If you’re familiar with characters like Bilbo Baggins and Frodo, then there’s a good chance that you’re a fan of films like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The director of these films, Peter Jackson, loved the landscape of New Zealand so much that he filmed the entirety of these films in this country. Although some of the filming locations are spread throughout New Zealand, they can all be easily visited if you have your own car for the journey. Car rental New Zealand is more affordable than you might expect, and will give you the freedom and flexibility to see the dozens of Lord of the Rings-related attractions and locations in both the North and South Islands. Here are some of the top spots in “Middle Earth” that you definitely won’t want to miss.
Middle-Earth Locations, New Zealand
Hobbiton and Bag End
For the filming of Lord of the Rings, the charming and diminutive town of Hobbiton was built to show where the hobbits lived. Although it was originally dismantled after filming, it was rebuilt for The Hobbit and now stands as one of the permanent New Zealand attractions. You can visit delightful sites such as the mill, the Green Dragon Inn and the Party Tree, but the main attraction is undoubtedly Bag End. The unmistakable round windows of the hobbit home is an incredible treat for anyone who recognizes one of these hobbit locations from the beloved films. The shire region is constructed in the town of Matamata just outside of Lake Waikato, and it can be reached by a two-hour drive from Auckland.
While this is not one of the Lord of the Rings locations, it is a must-see destination in New Zealand for anyone with a love of the LOTR Trilogy. Weta is the digital effects production company that worked on the films in the city of Wellington, and they have an area known as the Weta Cave that visitors can tour at no cost. You will have the chance to see props from the films, full-size replicas of the characters, and even watch behind-the-scenes videos of how the films were made. One of the perks is having the chance to see interviews with Peter Jackson and cast members, as these videos are not available for viewing anywhere else in the world. Weta Cave is located just twenty minutes from Wellington, with free street parking available for visitors.
When you first set your eyes on Lake Wanaka, it is common to get a feeling of déjà vu. This is because South Island’s Lake Wanaka is featured frequently in the films. The Southern Alps that surround Lake Wanaka are better known in Lord of the Rings as the Misty Mountains in the area called Rivendell. Lake Wanaka is home to one of the most iconic scenes in the film when Gwaihir, the giant eagle, rescues Gandalf from the Orthanc tower. If you are looking for a place to stay near Lake Wanaka, nothing could be better than the Minaret Lodge. They offer rooms that are truly larger than life so that, quite amusingly, guests actually feel like hobbits themselves.
Tongariro National Park
Although the chance to walk through Mordor yourself might send chills up your spine, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to New Zealand. When Frodo and Sam journeyed through Mordor, the stronghold of Lord Sauron, they were actually trekking through parts of the Tongariro National Park. Digital alternations turned the actual Mt Ngauruhoe into the fictional Mount Doom, Mangawhero Falls became the Ithilien Camp, and Rangipo Desert was the home of many orc army scenes in Blackgate. You can join a guided tour or just bring along a map and walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing yourself to bring to life the spookiness of Mordor.
The Ultimate LOTR Souvenir
To get the most incredible souvenir of your time in New Zealand, head to the town of Nelson. This is where Hans Jensen, the actual jeweler who created the infamous rings, lives and works. You can view some of the original rings used during filming in his gallery, and you can buy exact replicas for yourself.
There are more than a hundred and fifty locations in New Zealand that were used for the filming of Lord of the Rings as well as The Hobbit, and a car really is necessary if you want to see as many of these places as possible. From cast hangouts to the landscape of Mordor, New Zealand is an incredible travel destination for Peter Jackson fans.