Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Tours

You know what it’s like, you see a movie or a TV show you love and if you’re lucky enough to visit the place it was made, it’s like being transported into another world. For Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans that’s what it’s like coming to ‘Middle Earth New Zealand’. 

You’ll be under a little spell every minute you’re in New Zealand, if you don’t believe in magic before you visit Middle Earth, you will once you’re here!

Kiwis loved the films too, locals will proudly point out which scenes were filmed in their neck of the woods and pretty much every man and his dog claim to have been an extra!

You’ll meet a lot of people who say something like ‘Yep, I was in Lord of the RIngs, here look, that’s me, in the middle of that pile of 1000 orcs, lying by the rock there, I can tell by the way I bent my arm.’

We’re not quite in the league of those folks who want to put on their robes of Lorian and speak Eldarin every day while you’re here on holiday in Middle Earth (yes, it happens!), we still love showing people around the locations and telling them our little experiences and stories of our mates who helped in the films.

So here’s the MoaTrek guide to ‘Lord of the Rings on your New Zealand Tour’, how we like to show friends visiting the most popular filming spots and easiest places to see locations as you travel around Middle Earth New Zealand.

Just like Frodo and Bilbo before him, we start in the Shire and a slightly different route through Middle Earth than the Fellowship or the Company does, for your very own journey ‘There and Back Again’.

Hobbiton Day Tour from Auckland

Depending on your itinerary, there are a couple of ways to visit Hobbiton but when friends visit us, we tell them to jump on a day tour from Auckland to Hobbiton. It’s super easy as you don’t worry about the driving, they’ll come and pick you up at your Auckland accommodation and whisk you away to Middle Earth, and of course tell you all that background info about the films and a million other things you would never find out on your own.

The Hobbiton movie set is about 180km / 110 miles south of Auckland, near the Waikato town of Matamata. This is the actual movie set used in Hobbit movies, now a permanent fixture. The Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed here as well, but they took the set down and put it back up again for the second trilogy, it’s here to stay now.

Peter Jackson was looking for countryside that reminded him of ancient England, and he found it here in the green pastures of the Alexander Farm. You’ll recognize dozens of Hobbit Holes, stone bridges, Bilbo Baggin’s home Bag End, The Party Tree, Bagshot Row, have a drink in the Green Dragon Inn and The Shire’s Rest.

“And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up on your wall without a word of explanation?”

Kiwi Tip for Visiting Hobbiton:

If you’re short on time, combine your Hobbiton visit with a trip to the Waitomo Caves, all in the same day trip from Auckland. They didn’t do any filming in the Waitomo Caves but recorded audio in there for underground cave scenes!

Hobbiton with MoaTrek

One of our most popular pre tour activities – just let us know and we’ll take care of it all for you. Pick up and drop off from your Auckland accommodation, and whisked away to Middle Earth for the day!

Gandalf in Hobbiton - Lord of the Rings Tours NZ

Tongariro National Park – Lord of the Rings Locations

Mordor, Mt Doom, Emyn Muil and including the Black Gate where Sauron lost the ring to Isildur are all in Tongariro National Park.

Mordor – Mt Ruapehu / Whakapapa skifield

Your journey to Mordor will be much less treacherous than it was for the Hobbits! In summertime it’s an easy trip up the Bruce Road from Whakapapa Village, and once you’re there amongst all the volcanic rock and jagged peaks, just add in a fiery mountain and a dark lord and the picture would be complete!

There’s no single Tongariro National Park Lord of the Rings Tour, so the easiest way is to grab a location guidebook or follow your guide up to Whakapapa skifield from the village.

Scenes in Emyn Muil, where Frodo and Sam first encountered Gollum in The Two Towers, was filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, easy to get to from Whakapapa Village too. On the other side of the mountain, at Turoa skifield, was the scene of Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in The Desolation of Smaug.

Mt Doom is actually Mt Ngauruhoe, but out of respect for local Maori tradition the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe was never actually filmed.

Remember when they chopped Sauron’s (dressed in black, spouted fire everywhere) finger off with the ring on it, and Islidur was holding the ring and his mates were shouting at him to throw it in the fire, but he didn’t and all the really bad stuff happened after that? Well that was filmed here at Tongariro too. (That Isildur, he really does have a lot to answer for!)

“I was there the day the strength of men failed” Elrond at Mt Doom.

Gollum’s Pool – Tawhai Falls

This is the very spot where Gollum catches a fish in The Two Towers, not realising he is being watched by Frodo and Boromir, Frodo saves Gollum’s life here without him realising it. This is the Tawhai Falls in Tongariro National Park, an easy 20 minute walk from the Whakapapa Village Road.

