Welcome to Middle Earth
You’re not just a Lord of the Rings fan; you know every word, every character, every song, every scene by heart. Frodo and co’s grand adventure resonates with you, and you dream of embarking on a journey like theirs. Fortunately for you, then, ‘New Zealand’ is synonymous with ‘Middle Earth.’ All things Frodo, Smeagal, Gandalf and Lord of the Rings are found right here in New Zealand, which really makes a vacation to the ends of the earth a journey into the heart of Middle Earth.
Deciding to take a Lord of the Rings vacation to New Zealand is easy. What to include in your itinerary isn’t. Fortunately for you, we’ve found the best places to visit on a Lord of the Rings vacation (many of which rank on the top 10 places to visit in New Zealand list) so you don’t have to.
A truly authentic Lord of the Rings experience begins at the heart of Middle Earth itself: Hobbiton. Located in Matamata in New Zealand’s Waikato region, Hobbiton is one of the only LOTR filming locations that remains home to a film set. Book a fascinating two-hour guided tour to get up close and personal with the hobbit holes, double-arched bridge, ponds, gardens that featured in the LOTR trilogy. And no official tour of Hobbiton is complete without a drink at the famous Green Dragon Inn. Step inside the exact replica from the films and be served a complimentary drink where the hobbits themselves also wined and dined. Hobbiton Movie Tours are available every day, although must be booked in advance.
Glenorchy and Queenstown
While the likes of Frodo and Gandalf are well-known characters in the Lord of the Rings books, the main character in the movies has to be New Zealand’s stunning scenery. Most of the sets have long been dismantled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still channel the characters. Book a Queenstown helicopter tour to see LOTR land from the air, including many filming locations that aren’t accessible by road. Heliworks was commissioned exclusively by Sir Peter Jackson to film aerial shots and transport cast and crew to filming locations off the beaten track, so their pilots are the best guides to take you into Middle Earth. Choose from The Flight to the Ford tour package, the Great Forests tour package or the Best of the LOTR tour package which includes a flight over Milford Sound if you can’t choose between the two. Flights range between 45 minutes and 3.5 hours and include an experienced LOTR guide who may well have been onset during filming.
Weta Cave, Wellington
We can’t guarantee you’ll see an army of orcs when you visit various filming sites all over New Zealand, but we can guarantee you’ll find them in Wellington. Weta Workshop in Miramar is home to both Peter Jackson’s special effects crew and many of the props and costumes that appear in the trilogy. The Weta Cave also screens an exclusive behind the scenes LOTR video which lets you in on the secrets of filming. Best of all, entry to The Cave is free but bookings are essential.
Jens Hansen Jewellery, Nelson
If you feel a bit like Gollum when it comes to coveting the most famous ring in the world, a visit to the Jens Hansen jewellery studio in Nelson should definitely be on your Lord of the Rings itinerary. The Jens Hansen team designed and produced the One Ring that appeared in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and if you’re really keen it could appear in your jewellery box too. Yes, replicas of The Ring are available for purchase, including custom-engraved wedding rings.
If it’s good enough for Arwen, it’s good enough for you, right? Visit magnificent Lord of the Rings territory by horseback with Dart Stables in Glenorchy. Offering a range of guided horse riding tours and treks for all levels of experience, Dart Stables is an enchanting tour package option if you’re looking for an authentic Lord of the Rings experience through the eyes of hobbits and elves.
Tongariro National Park
The foreboding darkness of the Land of Mordor can be found at Tongariro National Park. Comprised of three volcanoes – Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngaruahoe which was Mount Doom’s body double – Tongariro National Park is home to stunning scenery and rock formations that made it into many scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A walk to the summit of Mount Doom will take approximately 5-6 hours there and back. Take care though; walking up Ngaruahoe is much like walking up a sand dune.
Book a Lord of the Rings tour package
Of course, if you’d rather save on organisation time and just invest in having fun, booking a Lord of the Rings tour package could be the best option to see the most famous places in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lord of the Rings Tours offers all-inclusive tour packages with exclusive access to many South Island filming locations. This Queenstown tour company has loads of guided tour options that range in places, inclusions and budgets. If you’re really keen to enjoy a truly authentic tour, Lord of the Rings Tours also has an array of costumes and weapons you’re welcome to don during your day.
Of course, LOTR tours aren’t limited to just Queenstown. Book a Wellington tour package to get up close and personal with props, costumes and collectables from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Weta Workshop’s There and Back tour will pick you up in the centre of Wellington then take you out to Miramar where you can explore Weta Workshop and get up close and personal with a wide range of authentic costumes, props and accessories.
Fly with Air New Zealand
Filming might have wrapped ages ago, but The Lord of the Rings is still making it to the small screen in the form of Air New Zealand safety videos. If you haven’t seen the videos already, catch a flight with Middle Earth’s national air carrier. Aside from world-class pricing and service, the airline is most famous for their Air New Zealand safety videos, featuring many cast and crew from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Take a peek at the latest Air New Zealand safety video featuring stars from The Hobbit movies.