New Zealand Lord of the Rings Tours - Top Areas To Visit
One of the conditions of Peter Jackson directing the Lord of the Rings films was that the trilogy be filmed in his home country of New Zealand. Thanks to the Kiwi born and bred Oscar winning director, many folks now want to go on Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand! If you’re yet to stand on our enchanted shores, let us tell you a wee bit more about where in New Zealand Lord of the Rings was filmed and then come and see them for yourself! If you’ve already been to our backyard then sit back and enjoy a trip down memory lane. Don’t worry, there are no orcs in this article!
Lord of the Rings Tour to Hobbiton in New Zealand
Just like true hobbits, we thought we’d start with every hobbit’s favourite place, home. Home is where you have at least your first and second breakfast of the day. A New Zealand Lord of the Rings tour is incomplete without a visit to Hobbiton. The home of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and many more of our favourite characters, is found in the Waikato region. Peter Jackson and other members of the production team scoped out the area by helicopter until they stumbled upon the gentle green rolling hills of what is now Hobbiton!
A visit to Hobbiton is a quintessential part of any adventure here in Aotearoa. A guided two hour tour takes you around many of the settlement’s famous sites, including where Bilbo initially sets off on his adventure in ‘The Hobbit’ and Bilbo’s deceptively small lodgings. Most importantly, every non-Hobbits visit to Hobbiton concludes with a trip to the Green Dragon Inn. A pint of mead, cider or beer can be enjoyed next to the roaring fire and occasionally you’ll hear one of the locals singing!
A trip to where it all began for Frodo and Sam is easily added before or after our Sweet North Trip. Matamata is located just a few hours south of the trip’s start and end point in our biggest city, Auckland. Hobbiton has recently introduced a banquet option where you can spend the evening in true Hobbit fashion, gorging on an array of delicious foods and beverages!
Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)
Arguably some of the finest scenery on show in Tolkien’s trilogy, the landscape that Mordor sits within is truly otherworldly. When people ponder New Zealand and Lord of the Rings, one of the first images that comes to their mind is the towering visage of Mt Ngauruhoe / Mount Doom! Dominating the landscape of New Zealand’s oldest national park, the Tongariro National Park, Mt Ngauruhoe / Mount Doom stands sentry. Seeing the mountain up close and personal truly gives you an understanding of the struggle that Frodo and Sam faced!
Hiking through the Tongariro National Park is, in our opinion, the closest humans can get to experiencing life on Mars! The features of the landscape are almost alien with the remnants of lava flows dramatically shaping the landscape. It’s easy to see why the Tongariro area captured Peter Jackson’s imagination. You can imagine the nazgul, the orcs and Saruman’s other terrible allies rampaging through Mordor!
As well as being a prime location within the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Tongariro National Park is home to one of the finest day walks, the Tongariro Crossing. This epic hike, regarded by many as the best day walk on the planet, is part of our awesome Sweet North Trip. This 12 mile hike is truly epic and takes in a cornucopia of landscapes. If you feel a wee bit tired, just remember Frodo and Sam endured a slightly longer journey!
A lesser known spot on Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand is the Mavora Lakes area, situated near the adventure hub of the Southern Hemisphere, Queenstown. Here you’ll be able to follow the footsteps of two of the cheekiest hobbits, Merry and Pippin! Remember when this deceiving duo managed to trick the orcs and lose them on the periphery of the Fangorn Forest? Mavora Lakes is home to this filming spot!
The Mavora Lakes are an assortment of glistening lakes formed by glaciation. Many of the features of New Zealand’s South Island were formed by glaciers that completely altered the landscape we know and love today! When people ask where in New Zealand was Lord of the Rings filmed, many folk are unaware that the Mavora Lakes are accessible from Queenstown, where our World Heritage Walking Tour has a free day for guests to explore. Queenstown is also the starting point for our Pure South, Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic trips!
Any New Zealand Lord of the Rings tour is bolstered by a visit to the Mavora Lakes. You may also recognise the landscape from another infamous escape by the fellowship! In the Two Towers, the second instalment, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli flee from orcs in a very similar spot to Merry and Pippin! Mavora Lakes covers two dramatic moments within the trilogies and you will drive past this spot on our Masterpiece tour. After a scenic 4x4 drive, your driver will collect you in our luxurious minibuses and take you past this filming spot.
When people ask us, ‘where in New Zealand was Lord of the Rings filmed?’, we often feel that we should just reply and say, ‘come to Queenstown, we’ll show you heaps (the Kiwi way of saying loads) of spots where the Hobbits have hobbled through!’. One of our favourite film locations in the Wakatipu Basin region is the Kawarau Gorge. It’s not just famous for its Lord of the Rings credentials though, it’s also home to the world’s first commercial bungy jump and one of New Zealand’s most exhilarating jet boat adventures, the Shotover Jet!