‘The rock and pool, is nice and cool. so juicy-sweet! Our only wish, to catch a fish, so juicy-sweet!’

Mordor, Mt Doom, Emyn Muil and the Forbidden Pool with MoaTrek

We love staying at the Chateau Tongariro, right in Whakapapa Village, right on the slopes of Mordor and looking right across at Mt Doom, we always head up to the skifield the afternoon we arrive, for our own little visit to site of Sam & Gollum’s trek through the razor sharp rocks of Emyn Muil and the desert flats of Mordor. The Tawhai Falls are now known as ‘Gollum’s Pool’ to all the locals, anyone will tell you where it is!

Fire erupting from Mt Doom, Tongariro National Park - Lord of the Rings Tours

Wellington Lord of the Rings Locations on your New Zealand Tour

The Embassy Theatre and Courtney Place – Site if the World Premiere of the Hobbit and Return of the King

The spiritual home of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, ‘Wellywood’ was the site of the world premiere of the The Return of the King movie screening, on 1 December 2003. There was 500 metres of red carpet laid down Courtney Place, over 100,000 people cheered on the cast and parade of Middle Earth Creatures, it was such an exciting time for everyone in New Zealand.

The party came back again in 2012 for the world premiere of the first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey. Both premieres were hosted at the Embassy Theatre, which is a Heritage New Zealand Category 1 building and still open today!

Weta Workshop, Miramar

If you’re staying the day in Wellington, head out to the Weta Workshop in Mirimar to learn where all the tricksy stuff was made. Most of what they do there is top secret, but there’s an excellent little taster called the Weta Cave Tour, where they’ll show you how they made props and costumes for LOTR, the Hobbit and other movies you’ll know.

Locations close to Wellington CBD – Hobbiton Woods in Victoria Park

Getting into Middle Earth and into one of the most memorable LOTR locations from central Wellington is really easy, Mt Victoria was the ‘Get off the Road’ scene, where the hobbits hid from the Nazgul (The Evil Dudes on the Horses) and where they escaped through the forest.. It’s not far from the CBD but you’ll need transport.

‘Get off the Road’

Other sites around Wellington are Gardens of Isengard (Harcourt Park), the River Anduin (the Hutt River), Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park) and Osgliiath Wood (Waiterere Forest).

The Paths of the Dead

If you’re heading into Wellington from the Wairarapa region, you’ll pass nearby the Putangirua Pinnacles, where Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas (he was pretty cool wasn’t he!) sought out the Paths of the Dead to seek help in their battle against Sauron.

Wellywood with MoaTrek

You’ve got free time after we arrive to check out the Embassy Theatre and Courtney Place, or even head out to Miramar for the Weta Cave Tour, or even make the trip up to Mt Victoria to hide in the woods from the Nazgul.

Giant Gollum on the ceiling at Wellington airport - Lord of the Rings Tours

The Pelorus River – Forest River, the Barrell Run scene

This was a place Peter Jackson used to visit on holiday as a kid, and when he was looking for the right place for the Barrell Run scene he knew exactly where he wanted to film it, here at the Pelorus River.

The Pelorus Bridge is on the way from Nelson to Kaikoura and Christchurch, perfect for your first stop along the way – jump in the river just like the Hobbistses and Dwarves did in the Desolatation of Smaug, when they were escaping the orcs and floated away down the river in the barrels.

There’s a great photo of Peter Jackson standing on the rocks by the river with all the actors bobbing inthe river in their barrels, that’s right by the bridge and you can stand on that very rock!

Forest River with MoaTrek

We always make the stop at the Pelorus Bridge for a nice tea break on our way from Nelson down to Kaikoura, with plenty of time to get right down to the river and on one of the short walks nearby, hopefully no Orcs around but stick close to your Kiwi Guide just in case!

Director Peter Jackson and actors in the Pelorus River, filming the Barrell Run scene in the Hobbit - Lord of the Rings Tours NZ

Mount Cook Lord of the Rings Locations

Filming was done in the Mount Cook and Mackenzie Country areas area in both the trilogies, the huge battle of Pelennor Fields, the Misty Mountains and the escape from the Wargs into the hidden entrance to Rivendell.

Lake-Town, Lake Pukakai (The Desolation of Smaug & The Battle of the Five Armies)

The set for the village of Lake Town was built entirely at Tasman Downs Station, on the shores of Lake Pukaki. This was one of the most extensive sets built for the whole Hobbit series, there were around 700 people on set for filming! Some of the scenes from the Misty Mountains in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were also filmed around Lake Pukaki, as well as around Queenstown.

