the setting for Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain.

The filming was done in just one day in order to protect the native flora and fauna. All of the scaffolding was taken down as soon as filming finished.

Tūroa ski fields on Mount Ruapehu

⚔️ Pelennor Fields – Helm’s Deep & Minas Tirith

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Pelennor Fields are essentially the centrepiece for the finale of the trilogy, the Return of the King. The Telegraph actually wrote that “the battle scenes involving the storming of Minas Tirith and the climactic battle of Pelennor Fields are quite simply the most spectacular and breathtaking ever filmed”.

Apparently most of the trilogies battle scenes were shot here, but the most famous of these was the battle of Minis Tirith. The battle was filmed on expansive flat land in the small town of Twizel, and the scene involved over 1700 people on set. The location was chosen due to the large flat potential battle-ground, and the mountainous backdrop.

Both Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were filmed at Dry Creek Quarry. In order to shoot the massive battles scenes, large sets were created at the Quarry – the battle of Helm’s took 120 days to film! Part of the Helm’s Deep set was also used in Minas Tirith, those the overview shots of this were actually created by filming over a smaller replica.

The area itself is on private land, so the only way to visit it is through a Pelennor Fields tour, these cost about $80-90NZD.

Rhoboro Downs Rd near Twizel

South Island

🐄 Edoras

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Edoras, the Rohan capitol, was located on Mount Sunday, and was actually built on the mount, including the large great hall – and after filming it was taken down. Its location can actually be found on private farm property, though the farmers are pretty happy to allow visitors, they just have to be comfortable with the cows, haha!

With Hassle Free Tours you are able to visit the filming location of The Lord of the Rings at the remote Mt. Sunday – the home to Edoras, the capital city of Rohan in the thrilling trilogy. The journey begins with a guided 6WD out to the beautiful valley with multiple photo stops. You are able to drive past the panoramic blue rivers and mountains while the vehicles are equipped with TV screens to watch behind the scenes footage from the films. Learn all about the building of Edoras’s Golden Hall before hiking up the mountain itself – with props in hand and an included lunch at Ms Potts High Country Station.

Mount Sunday, Hakatere Potts Road, Ashburton

Taken from atop Mt Sunday…

❄️ Misty Mountains

The LOTR trilogy

The Misty Mountains themselves aren’t really a specific place, they’re somewhere atop the Remarkables in the Southern Alps. The only access to the spot is by helicopter, and that’s exactly how the actors go up there – to Sean Bean’s dismay. It’s said that while filming the scene where he picks up the Ring, he was able to display such conflicted emotions because he was thinking of the helicopter ride home!

The Remarkables themselves were used several times by Peter Jackson. They featured throughout the trilogy as part of Mordor, the backdrop for the exodus from Rohan, as the slopes of Dimrill Dale, and plenty more. In front of the Remarkables if Deer Park Heights, and this location was Queenstown’s most used. This is where you can see Gandalf ride towards Gondor, and where the attack of the Wargs occurred and Aragorn fell from the cliff, and it’s also where the refugees escaped from Rohan. There were countless other scenes filmed here as the location was so diverse.

The Remarkables, the Southern Alps

👁 Isengard

The LOTR trilogy & Hobbit trilogy

Isengard, also known as Angrenost (‘Iron Fortress’) in Sindarin, was one of three major fortresses of Gondor. It can be found in the stunning little town of Glenorchy, which is about an hours drive from Queenstown on one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives. The township itself is a destination to explore alone, but if you use a little imagination you can see how Isengard came to be created here. It can be difficult to picture it without a reference as most of the setting was created digitally. The parts taken from here were mostly just the backdrops. The best viewpoint for this is from the Dart River Bridge along Glenorchy-Routeburn Road. On Google you can find it here as the “Isengard Lookout”.

Lothlorien and Amon Hen can also be found in Glenorchy. This is where Boromir was killed by the Orcs, and where Merry and Pippin are captured by the Orcs towards the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Another scene filmed here was Beorn’s House from The Hobbit trilogy.

I visited Isengard and most of the South Island filming locations while on a tour with Southern Lakes Sightseeing. The journey was a full-day tour in a comfortable minibus, with many many photo stops. We headed towards Arrowtown, Kuwarau River, and Glenorchy with an included lunch stop at Brazz in town. While we spent the morning close to town, the skies cleared and opened up to beautiful blue lakes and mountains on the drive out to Glenorchy. Our last stop was a photos stop to try out some of the props from the film and watch the sunset! 

Dart River, Glenorchy

🐎 Rohirrim Village of Rohan

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

As a destination there isn’t all that much here if you didn’t know it was a filming location. Today there are a few houses and buildings here that were camouflaged as village houses for the film.

Poolburn Reservoir

🥀 Dead Marshes

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

If you like hiking, the Keppler Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular of the nine Great Walks. On the Keppler Track you’ll find the Kepler Mire, which was used as the Dead Marshes. The Dead Marshes is where Frodo lead Sam and Frodo on their journey to Mordor. There were several filming locations for the marshes, another is also located in Te Anu.

Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

👑 Pillars of the Kings

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

If you are heading into Queenstown you’ll pass this River just a short while before reaching town. Nearby the AJ Hackett Bungee (which hangs over the river), is Kawarau River. This was the shooting location for the Argonath on the Anduin River. Though the Pillars of the Kings were superimposed here (and unfortunately never built), you can still picture their little elvish boats floating down the river. On the road towards the Chard Farm Vineyard there is a great overlook of the river.