There’s a wee bit of history attached to the scenes shot in the Kawarau Gorge and on the Anduin River. Cast your mind back to the Gates of Argonath on the Anduin River, these impressive relics of the past were superimposed onto the backdrop of the Kawarau Gorge! Its stunning blue waters provided the perfect background for these wise rulers. A little known fact is that the Pillars of Kings, representing Aragorn’s ancestors, Isildur and Anarion, were actually based on images of the actor Viggo Mortensen’s father and grandfather! Peter Jackson’s attention to detail is a pretty mean feat!
Visiting the spot where the Gates of Argonath was situated is an essential aspect of any New Zealand Lord of the Rings tour. On our Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic trips, you’ll be able to appreciate the stunning view across the Kawarau Gorge after you complete a rewarding five mile cycle from the quaint historical settlement of Arrowtown to the home of bungee jumping, the Kawarau bridge! On our World Heritage trip, you’ll witness this location as you head towards the world famous Gibbston Valley, home to many of New Zealand’s most coveted pinot noirs!
Deer Park Heights
By this point, you may have noticed a theme with many of these locations? Yep, you guessed it, Deer Park Heights is also just a short drive from Queenstown! It goes without saying that no New Zealand Lord of the Rings tour is complete without a trip to the adrenaline capital of our little country. Several scenes were shot within this park, situated above the suburb of Kelvin Heights. As you drive into Queenstown, you can clearly see Deer Park Heights on your left, across the waters of New Zealand’s third largest lake, Lake Wakatipu!
Remember when that pesky warg dragged Aragorn off a cliff? That was filmed right here! It was also the setting for when the Rohirrim refugees journeyed between Edoras and Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. This truly was a versatile spot for the crew as many close-up shots were enacted here. We’ve already mentioned Peter Jackson’s attention to detail and super fans will recognise this spot from when the elf, Legolas jumped onto his horse, whereas the dwarf Gimli was thrown off his! This is a nod to the longstanding rivalry between the two creatures, a battle that is temporarily rewritten by Legolas and Gimli’s bromance in the books and films!
Part of the reason that Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand treasure Deer Park Heights is due to their proximity to the Remarkables mountain range. They weren’t called the Remarkables by New Zealand Tourism, they truly are magnificent! In all of the shots we’ve mentioned, the Remarkables can be seen towering in the background. As well as being aesthetically stunning, they’re pretty special when it comes to their geology, being one of only three mountain ranges in the world that run true north to south! All of our South Island trips pass by these incredible works of nature so you won’t miss out on their beauty!
Lake Alta / Dimrill Dale
We’ve already told you about the beauty of the Remarkables from afar but now let us extoll its virtues when up close and personal! The Remarkables are home to Dimrill Dale, a place of refuge for the fellowship. After surviving the Mines of Moria, Aragorn leads a diminished group away to safety.
This filming location is particularly special as it can only be appreciated at certain times of the year. During winter and parts of autumn and spring, the lake is frozen over and covered with a layer of snow that skiiers and snowboarders love! For keen Tolkienites, we recommend a visit up to Lake Alta during your time in New Zealand.
A rugged drive up the Remarkables road rewards you with stunning views of Lake Wakatipu, Lake Hayes and you can look back over to Deer Park Heights too! The hike up to the lake should take you around one and a half to two hours and many rare flora such as mountain tussock can be seen along the way. This is one of our favourite lesser known hikes here in New Zealand!
Twizel / Gondor
When it comes to Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand, not many fans realise that Gondor is actually a rural mountain town that is often incorrectly pronounced! For any Brits reading this, it’s not said in the same way as those infamous school dinners, turkey twizzlers! More importantly, Twizel is Gondor, you know the home of the King! We think that’s pretty epic.
Situated within the heart of Mackenzie country, a region famous for its hikes and agriculture, Twizel is a great place to grab some local produce to feast on, or you could re-enact the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Channel your inner Eowyn and make that ring wraith history.
All of our South Island trips journey through the land of the King. When Gondor calls, New Zealand Trails answers! On several of our trips (Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic), our guests stay near this important part of Middle Earth in a beautiful lakeside setting on the shores of Lake Ohau. On our other South Island trips (World Heritage and Pure South), our guests also pass through this wonderful part of country. Don’t worry, there is ample opportunity to do your best elf impression!
A snapshot of New Zealand’s best Lord of the Rings filming locations
We hope we’ve provided you with a wee insight to some of the most treasured Lord of the Rings filming locations here in Aotearoa! Most of these stunning spots can be seen through our extensive range of trips and the other places we have mentioned can easily be added onto your New Zealand Trails itinerary. For example, if you’re on a Sweet North trip and you would love to see Hobbiton, give Jodi a call and she can talk through options with you for before or after your tour! Here at New Zealand Trails we aspire to be as helpful as possible when it comes to helping you have the trip of your lifetime, and of course we’re very grateful to Peter Jackson for putting our wee country on the map! Although, we are often still left off some world maps, but that’s a story for another time!