Pelennor Fields – Mackenzie Country (Return of the King)

Once you see the Mackenzie Country and the Mt Cook region, around every turn of the road will remind you of somewhere you’ve seen before, on your way there and back again perhaps? If you’re travelling between Mount Cook and Queenstown, you’ll pass right by the town of Twizel, backdrop for the biggest battle in the entire Lord of the Rings Triology, at Pelennor Fields in the Return of the King.

Around Twizel is also where the Minas Tirith scenes from the Return of the King and the Warg chase was filmed in The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey. What’s a Warg? We didn’t now either, it looks like this:

Aerial filming for the Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey was done in and around the snowy peaks and glaciers of Mt Cook National Park. Jump on a scenic flight or heli hike up the Tasman Glacier to get your own shots! There are some short Lord of the Rings Tour options from Twizel, with 1 hour, 2 hour and twilight tours.

Lake Town, Pelennor Fields and the Misty Mountains with MoaTrek

A couple of these locations are on private land with no public access, but we pass close by and overnight in Mt Cook village.

Black riders in the river - Lord of the Rings Tours

Queenstown Lord of the Rings Locations

If there’s one place in New Zealand where you can slip right into into Middle Earth, it’s Queenstown and the surrounding Lake Wakatipu area. So many scenes were filmed here, crews were based here for years and you’ll run into heaps of locals who helped on the films. The Remarkables, Deer Park Heights, Skippers Canyon, Arrowtown, Mt Earnslaw are all iconic Queenstown spots which appear all throughout the entire Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

Which scenes were filmed around Queenstown, where to start? If you really want to see the film locations around Queenstown then you need to spend a couple of days in town one day for the locations around Glenorchy and the Dart Valley, and another for other Wakatipu locations.

Around Glenorchy and the Head of Lake Wakatipu

Lothlorien (the forest home of the Elves in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) Isengard (the fortress within the kingdom of Gondor, first belonging to the good guys, and later where Saruman cut down all the trees, bred the really ugly looking Uruk-hai and made weapons for the orc armies) and Amon Hen (where the fellowship camped before going their separate ways, also where Boromir died in battle and where Frodo sat on the Seat of Seeing) are all locations up the Dart Valley, past Glenorchy near Paradise (yes, that’s what it’s really called)

Beorn’s House from The Desolation of Smaug was filmed right nearby at Arcadia Station. This was where Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves took refuge for a couple of happy days of resting and eating, after being chased in there by the bear, who was actually Beorn himself (a skin changer), in the form of a bear. Beorn showed up later (as the bear, of course) and helped the company out in the Battle of the Five Armies.

The big twin peaked mountain dominating the scenery around the ‘Head of the Lake’ is Mt Earnslaw, which appeared many times in both trilogies as the Misty Mountains. On the lower slopes of Mt Earnslaw, the Earnslaw Burn was used for the scenes of The Company departing Rivendell to start their quest in An Unexpected Journey.

On the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy are a couple more locations, Closeburn, just 8km / 5 miles from Queenstown was also site for Amon Hen and the Twelve Mile Delta was the site of Ithilien Camp, where Frodo, Sam and Gollum are captured by the Rangers (who turn out to be good guys) after witnessing the battle between them and servants of Sauron with the Oliphants. remember when Sam and Gollum were arguing over how to cook rabbits, that was here in the Fellowship of the Ring.

Arrowtown & the Kawarau River

The Fiord of Bruinen is where Frodo and Arwen (Liv Tyler, with funny ears on) were being chased by the Nazgul (generally evil guys dressed in black, riding horses) and Arwen comes up with a neat trick to cause a flood and wash the baddies away. Frodo had been stabbed and we all thought he was going to die, but we kind of knew he wouldn’t too because it was only the first film. This scene was actually filmed in two places here in Arrowtown where you can walk right along the Arrow River from the town centre, the other spot they filmed the Fiord of Bruinen was out in Skippers Canyon, not too far from here and also accessible on a day tour from Queenstown.

‘Waters of the Misty Mountains, hear the word of power, rush, waters of Burinen, against the Ringwraiths’

Gladden Fields, where Isildur (a very naughty boy, see above) lost the ring in the river where it was later picked up by Gollom, was filmed at the Arrowtown Reserve, also just a few minutes walk from the main street and is part of the Arrowtown Millennium Walk, a short 1 hour walk along the banks of the river and through the surrounding area.

The Gates of Argonath, the Pillars of the King. At the very end of the Fellowship of the Ring, the boys are boating down the river leaving Gondor after another taxing battle. These huge statues were models and also computer graphics, but the river is real and it’s the Kawarau River just out of Queenstown, with viewpoints along the Gibbston Valley walkway / cycleway, also from the AJ Hackett Bungy bridge. If you really want to be a hobbit, you can go on a raft trip right down the same river!

Other areas around Queenstown to feature were Deer Park Heights (where Gandalf left the fellowship for Gondor and where the rufugees of Rohan scenes were filmed lots of our mates claim to be in that one!). The Remarkable mountain range appears a lot in the background and also featured as Dimrill Dale, where Aragorn leads the team to Lothlorein after the Mines of Moria.

Queenstown Lord of the Rings Scenes on your MoaTrek tour

There are so many Lord of the Rings and Hobbit locations in Queenstown, that’s why we always stay three nights, to make sure you’ve got plenty of time to see as much of Middle Earth as you want to. We always head up the to Glenorchy to see the Misty Mountains, Lothlorien, Isengard and Amon Hen, and we’ll pass Ithilen Camp on the way too.

On our last morning in Queenstown we make a stop in Arrowtown, right next to the Ford of Bruien and just a toss of a ring from Gladden Fields.

You’re actually spoiled for choice in Queenstown, you could also jump on a Lord of the Rings Tour from Queenstown there are half and full day tours, heli tours, walking tours, cycling, 4WD off road tours, horse trekking, jet boating and scenic flights all with a Hobbit / Lord of the Rings theme to them.

More than any place in New Zealand, Queenstown is really Middle Earth and that seeps into every minute you’re here.

Dwarves and Hobbits crossing the mountaintops, Glenorchy NZ - Lord of the Rings Tours

Fiordland National Park in Lord of the Rings

Being protected land, not much filming was done inside Fiordland National Park itself, but there were a lot of scenic shots done here, and the scene from ‘An Unexpected Journey’ where the team escape on the Giant Eagles, that background is all Fiordland National Park – jump on a scenic flight to Milford Sound and imagine you’re on the back of your own Giant Eagle!

Fangorn Forest, home of the giant Ents, was filmed near Te Anau Downs, on the road to Milford Sound.

Flying with Gwaihir, the Lord of the Eagles on your MoaTrek tour:

Take a look at the scene where the giant eagles rescue the company from certain death when they’re trapped by orcs, all that mountain scenery they’re flying over is Fiordland National Park, exactly where you’ll fly too on our scenic flight between Queenstown and Milford Sound!

Flying with Eagles scene from An Unexpected Journey, Fiordland National Park - Lord of the Rings Tours

Franz Josef Glacier Lord of the Rings Locations

Remember the ‘Lighting of the Beacons’ scene in the ‘Return of the King’, when the little Hobbit climbs the tower at Minas Tirith and lights the beacon of Amon Din, the first of the warning beacons of Gondor. That was filmed at Mount Gunn, close to Franz Josef Glacier. You can see the whole area filmed from the Franz Josef Glacier access track, or from above in a scenic flight or heli hike.

‘The Beacon of Amon Din is lit’

Canterbury Lord of the Rings Tour

One of the most striking locations in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy was Edoras, the capital of Rohan. The village was built completely on the top of Mt Sunday, up a one way road in the Rangitata Valley about 160km / 100 miles from Christchurch. You’ll need a day from Christchurch to get to Edoras, you can drive yourself up there and walk on the public track, or jump on a Lord of the Rings tour from Christchurch, which will take you right there without you having to worry about navigating or getting lost in a dead end valley.

One spot up the Rangitata Valley, which was used for filming backdrops and totally sounds like it belongs in Middle Earth is Erewhon. You have a look on a map, it really exists in New Zealand, not Middle Earth!

Edoras with MoaTrek

Our 21 day Kakapo New Zealand tour finishes in Christchurch, so just stay one extra night here and we’ll help you book on a Lord of the Rings Day tour to Edoras from Christchurch. It’s a great fun day out and somewhere new for you, as we don’t visit the Rangitata Valley on our tour.

So there you have it, Middle Earth, MoaTrek style! We’ve never had anything like Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit filmed here and it really felt like something every Kiwi was right behind, we know we were! Travelling from North to South, meeting Kiwis involved in the project and of course, learning all about the films from your Kiwi Guide will make your Middle Earth journey something to remember.

‘You are a very fine person Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’

Film crew outdoors in Cantebury - Lord of the Rings NZ

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