New Zealand LOTR Locations: How I Lived Out My Tolkien Fantasy

How I Lived Out My Tolkien Fantasy in New Zealand

Where fantasy meets reality!

As a child, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) films were my favourite movies. Watching the trilogy in one sitting was an annual custom for me. I participated in multiple LOTR trivia quizzes and even dressed up as Frodo for Halloween once. It would be an understatement to say I was a huge LOTR fan. Till today, the trilogy has a special place in my heart. Imagine my delight when I found out that my parents were planning a family trip to New Zealand

Known for being the filming location of many of the film’s scenes, New Zealand is the dream destination for any LOTR fan! As such, I had one goal for this trip: to live out my Tolkien fantasy. I was determined to cram as many filming locations in our itinerary as possible. 

Without further ado, here’s how I explored Middle-earth on my quest to live out my New Zealand LOTR fantasy!

Also read: 10 Famous Movies Filmed in New Zealand & Their Breathtaking Locations

The beginning of an adventure


hobbiton new zealand

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

Here’s one thing Frodo and I have in common: We both started our adventure in Hobbiton. This magical place is a 15-minute drive from the Matamata town centre, making it the perfect place for my first destination. Upon reaching Hobbiton, I was immediately blown away by the lush pastures of the Shire. The emerald-green grass coupled with the stunning architecture transported us to the inception of the fantasy epic.

new zealand lotr tour

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

We decided to join a guided tour around Hobbiton. When the original tour started, it was simply a walk around fields, a large tree, a lake, and some bits of wood. However, the new Hobbit trilogy required the set to be rebuilt for filming purposes. Lucky for us! The tour took us through many diminutive Hobbit Holes, the stunning Party Tree, and of course, the iconic Bag’s End. Posing next to the door of a Hobbit Hole made me feel like I was Gandalf struggling to enter the residence. 

hobbiton auckland

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At the end of the tour, we got a chance to enjoy a complimentary glass of either ale, cider, or ginger beer at the chic Green Dragon Inn. I ordered a glass of refreshing ginger ale and made my way to the Beer Garden to enjoy a panoramic view of the village. And that was how my New Zealand LOTR adventure began!

Also read: 10 Things to Do in Auckland, From Whale-Watching to Wine-Tasting

Journey through Middle-Earth

Mount Sunday

river in new zealand

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While the fellowship’s journey to Mordor was fraught with danger at every turn, it was accompanied by spectacular sights and scenery. Although fighting in wars or escaping from the fearsome Balrog was not on our itinerary, a rip to Mount Sunday certainly was. The mountain sits in the middle of a vast, barren river plain surrounded by snowy mountain ranges in the distance. With its sheer beauty and spectacle, no wonder Peter Jackson chose this as the filming location for the capital of Rohan: Edoras. Unfortunately, the set was deconstructed after the conclusion of filming. 

lord of the rings set new zealand

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

From the car park, we embarked on a 45-minute hike to the summit of the mountain. After crossing a suspension bridge, we were greeted by a view of Mount Sunday in all its glory. Despite the lack of the original movie set, it was not hard to imagine the city of Edoras perched on the hill. With our destination in sight, we eagerly quickened our pace. Trudging through the golden fields surrounded by glistening rivers with the wind blowing through my hair, I briefly imagined I was Aragorn making his way to Edoras. Well, minus the horse of course. 

mount sunday new zealand

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From the base of Mount Sunday, the climb to the summit was relatively short albeit rather steep. What awaited us surpassed all my expectations. Due to the flatness of the surrounding plans, there were spectacular views in every direction. I resisted the urge to burst into Theoden’s rallying speech, which probably saved me some strange looks from other visitors. After soaking in our surroundings, I silently congratulated myself for crossing another item off my New Zealand LOTR bucket list.

Putangirua Pinnacles

lord of the rings location

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Situated at the bottom of the North Island, the Putangirua Pinnacles are a must-visit for any LOTR fan. This geological formation provided the backdrop for Dimholt Road (The Paths of the Dead). However, following in the footsteps of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas was no easy feat! Hiking to the exact filming locations required us to traverse through various terrains. We stepped in mud, got our shoes wet crossing a shallow creek, and scaled steep slopes.

movie set

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Once we reached the Pinnacles, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of uneasiness wash over me. Travelling down a narrow path, I half-expected a ghost army to jump out. Once I got over my initial discomfort, I was captivated by the amazing natural formations that towered over us.

Fun fact: The Putangirua Pinnacles was also the setting for the opening scene of Peter Jackson’s zombie film, Braindead.

One does not simply walk into Mordor

Tongariro National Park

tongariro national park

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Given the opportunity, I would choose to spend another month or two scouring the land for every Lord of the Rings set in New Zealand. Sadly, our trip was coming to an end. However, there was still one more filming location left on our itinerary. Fittingly, Tongariro National Park, the main filming location of the land of Mordor, was our final New Zealand LOTR destination.

new zealand lotr tour

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

Known for its gorgeous scenery and volcanic activity, this park was the highlight of my journey. After my initial disappointment at not having to sneak past an army of orcs, I was awestruck by the sheer spectacle of Tongariro National Park. Gazing across the rugged landscape and volcanic formations, it’s easy to see why this was chosen to depict the ominous Mordor. 

new zealand lotr tour

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While Tongariro National Park is home to multiple scenes in the films, Mount Ngauruhoe, used to depict Mount Doom, is definitely the highlight. Thus, we began our ascent to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe via the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. After passing by many craters, lakes, and volcanic rocks, we arrived at the peak of the conical mountain. While we read that it’s become somewhat of a tradition to throw a ring into Mount Ngauruhoe to save Middle-Earth, I had a hunch that my parents might be reluctant to part ways with their wedding ring.

Also read: 26 Best Natural Attractions in New Zealand That Will Blow Your Mind!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. While I only spent four days exploring the lands of Middle-Earth, these memories will last a long, long time. 

Have you ever travelled to the set of your favourite movie? We’d love to hear more about it: Reach out to us, and you might just be our next Featured Traveller!

About Author

Chow Cheng Yang
Chow Cheng Yang

Cheng Yang can often be found in his natural habitat — in his bed with a cup of coffee and a science-fiction novel. With his undying love for jazz music and old movies, he likes to think of himself as a bit of a hippie. When he's not busy with work or school, he spends his free time playing the guitar or practising calligraphy.