Journey Across Middle-earth New Zealand

Journey Across Middle-earth New Zealand

Start your Middle-earth adventure in New Zealand now!

New Zealand’s spectacular and diverse landscapes have become a movie fan’s ultimate destination since the release of the blockbuster Middle-earth trilogies – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

While fervent fans must follow the epic trail to all the spots where their favourite characters appeared in the movies to dress and re-enact the scenes, Hobbiton – home of the hobbits – has become one of New Zealand’s most-visited tourist attractions.

middle-earth new zealand

Sir Peter Jackson, the movie maker who turned the famous books into even more famous movies, has said that his homeland New Zealand provided the perfect setting to depict the mythical Middle-earth.

Any movie tour should include a visit to Wellington – New Zealand’s film central and the hub of Peter Jackson’s film empire – where you can see something of the creativity and artistry that made the Middle-earth films so popular and meet the artists at Weta Workshop. A major new movie museum is also in the pipeline for development on Wellington’s waterfront.

Also read: Travel Like You’re the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand’s Middle Earth

Hobbiton – at home with Hobbits


Movie fans can begin their journey through Middle-earth in the same way that Bilbo did, at Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, near the farming town of Matamata in the North Island’s Waikato region.

The set was first used for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and was re-built in permanent materials for The Hobbit Trilogy, so it could remain open as a tourist attraction.

middle-earth new zealandImage credit: Tom Hall

At Hobbiton tourists can enjoy an in-depth Middle-earth experience – peering over a hobbit’s front gate to see if anyone is at home, dancing under the party tree, swigging back a beer at The Green Dragon Inn or even staying for a feast fit for a hobbit after a night-tour under the stars.

Waitomo – limestone caves

Mangaotaki RocksMangaotaki Rocks

Just west of Matamata, film-makers discovered what was to be the perfect location for the continuing journey of Bilbo and The Company.

The looming cliffs, unusual limestone rock formations and prehistoric forest at Mangaotaki Rocks, Piopio looked almost as if they had been created specifically for the film. Supervising location manager Jared Connon described the area as “truly like another world”.

Mangaotaki Rocks provided the location for Staddles Farm and Trollshaw Forest Rocky Hillside where a number of scenes were shot including The Company arriving at a destroyed farmhouse, the exit from the Troll Hoarde Cave, Gandalf bestowing Sting upon Bilbo, Radagast’s arrival and the Gundabad Wargs and Orcs attack.

Filming took place on a family farm just 45km from Waitomo and the ancient subterranean caves famous for glow worms and black water rafting. Three generations of the family live on the farm and they assisted The Hobbit Trilogy film-makers by altering their farming practice to allow paddocks to grow wild in order to create the right look for the ‘Edge of Trollshaw Forest’.

Visitors can experience this magical part of New Zealand through a tour of the location with Hairy Feet Waitomo who take visitors on a 90-minute guided van tour around the towering Mangaotaki Rocks.

Other attractions and adventures in the area are the famed Waitomo Caves where visitors can enjoy a walking cave tour, abseiling, rock climbing and black water rafting thrills. New Zealand’s highest cave abseil descends 100m into the ‘Lost World’.

Whanganui River Journey

Whanganui RiverImage credit: James Shook

While the exact location used for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is on a private farm, tourists can experience the alpine landscapes around Ohakune in the central North Island Ruapehu region, with a variety of tourism products.

Yeti Tours run kayaking trips down the Whanganui River from Mt Tongariro (used for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) to the Tasman Sea. On this overnight trip visitors can immerse themselves in nature, and spend a night in the wilderness surrounded by New Zealand native birds such as kiwi.

The cultural significance of this region to New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people was not lost on cast and crew. Martin Freeman (Bilbo) said the Central Plateau was his favourite location – “…it’s one of those sort of archetypal Kiwi places that you think, god, New Zealand has such amazing places”.

Nelson’s sunny scenes

Cape Farewell Horse Treks

Moving down to the tip of the South Island, Nelson – on the north-western coast sets the scene for several locations in The Hobbit Trilogy.

Although only the private property of Kaihoka Station at western Golden Bay features in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, visitors can still get a good feel for the filming location with Cape Farewell Horse Treks. It’s possible to ride across private farmland to a dramatic cliff top that offers spectacular coastal views over Golden Bay. This is where The Company continue their journey along the steep rocky ridges used for ‘Weatherhills Trees and Rocks’.

