Top Lord of the Rings Film Locations in New Zealand

New Zealand has become internationally renowned for its incredible landscape, from snow-capped peaks to rushing rivers that carve their way through ancient valleys. New Zealand’s landscape has become a bucket-list attraction for millions of travellers around the world, and for some, there is an added layer to the stunning scenery. Since the release of the first Lord of the Rings film ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ in 2001, Lord of the Rings and Tolkien fans have been flocking to the island country to see the scenery depicted in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy. Many make a road trip of their adventure, passing through the country by car hire, stopping at the most famous locations. Some locations are famous landmarks, and others have been tracked down by dedicated fans, using the footage from the films as a reference point. 

Hobbiton

To start off this list, we’ll start with where the film begins, Hobbiton. The area in which Hobbiton was filmed is now called the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours. Located between Auckland and Rotorua on the North Island, in an area known as the Waikato Region, Hobbiton offers a range of tours. From simple hikes around the village to a banquet meal fit for the King of Gondor (or those who skipped second breakfast). The attention to detail is incredible, and that’s because these are the same houses and sets that were built for the second Middle-Earth film trilogy, the Hobbit Trilogy. With colourful flowers, lush green hills and quaint Hobbit-holes (that’s the correct name for their dwellings). Take a look at the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours website to see if a unique festival is happening during your visit, with Christmas, a Beer Festival, Mid-Winter Festival and Summer Harvest Festival held throughout the year. For the price of a cool grand, you can book a private tour, complete with a guided tour of the 12-acre site, Green Dragon Inn, and Hobbit Holes.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed all over New Zealand, covering both islands and many national parks. Hobbiton is the heart of the trilogy tour, with the rest dotted across the country. Certain areas of Middle-Earth were filmed in certain areas of New Zealand.

Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park

The Land of Mordor (where the shadows lie) was filmed primarily in Tongariro National Park. With black rocks, towering peaks and desolate plains, it made the perfect place for Sauron to call home. Mount Ngauruhoe was used as the non-CGI Mount Doom. The mountain is an active volcano, having erupted 45 times in the 20th century, with the last eruption occurring in 1977. The mountain is climbable, but with difficulty, with loose rock often giving way underfoot. Climbers most often use the western side of the mountain along the Mangatepopo track. Also in the park is the Emyn Muil area, where Frodo and Sam wandered around at the very beginning of the ‘Two Towers’ film, as Gollum hid in the trees, deciding what he would do with his new friends. Climb to the top of Mangawhero Falls, and you will find the pool in which Gollum caught his favourite food, raw fish. Tongariro includes almost all the Mordor scene locations, from the plain where the Black Gate was inserted to the final hold out battle.

Kaitoke Regional Park creek
Wellington and surrounds

One of the most famous scenes in the first film is the four Hobbits hiding from the Nazgul beneath a tree root in a small dugout. While in the film, this is not far from Hobbiton, in real life, this location is located in the woods outside Wellington, near the film studio where the trilogies were made. While in Wellington, head to Kaitoke Regional Park, which served as the surrounds for the Elvish city of Rivendell. Also in the area is Harcourt Park, or in the film the Gardens of Isengard, where Saruman the White lived in the tower of Orthanc (which was, unfortunately, a model). The setting was most directly shown when Gandalf first arrived to speak with Saruman, and the two walked around the garden before entering the tower. 

There are tours that operate specifically to take fans from location to location, or you can head out on a self-driving tour of your favourite ones. Hobbiton and Tongariro National Park fit in the most locations in a single area, but there are many more to venture to. From Canterbury, the home of the Rohan people, to Fiordland, the site of Fangorn Forest and River Anduin (the Waiau River). 

It is a most-worthwhile trip, simply because the scenery of New Zealand never disappoints. So, get out there, hit the road, walking trails and rivers, and form your own fellowship. Adding the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit soundtracks through your rental car's speaker system is a nice touch too! 

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