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.