It was the stunning pinnacle rock formations at Mt Owen, in Kahurangi National Park, that director Peter Jackson chose for Dimrill Dale in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Visitors can fly into the area with Reid Helicopters, who also flew for both movie trilogies and helped scout locations within the region.

Lake Pukaki – Kiwi farm experience

Lake PukakiImage credit: Andrea Schaffer

Braemar Station at Lake Pukaki – in the Mount Cook Mackenzie region – was used in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to portray epic scenic shots, the ‘Warg Chase’ and approach to Rivendell.
The property was also used for the forest slopes of Misty Mountains where The Company escapes from inside the mountains.

Visitors can stay at the station (as The Hobbit Trilogy crew did), and enjoy activities including helping out on the farm, fishing, bike riding, or a quiet picnic by the lake.

Queenstown – Hiking heaven

QueenstownImage credit: Lawrence Murray

Known for its exceptional natural beauty, Queenstown in the South Island is a popular base for some of the world’s best hiking experiences, including Pass Burn Track on the Mavora Walkway – one section of New Zealand’s national walkway Te Araroa which travels the length of the country.

Passburn was used for the approach to Misty Mountains in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The film location is on land owned by New Zealand’s Ngai Tahu Maori tribe and managed by the Department of Conservation so there is public access.

The hiking route offers a three- to four-day walk, through varied landscapes of mountains, lakes, beech forest and tussock country.

Tourists can also take to the skies with a local helicopter company, such as Heliworks or Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, who flew for cast and crew during filming.

The dramatic scenes of ‘Misty Mountain Paths’ where The Company trek below a majestic waterfall then along sub-alpine bluffs towards the Misty Mountains were shot at Earnslaw Burn – a short helicopter flight from Queenstown and said to be a favourite of Peter Jackson.

In this dramatic landscape, where a sheer wall of granite rises 800m from the basin floor, a monumental glacier cascades from the top of the cliff to form ice caves below that melt during summer to create dozens of waterfalls.

Also read: 28 Photos That Prove New Zealand is the Epitome of Earth’s Beauty

Fiordland – Bird’s eye view

Fiordland National ParkImage credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn

Fiordland National Park is another location used in The Lord of the Rings for some epic scenic shots.
‘Wild Country’ was the description given for the scenes where the eagles soar through the sky, and Carrock Summit was the location where the eagles deliver The Company to the summit.

Visitors can take a helicopter flight into the wilderness region with numerous tour companies such as Real Journeys, which offers a tour option of a landing in Milford or Doubtful Sounds, and a cruise through the fiords for an intimate experience of spectacular waterfalls and wildlife like pods of playful dolphins.

Wanaka – a snowy end

Treble Cone Ski Area WanakaImage credit: Jo Munday

Tourists may choose to finish their Middle-earth adventure in the ski resort town of Wanaka, a 40-minute drive from Queenstown.

Treble Cone Ski Area, which was used for the Misty Mountain pathways and is a world-class ski field renowned for its off-piste terrain and unrivalled views across Lake Wanaka and the Central Otago region.

Alpine Peaks in the Wanaka region was also described as ‘Wild Country’ for the first film and provided the backdrop for eagles soaring.

Central Otago – epic landscapes

Taieri Gorge trainImage credit: pbkwee

Not far from Wanaka and Queenstown, two further locations – Klifden Station in Ida Valley and Hartfield at Middlemarch in Central Otago – also provided epic landscapes for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey where the Orcs and Wargs hunt The Company.

Middlemarch, a small town of 165 residents, is located in the Strath Taieri valley 80km northwest of Dunedin and is flanked by the spectacular Rock and Pillar Range to the west. Locals pride themselves on good old fashioned, down-to-earth hospitality which cast and crew experienced when they stayed in the region during filming.

Schist rocks dominate the landscape and the region boasts a unique inland salt lake, known as Sutton Salt Lake. The Taieri Gorge train is a novel way to get to the area, and Middlemarch is a good setting-off point for the popular Otago Central Rail Trail one of New Zealand’s Great Rides.

Also read: New Zealand’s Top 10 Holiday Activities

Start your Middle-earth adventure now!

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Tourism New Zealand
Tourism New Zealand

Tourism New Zealand is the organisation responsible for marketing New Zealand to the world as a tourist destination. The major tool we use to do this is the 100% Pure New Zealand marketing campaign, a campaign that has evolved over the past 16 years to make New Zealand one of the world's most well-respected tourism brands. International tourism has grown to become New Zealand's second largest earner of foreign exchange, pumping around NZD11.8 billion annually into the nation's economy. Almost 3.06 million visitors arrive in the country every year.