Get ready for adventure! Lord of the Rings fans know New Zealand is synonymous with Middle Earth. But with two separate islands, multiple filming locations, remote spots, and privately owned land, it is difficult to decide on the best spots to visit. This list will break down the top ten destinations that are a must see for any fan. Taking into account accessibility and prominence in the films, everything you need to know to adventure through New Zealand is here!
10. Chetwood Forest
Located on the South Island just west of Nelson, Chetwood Forest was filmed on Takaka Hill. This location is where Aragorn escorted the four hobbits from Bree and into the wild in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Visitors will easily be able to view the forest and boulders without need of any tours or fee.
9. Hobbiton Woods
Located on the North Island near Wellington. Travelers only need to visit Mount Victoria to see where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin were chased by the Black Riders on their journey from The Shire in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
8. Pelennor Fields
This filming site is found on the South Island in Mackenzie Country. It’s on private land but is well worth the effort! Tours are arranged in the nearby town of Twizel. The maximum number of people per group is nine, ensuring an intimate experience. There are different lengths of tours available that offer different features, and you must call to get all the details. You can handle movie prop replicas, and hear in detail about how the scenes were filmed. For reference, a two hour tour is $89. Being able to see where Sauron’s army attacked the city of Gondor is well worth the price, however. This is also the site of Rohan’s battle against the Easterlings and where Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli saved the city with their Army of the Dead.
7. Fangorn Forest
On the South Island, take Takaro Road near Te Anau. Each side of the road was used as a filming location. Here you can see where the Ents lived, and the paths many characters took through the forest to reach their destinations in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Located on the North Island near Wellington. Adventurers only need to visit the Kaitoke Regional Park to see this filming location. Rivendell is home to the elves and overseen by Elrond. This location was featured multiple times throughout the movies, including Frodo recovering from the Ring Wraith attack, the White Council meeting, and Arwen’s urges to re-forge the legendary sword for Aragorn.
5. Paths of the Dead
On the North Island you can visit the Putangirua Pinnacles in the Wairarapa Region. This was the filming site for Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli’s journey to recruit the Army of the Dead in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
4. River Anduin, Pillar of Argonath, Amon Hen, and Dimrill Dale
All these locations are spread throughout the South Island. Luckily, there is a place where you view all the locations at once! A drive up Mount Cardona will allow a view of all of them. To the left is the River Anduin and the Pillars of Argonath, where the Fellowship took Galadriel’s boats past the legendary statues. The statues, of course, were added in digitally. Ahead you can find the Dimrill Dale, where the Fellowship escaped from the Mines of Moria. And further off you can find Amon Hen, where the Fellowship was broken during a battle with Uruk-hai. Just be wary if you visit during the winter as the mountain can become quite snowy.
3. Weta Cave
In Wellington on the North Island, visitors can find Weta Cave. Its a part of the movie center and is free to the public and open seven days a week. Inside are multiple props and replicas from all the Lord of the Rings movies, as well as a documentary. Tours are available but you can also wander on your own.
In Canterbury on the South Island stands the hill Edoras was built on. Central to the Rohan plotline, this was the site of many pivotal scenes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, including King Theodan’s rescue from Saruman’s possession. Travelers can visit and see the hill for free, but if you are looking for a more in depth experience tours are arranged through Canterbury. This is a $279 day tour that includes a free picnic lunch, handling movie prop replicas, and guided hikes and vehicle tours that take you further into the mountains where Helm’s Deep was filmed.
The Hobbiton set is located on the North Island in the town of Matamata. This is the only filming location where the set is still intact and built permanently for the public to visit. You can see actual Hobbit Holes and visit the Green Dragon Inn for a drink. Tours must be pre-booked as they fill up quickly. The cost is $84 per adult and includes all 12 acres of the site. If you want a more intimate experience, you can book a private tour for up to four people for $750.
This list might feel overwhelming. How can you visit so many places so far apart from each other? There is an option available to those who want to see it all, but can’t stay for three or more weeks or don’t want the hassle of finding each location on their own. You can visit Southern Lakes Sightseeing to arrange their nine day full Lord of the Rings tour. Price varies depending on the time of year, but it is approximately $2500. The cost includes accommodation for eight nights, daily breakfast, a few lunches, and the cost of any transportation or tours you venture on. You can see the full breakdown on their website, but in short you tour Edoras, Pelennor Fields, Entwash, and many more that are only accessible via helicopter or boat.
Ashley is the author of the Thread of Souls book series, an avid traveler, and a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast!