With its rolling mountains, remarkable glaciers and verdant grasslands, it’s hard to think of a country that matches New Zealand in terms of natural beauty. Travelers have long been drawn to the country’s stunning locales. But what really made its landscapes captivate the world’s imagination was the success of the cinematic adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s epic, Lord of the Rings. The expansive glory of Middle Earth, the setting of the novel, was brought to life thanks to New Zealand, where the movie was filmed.
From the rolling green hills of Matamata in the North Island to Queenstown’s snowy jagged mountain peaks, over 150 locations across New Zealand were used in the movie. And there’s no better way to experience their beauty than to embark on a Lord of the Rings tour!
Discover the North Island
One of the best places for your Lord of the Rings tour is Matamata, a two-hour drive from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The lush dairy farming landscape around Matamata was the perfect setting for the peaceful Shire region of Middle Earth. Whether you are a fan of the movie of not, it’s hard not be enamored by the gardens, the hill mounds, the numerous ‘hobbit holes’, the quaint mill and, of course, Bilbo’s house at ‘Bag End’!
Also do: Your drive from Auckland will take you through Rotorua’s volcanic landscape, known for its singular geological features such as mud pools, volcanic fumaroles and towering geysers. Not only is Rotorua a haven for wellness enthusiasts, you can also indulge in a host of adventure activities, from tree canopy boardwalks and ziplining to exploring mountain biking trails and rafting. For the culturally inclined, Rotorua also offers traditional Māori experiences including a traditional hāngi feast, Tā moko tattoo art and local handicrafts.
You can also experience Māori culture in Auckland, as well as visit the city’s black sand beaches. Spend time at boutique vineyards, wineries, olive groves, rainforests and reserves, all short ferry rides away from the Auckland.
Stay: Rotura offers several accommodation options ranging from homestays like The Robertson House to boutique hotels like the Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel and wilderness getaways like the Treetops Lodge. Should you choose to base yourself in Auckland, there are plenty of heritage, boutique and international style hotels that you can choose from.
Another city popular for its Lord of the Rings tour is Wellington. The cosmopolitan North Island harbor city is a bustling center for the arts, culture and entertainment, and is equally well known for its stunning parks, reserves and surrounding mountains. It is also the country’s moviemaking hub – little wonder then that some of the more popular locations that were part of the movie lie in and around the city.
The forested areas of Mount Victoria near the city were used as the location for Hobbiton Woods – particularly the riveting scene when the hobbits were desperately trying to hide from the menacing Black Riders. Harcourt Park became the stunning Gardens of Isengard, while the tranquil Kaitoke National Park, a drive away from Wellington, was used for the area around Rivendell, the home of the Elves.
And no Lord of the Rings tour in Wellington is complete without a tour of the Weta Workshop, where the props and costumes used in the movies were made
You can learn all about the creative processes involved, but the most fun part of your Lord of the Rings tour will definitely be taking photos with the life-sized models of characters from the film!.
Also do: Don’t forget to explore the other attractions of the locations that you visit on your Lord of the Rings tour in Wellington! Harcourt Park is perfect for a family trip with its parks and playgrounds as well as a quiet walk amid verdant surrounds. The Mount Victoria Lookout Walkway, which can be accessed by the historic cable car to Kelburn, is especially popular for the panoramic vistas it affords of the city. You can also visit the nearby historic buildings such as the Parliament building and the Old St. Paul’s cathedral and get a feel of the city’s architecture.
Stay: Wellington offers several accommodation options, from family properties to luxury international offerings, such as The Bolton and Sofitel Wellington, making it an ideal stopover on your New Zealand vacation
Don’t miss: Around a 4-5 hour drive from Wellington lies Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Remember Mordor, the land of Sauron, eerie and forbidding? And the fiery Mt Doom where the Dark Lord forged the One Ring? The jagged rocks, rugged plateaus and volcanoes of Tongariro were the perfect setting for these dark locales. Tongariro is the oldest national park in New Zealand and home to three active volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (which became Mt Doom) and Ruapehu – as well as several Maori spiritual sites. Ruapehu is especially popular during the winter months for its ski slopes and during the summer months, you can enjoy the scenic vistas and the abundant birdlife of the park on its many hiking trails.
The charms of the South Island
From the North Island, head to the South, to the charming city of Christchurch. The city is a mix of modern as well as traditional charm, offering stunning views of the distant Southern Alps. There’s shopping, art and gourmet restaurants to enjoy in this eclectic hub. From Christchurch, you can drive to Mt Cook, a dramatic alpine landscape whose spectacular glacier lakes, rivers, meadows made several appearances in the movie, for your Lord of the Rings tour.
Also do: Immerse yourself in Christchurch’s quaint charm by taking a ride on the hop-on hop-off loop tram, going punting on the river Avon, which takes you to the heart of the city or relaxing on a gondola ride that offers you stunning views the Canterbury Plains, the Banks Peninsula, and the Southern Alps beyond! Adventure enthusiasts can make the most of horse treks, dinghy cruises, fishing trips, 4×4 drives, and scenic flights with glacier landings in Mt Cook.
Stay: You can pick from a range of boutique and villa hotels like The George and The Classic Villa in Christchurch, while options like Mt Cook Lodge and Motels and The Hermitage Hotel allow you to stay close amid the mountains in Mt Cook.
Further south of Christchurch lies arguably New Zealand’s most popular destination – Queenstown. Dramatically fringed by the Southern Alps, Queenstown is a medley of scenic lakes, velvety mountains and valleys. It’s snowy jagged mountain peaks, the Remarkables, was the setting for Dimrill Dale, while the Skipper’s Canyon was the location for one of the most dramatic scenes of the movie – in which the half-elf Arwen called upon the floods to wash away the pursuing Ring Wraiths
Also do: What really draws travelers to Queenstown apart from its stunning vistas are the many adventure sports that it offers – it is known as the bungee jumping and skydiving capital of the world! You can also go kayaking along Lake Wakatipu, jet-boating down the Shotover and Dart rivers and skiing down Coronet Peak! Queenstown also serves as the ideal base to explore the surrounding towns of Wanaka, Glenorchy, and Arrowtown for their vineyards, mining settlements and, of course, gorgeous scenery.
Stay: Queenstown has several international as well as boutique hotels and lodges like Eichardt’s Residence, Azur Lodge and Novotel Lakeside where you can stay, surrounded by gorgeous views.
Don’t miss: Arguably Queenstown’s most famous attraction is the fiord of Milford Sound. Take a Milford Sound cruise past spectacular waterfalls, craggy rock faces, and Mitre Peak, and you can also spot seal colonies, penguins and dolphins! Another must visit is the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, 10 meters under Harrison Cove. Witness the oceans like never before as you glimpse New Zealand’s sea life in its natural habitat.
Get ready to see the beauty of New Zealand through the popular destinations that worked their magic as Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings!
Let us craft the perfect Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand for you!