Kawarau River near the Chard Farm Vineyard

🐴 The Ford of Bruinen

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Ford of Bruinen is where Arwen sent a horse-shaped flood to flood the Nazgûl black riders. This is located within Skipper Canyon which is actually quite inacessable. The road into the canyon is one that is not covered on rental car insurance, and is only suitable for comfortable 4wheel drivers. I was able to step inside the canyon on the Skippers Canyon Jetboat experience. They take you out in a tank style oka vehicle and into the canyon. The drive itself is incredibly scenic, with dramatic drops on either side of you. The drive takes about 45minutes, and then you jump aboard a jetboat and zoom around the canon like a horse-shaped flood. Haha, not reaaaally, but you know what I mean.

Arrow River in Bush Creek Reserve, Arrowtown & Skippers Canyon

💍 The Gladden Fields

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Gladden Fields is one of the first scenes we see in The Fellowship of the Ring, as Isildur loses the One Ring, and is found centuries later by Déagol the Stoor.

Arrowtown


😈 Dimrill Dale

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

After the escape from Moria, the underground kingdom beneath the Misty Mountains, the Fellowship emerges into Dimrill Dale. This area that they run into was filmed on Mount Owen and is only accessible by a 6-8hour hike or by helicopter.

Mount Owen

🐘 Ithilien

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Along the road to Glenorchy you’ll find the Twelve Mile Delta Campground. This is where Peter Jackson filmed the Ithilien Camp. This is where Frodo, Sam ad Gollum watched the battle between Faramir’s Rangers of Gondor and the men and Oliphaunts of Harad. It is also where they made camp themselves and lit a small campfire and debated about cooking – the exact spot of this is unknown but you can see where previous visitors have created small rock circles in order to recreate the moment.

Twelve Mile Delta


🪖 Burnt Orc Mound at edge of Fangorn Forest

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Remember he scene where Aragorn kicks the helmet when he thinks that Merry and Pippin have been killed? It’s a particularly notable scene because as we all know, actor Viggo Mortensen actually broke two toes while filming this scene! This is also the same spot where we see Aragon, Gimli and Legolas riding up the side of the hill.

Mavora Lakes Road

🍃 Fangorn Forest

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Fanghorn forest is where Aragon, Gimli and Legolas met Gandalf the White for the first time. In the books/movies the forest is depicted to be a deep, dark woodland that sat beneath the Misty Mountains. In reality, this spot can be found in the fjordlands of Milford Sound. While the scenes with Treebeard were filmed in the Weta Workshop, the shots of the characters walking amongst the forest were taken alongside some farm country not too far from Te Anu on the way to Milford Sound.

Mavora Lakes Road, Milford Sound

🛶 River Anduin

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Tolkein’s depictions of the River Auduin describe it to be incredibly long – and thus Peter Jackson used various locations to portray the one river. A more notable of these spots is the Waiau River along the Kepler Track.

The Waiau River, Kepler Track at Rainbow Swingbridge

But what about the Sam and Frodo boat scene?

Another famous scene for injured actors, this scene sees Frodo leaving for Mordor on his own, but Sam catches up and tries to follow him and almost drowns. In this actual scene Sam, Sean Astin, ran into the water and when he suddenly stopped the crew questioned him why he’d stopped the scene. It turns out there had been some glass and a large shard pierced straight through his hobbit foot. As well as this scene some moments that were also filmed here where when the Fellowship first came to shore to wait for night, and again when Aragon, Gimli and Legolas decide to go and save Merry and Pippin.

“I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee”. And I don’t mean to.”

North Mavora Lake, North Mavora Park

🍺 Forest River

The Hobbit: The Delosation of Smaug

One of the most memorable scenes from the film, Pelorus River was where the dwarves bobbed down the river in giant barrels. Stephen Hunter (Bombur) said that this was his favourite day on set while filming the franchise. And I totally understand why, it looks like fun! This river can actually be found in the northern region of Malborough on the South Island. Here you can actually take to the waters yourself and take guided kayak tours or just walk alongside the trail on the riverbed.

Pelorus River, Malborough

⛰️ Lake-town & Lonely Mountain

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey & The Desolation of Smaug

Lake Pukaki was chosen as the location for Lake-town as the glacial fed lake boats a vibrant blue colour. It’s one of New Zealand’s most famous views, and beyond the lake Mt Cook towers over. Mt Cook was actually used as the inspiration for Lonely Mountain which was digitally created for the film.  This spot was used in both the Desolation of Smaug and in An Unexpected Journey in scenes such as the Warg Chase and the approach to Rivendell.

Lake Pukaki


🪨 Outcrop south of Rivendell

The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring

This is where we see the Fellowship hide from the crebain, Saruman’s black crows. This scene was quite a memorable location due to the strange pinnacle formations that were used to portray the rugged country South of Rivendell. Upon first look I thought it to be Castle Rock where the battle scenes in Narnia were filmed, but it is actually a spot on Mount Olympus. It’s an extremely remote location that can only be accessed by helicopter. You can actually go on Lord of the Rigns helicopter tours that take you up to this spot, but they cost about $2000NZD!

Mount Olympus

🏨 Rydges Hotel Queenstown

While filming in Queenstown the Rydges Hotel was the base for all of the cast, crew, and Peter Jackson himself. I’m sure you can imagine with the amount of crew that they had on board the hotel as pretty much fully booked for quite a long time! Though I doubt any of the staff at the hotel are still working there now, I’m sure if you asked for Frodo’s room they’d humour you, haha!

And that’s it! Well not really, there’s so many more. But I’m done for now, haha! I’ll add more destinations eventually, but what do you think I should add?

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