If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filmic trilogies, then you’ll know that most of the action was filmed in New Zealand. It’s a tiny nation that’s packed with sprawling, open and varying terrain that’s relatively untouched by humankind – and thus it’s one that provides just the right aesthetic for Tolkein’s famous vision.
More than ever before, we’re looking to emigrate to New Zealand from the UK, and the lush landscape presented in the films is surely to be credited for some of that. There are more jobs in New Zealand for UK citizens than ever before, making such a move even more palatable. Let’s take a look at some of the locations you might recognise from the films – and see where you might visit them in the real world.
The village of Hobbiton, where Frodo and Bilbo receive their respective calls to adventure at the beginning of each trilogy, can be found near the town of Waikato in Matamata. It’s a peaceful region where the set of Hobbiton now exists as a permanent tourist attraction, having been rebuilt for the filming of the Hobbit trilogy.
The house of Elrond, in Rivendell, was built in Wellignton’s Kaitoke regional park. It’s here that Frodo recovers after being attacked by the Nazgul in the Fellowship of the Ring, and where the Fellowship is ultimately formed. It also shows up in the Hobbit briefly. The dense, forested valleys provide the perfect sense of seclusion for the elven retreat.
The Anduin, along which the Fellowship travel after departing Lothlorien, is actually the river Waiau, which runs between Te Anau and a Manapouri. Some of the peaks on either side of the river were also used earlier in the film, before the hobbits and their guide arrive at Rivendell. The ‘pillar of kings’, the gates of Argonath comprising two statues of Isildur and his father, Elendil. As you might suspect, these two colossal structures were added using computer-generated imagery, but you can still visit the location that they were filmed in.
The Pelennor fields, recall, are just outside the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith. It’s here that the largest and most CGI-heavy parts of The Return of the King can be found, with the combined forces of Gondor finally facing down Sauron’s horde. This incredibly long sequence was filmed in several locations. The Nazgul (the hooded villains) and the mumakil (the elephant-like creatures) were digitally added to footage from Queen Elizabeth Park, near Paraparaumu. Much of the main action, however, was filmed in Mackenzie Country, where the fields give way to distant mountains exactly as Tolkien described in the book. Unfortunately, this part of the country is located on private land – so you’ll need to enjoy it from a distance.
At the very, very end of the Two Towers where Frodo, Sam and Gollum are seen leaving Gondor to return to Mordor. They walk through a wood known as Osglitiath, which in real life is the Waitarere Forest.
In the fictional world of Middle Earth, the one ring was forged by Sauron in the fires of Orodruin (or Mount Doom, as it’s popularly known). During filming, around forty different rings were used – each of them created by a goldsmith known as Jens Hansen. Pay a visit to Nelson and you’ll be able to see one of the original rings on display. What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to buy a replica for yourself, made from either nine or eighteen carat gold.
If you’re a real fan of the Lord of the Rings, then you’ll want to pay a visit to the Weta Workshop in Wellington. There, you’ll find a wealth of interesting information and entertainment about how the films were put together. The actual business centre of the complex is still operational, but it’s strictly off-limits to even the most enthusiastic fan of the series.
Edoras is the capital of Rohan, and is built into a sheer-sided hill. It was the scene of much of the action in ‘the two towers’, and took nine months for the crew to build. Today, nothing remains of it, but you can still visit the location, Mount Sunday. From there, you’ll be able to enjoy and incredible view of the surrounding landscape. It’s a spectacular place for a hiking expedition!
If you’re a big fan of the work of Tolkien and Peter Jackson, then a visit to the locations seen in the two trilogies is sure to be rewarding. Make a big checklist, and tick them off as you travel the country!