The best Lord of the Rings filming locations
Tolkien’s imaginary world, full of sky-piercing pinnacles, mystical fiords and endearing forests, was brought to life amongst New Zealand’s scenery in the movies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. We’ve handpicked some of the best filming locations from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to show you how to experience the real Middle-earth on your New Zealand vacation.
See more about experiencing Lord of the Rings and Hobbit on our tours.
Just two hours from Auckland, The Shire is nestled in the rolling Waikato dairy country. Trading in sheep for Hobbits, the Alexander Farm became home to Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and Hobbits alike, firstly for The Lord of the Rings, then was later recreated for The Hobbit and is now an enchanting attraction for all. A trip to The Shire isn’t complete without a pint at The Green Dragon, a photo in front of Hobbit ‘hole’ and dancing under The Party Tree.
In the deep South of New Zealand, Fiordland’s pure, dramatic environment was selected as backdrop for scenes in both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. The forceful waters of Southland’s largest river, the Waiau, play the part of River Anduin, while the surrounding jagged peaks, misty waters and dark forests provided the vast scenery shots which made New Zealand world-famous and a popular tour destination. Take to the water or sky on a cruise or helicopter tour to see where the fellowship paddled south from Lothlórien or where Bilbo and company retreated on the backs of eagles.
Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook
The aquamarine hues of Lake Pukaki are best known as the setting for Lake Town in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It is the glistening glacial waters sheltered beneath the staunch shadow of Mount Cook and surrounding snow-capped pinnacles which caught the eye of Director, Peter Jackson. He used the distinctive location numerous times in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Needless to say, Lake Pukaki is a hub for activities like walking, cycling and fishing, stop off here to absorb the beauty and for some well-earnt R&R.
Famous for its dramatic landscapes, Queenstown is home to many magnificent scenes in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. The Dart River Jet Boat takes you deep into Mount Aspiring National Park, where a number of scenes were filmed.
The desolate, volcanic atmosphere of Tongariro National Park and Mount Ruapehu provided the perfect environment for orc-ridden Mordor and Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe), where “It all began with the forging of the Great Ring,” in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In winter Mount Ruapehu is a hub for skiers and snowboarders ‘shredding’ the slopes. The area is also known for its fantastic hiking with many tracks to choose from for walkers of all levels to explore the Tongariro National Park first hand.
The dramatic pinnacle of Aoraki/Mount Cook is backdrop to many aerial shots in the trilogies as well as Lake Town in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. One of the best ways to experience these vistas is via an easygoing walk in the Hooker Valley.
Our 23-day Kakapo tour journeys through many of these spectacular filming locations. Spend the night in a beautiful Chateau overlooking Mordor and Mount Doom, soak up a scenic flight to Milford Sound in Fiordland, and spend a day exploring the beauty of Queenstown. Find out more about our Kakapo tour here.