Explore Lord of the Rings country
With The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug having been a blockbuster hit since it’s release in December, Tolkien fans have been gearing themselves up with this fifth dose of Middle Earth excitement. But as well as the cinema experience, there is another way to enjoy the locations seen on film and that is in real life.
Lord of the Rings tourism is really taking off in New Zealand, where all of the movies have been shot, making it easier than ever to check them out for yourself. All you need is to book a car from Auto Europe and set out to some of the 150 places featured on celluloid.
The most obvious place to include on any Tolkien tour of New Zealand is Hobbiton – the film set used to create Bilbo Baggins’ home and accompanying Shire near Matamata on the North Island. A two-hour guided tour will let you see at the key sights and offer extra information about how the filming was undertaken.
Highlights for any true fan will be the hobbit holes and The Green Dragon Inn, which is now open to the public. You will even get a chance to enjoy a drink in the establishment as part of the experience.
You will also be able to soak up the stunning views of the Kaimai Mountain Ranges providing a backdrop to the rolling hills that first attracted director Peter Jackson to the spot for filming. This wonderful place should not be missed.
Tongariro National Park
A specific type of landscape was always going to be needed to film the scenes in the fictional setting of Mordor – described so thoroughly by Tolkien in the novels. This was found within the Tongariro National Park on the North Island, with its volcanic plateau lending itself to the land of Sauron.
As soon as you step foot among the jagged rock formations it is impossible not to think of the dramatic events from the films. Trek across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to get fully immersed in the landscape and look out for familiar vistas.
These may include Mount Ngauruhoe, which was used as the basis for Mount Doom. Despite the fact that digital wizardry transformed it somewhat, you can still see the underlying foundations. Take a trip to the Mangawhero Falls, as this is where the Ithilien Camp was filmed and the Rangipo Desert saw an army of orcs coming across it during the trilogy.
Driving near Queenstown on the South Island could give visitors the feeling that they have been here before, as the area was used as several different locations within the Lord of the Rings films. The highest concentration can be found just outside of Glenorchy.
Here the Fortress of Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen were all created. Just driving along the road for the 16 kilometres from Glenorchy will give you plenty of Middle Earth scenery, including mountains and rivers to ogle at.
New Zealand’s capital Wellington, which can be found on the North Island, was the production hub for the films, so the cast and crew spent a lot of time there during filming. This is not the only reason to visit, however, as some areas of the city were also used as movie sets.
Take a leisurely stroll up Mount Victoria and you may imagine you see some little hobbit faces appearing from behind the trees. This is because scenes showing them hiding from the black riders in the Hobbiton woods were shot here.
The Kaitoke Regional Park was transformed into Rivendell and the exact spot where Frodo recovered from the knife attack is signposted from the car park.