For those who love the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and the Peter Jackson films they inspired, a visit to New Zealand can be the trip of a lifetime. It’s a chance to visit numerous locations seen in the films, enjoy spectacular scenery and feel the thrill of walking where the hobbits, Gandalf and their allies trod, so around 270,000 fans travel there every year. Flights.com makes it easy to arrange travel, so why not make it your next vacation? Here are some of the places that await you.
Found among the gentle hills of Alexander Farm, in the Matamata area (two hours by road from Auckland), the Hobbiton film set is private property, but you can visit it as part of a tour. Almost every detail seen in the films is still visible here, including the houses, the Green Dragon (recently opened as a real pub and restaurant) and the tree beneath which Bilbo vanished at his birthday party. You can’t go inside the hobbit holes but there’s still plenty to see and a lot to learn about how the set was built and the films made. Matamata’s tourist information center provides further resources.
The hobbits’ hiding place
Perhaps the easiest of all Middle Earth locations to visit is right beside Wellington. There, in the parkland that runs along the edge of Mount Victoria, you can find the giant tree beneath whose roots the hobbits took shelter when the Black Riders were looking for them. There’s full public access to this site, so you can take your turn hiding there and imagine the sound of horses stamping in the dirt nearby.
The forbidding hill of Weathertop, where Frodo was stabbed by one of the Black Riders, is situated near Port Waikato. Although it’s on private farmland, so you can’t climb it, it makes for an impressive view even without the ruined fort present in the film, and the surrounding countryside is highly evocative of the hobbits’ early journey in company with Aragorn.
Deep in Kaitoke Regional Park you can visit the area where the Rivendell scenes were filmed. No buildings remain here, but it has the same tranquil atmosphere and makes a great picnic spot. There are signs to help visitors find it, and you can go swimming nearby.
The more sinister woodland of Fangorn Forest can be found on either side of Takaro Road, near Te Anau (about two hours south west of Queenstown). There are no special facilities here, but when you walk through the trees you’ll find yourself instinctively on the lookout for orcs.
Another woodland location, the elf domain of Lothlorien can be found near Featherston, an hour to the east of Wellington. They’re part of the private gardens of Fernside Lodge, but visitors are welcome, and it’s possible to stay at the lodge itself. Here you can see the white bridge and the river where Galadriel rode in her swan boat.
Guided tours can take you into the Mount Potts wilderness where the set for Edoras, capital of Rohan, was built. Across the golden plains you can see the Misty Mountains (the Southern Alps), and you can try your hand at wielding replicas of some of the props used in the film – Gandalf’s staff, Aragorn’s sword or Gimli’s axe. If you want to spend some time in this beautiful region, you can find places to stay in nearby Mount Potts Station.
The Dimholt path
The dreaded path into the mountain that Aragorn walked to summon the dead to his aid can be found among the Putangirua Pinnacles near Wellington. There’s not much else to see here, but the scenery is truly spectacular and quite scary to visit at dawn or dusk.
Tongariro National Park was used to create the grim landscapes of Mordor, with Mount Ngauruhoe playing the part of Mount Doom. Ngauruhoe has been erupting intermittently over the past few years, so although you may not be allowed to go up close, with a bit of luck you’ll get a spectacular display. When it’s dormant, it’s possible to climb it, but the thick ash underfoot makes this hard going. Not far away, by the mouth of Whakapapa Gorge, you can see the area where Frodo and Sam were lost when they first entered Mordor, and the field of battle where Isildur cut off Sauron’s hand. On the other side of the mountain, near Ohakune, you can see one of Gollum’s fishing pools.
The easiest way to see all these fantastic locations is to join a tour, some of which last as long as two weeks, crisscrossing the North and South Islands. It’s also possible to do it independently, by car, so you can take as long as you want to explore most of the sites. Whatever approach you take, you’ll find it an inspiring journey, the next best thing to visiting Middle Earth itself.