Lord of the Rings fever has never really died in New Zealand which is hardly surprising since it was here that the entire filming for the epic trilogy took place. However, thanks to the Hobbit which premiered in late 2012, the fever has been well and truly reawakened and again LOTR fans from all over the world have been hiking, climbing, driving and generally scouting out locations both old and new.
Wellingtons Weta workshop – where many Lord of the Rings characters were made
‘The Hobbit’ locations are still coming to light and being fiercely debated in the absence of exact facts which no doubt will gradually emerge as the film becomes a little older. However, the locations for the original trilogy are well known and documented and can be explored to your heart’s content. Some require that you use your powers of imagination to the full while others seem almost as if they have jumped straight off the screen.
Self-tours for many of the locations are possible but others are inaccessible unless you have a fair bit of cash to spare (to be helicoptered in) or book yourself onto one of the many organised tours which last from a few hours to several days.
Lastly, should you be trailing in your wake a reluctant family member or friend who isn’t a LOTR fan (if indeed such a thing exists) then they won’t be disappointed because the beauty and drama of many of the film locations will appeal to all.
THE NORTH ISLAND
Wellington and area – the nation’s capital has several sites most of which offer super-easy access.
Harcourt Park – The Gardens of Isengard where Gandalf and Saruman strolled.
Hutt River along with several other sites – The River Anduin
Kaitoke Regional Park – the exact location is handily signposted for visitors – Rivendell
Waitarere Forest – Osgiliath Wood
Puntangirua Pinnacles, Wairarapa – Paths of the Dead where Strider/Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas encounter the ghostly army.
Mount Victoria – Hobbiton Woods, where Merry, Pippin and Frodo hide from the Black Riders.
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paraparaumu – Nazgul and mumakil scenes of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
If you would like to visit Hobbiton, have a peek inside a hobbit hole and take a drink at the Green Dragon Inn then make your way to Matamata where the hobbit village was filmed in the original trilogy and also the most recent film.
After the original trilogy the site was somewhat dismantled and although you could still visit it, it left you feeling disappointed and even a little sad. Not so any more – it was decided to keep the whole site in place after filming ‘The Hobbit’ and it was bequeathed as a permanent tourist site. Now it requires very little imagination to imagine hobbits scuttling in and out.
Tongariro National Park
Gollum’s pool where he sings his little song as he fishes – above the beautiful Mangawhero Falls.
Mount Doom – the very definitely active volcano of Mount Ngauruhoe.
Mordor – the dramatic natural lava formations here lend themselves perfectly to the bleak and desolate lands of Mordor – so much so that you might find yourself looking around for the eye of Sauron.
Twizel, Mackenzie Country – The Battle of Pelennor Fields where the evil orcs met in their thousands to fight it out with the Gondor and Rohen folk. This location is on private land and is only accessible as part of an organised tour.
Takaka Hill, Nelson – Chetwood Forest, east of Bree, where Aragorn takes the hobbits when they are trying to escape the Black Riders.
Near Te Anau – Fanghorn Forest
Kepler Mire, Te Anau – the Dead Marshes where Frodo and Sam are led by Gollum.
Waiau River between Te Anau and Manapouri – depicts the River Anduin on the paddle from Loth Lorien.
Southern Lakes area
Twelve Mile Delta, Queenstown – both the trail and campsite here were used to film the scene in which Sam, Frodo and Gollum watch the battle between Faramir’s men of Gondor and the Oliphaunts.
Skippers Canyon, Arrowtown, nr Queenstown – the Ford of Bruinen where the Black Riders, giving chase, are lured into the river and then swept away by Gandalf’s magic.
Crown Range Road to Mount Cardrona – a drive up here will give you a view of several of the filming locations – the hills ahead are Dimrill Dale, in the far distance is Amon Hen and the river you see was used to represent the River Anduin (you won’t see the Pillars of Argonath as they were computer generated).
Mount Sunday, Ashburton, Canterbury – Edoras, the hall of King Theoden and the home of the Rohan people. Nothing whatsoever remains of the set but the setting is evocative enough to imagine it all there without too much of a mind stretch.
There is an excellent little pocket sized publication called ‘The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook’ by Ian Brodie which is also available in larger sized versions. This will take you to exact spots (or sometimes lead you in a general direction but leave you to ferret out the specific location). If you fall into the real fanatic category then this book also allows you to seek out the places where the LOTR cast and crew slept, ate and socialised during the long months of filming. i-SITES sometimes stock this book but if not then you will find it easily in any New Zealand book store.
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