New Zealand’s must-do Middle-earth experiences

“New Zealand is the perfect Middle-earth and a real place that visitors can experience for years and years to come.” – Sir Peter Jackson 

Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata
Ever since Sir Peter Jackson created his film trilogies based on 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings', movie fans have been travelling to New Zealand in search of the 'real Middle-earth'. Today there are many wonderful film locations and visitor activities to keep the legacy of these films alive.

Explore the Shire at Hobbiton Movie Set | Hamilton – Waikato 

In the heart of the Hamilton-Waikato region, your clients can roam the lush gardens of the Shire with a guided tour of Hobbiton as featured in 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' Trilogies. This privately-owned family farm was spotted by Sir Peter Jackson in 1998 during an aerial search for filming locations for the first movie in the 'Rings' trilogy. Today, Hobbiton Movie Set is an icon of international tourism, and a permanent tourist attraction. There are 44 Hobbit-holes on site that have been rebuilt exactly as they appeared on film.  

Tour the Official Hobbit Brewery | Hamilton – Waikato 

Hobbits love their beer, so get a taste on a tour of Good George Brewery in Frankton, Hamilton. This brewer is the exclusive supplier of the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton and produces a special range of ‘Southfarthing’ ales, ciders, and ginger beers. Since pouring their first draught at the Green Dragon Inn, Good George has supplied more than 1 million litres of beer for visitors to enjoy.

Journey to Mordor | Ruapehu Region

Get to know the land of Mordor and Mount Doom while tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the Ruapehu region. It’s a big day out for a fit walker but is considered New Zealand’s best day walk. Mordor, home to the Dark Lord Sauron, is actually the rocky slopes of Mt Tongariro in the Tongariro National Park. The jagged volcanic rock formations and eerie barren landscapes were ideal locations for creating Mordor’s moody scenes. As the centre piece of the films, Mount Ngauruhoe was digitally enhanced to create the fiery Mount Doom. Key scenes shot in the Ruapehu region also include the Emyn Muil (Iwikau Village at Whakapapa), Ithilien Camp (Mangawhero Falls) and Orc Army scenes (Rangipo Desert). 

Visit “Wellywood” | Wellington

The city of Wellington is informally known as Wellywood, paying credit to the film empire that Sir Peter Jackson has created. The Wellington suburb of Miramar is home to Stone Street Studios (film studio), Park Road Post (post-production facility), Weta Digital (visual effects), and Wētā Workshop (concept design and manufacturing facility). The legacy left behind by 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' trilogies is ever present and can be experienced through several activities.

See the World’s Biggest Gollum | Wellington

Only in Wellington would you find a 13-metre Gollum in the heart of an international airport terminal. Located on Level 1 of the Main Terminal, the giant sculpture suspended from the roof depicts an emaciated and gleeful Gollum, submerged and reaching for his favourite meal of ‘juicy sweet fishes’. Alongside Gollum, a second installation has the wizard Gandalf atop one of two Great Eagles. Designed and created by the artists at Weta Workshop, these impressive sculptures weigh in at one tonne each with a wingspan of 15 metres.   

Visit the Weta Cave and Wētā Workshop | Wellington 

The Weta Cave screens a behind-the-scenes look at Wētā Workshop and interviews with Wētā Workshop co-founders Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. The experience offers an exclusive insight into the creativity and imagination that goes into the crafts of film making.  

The Wētā Workshop and Studio tour is a great insight into filmmaking creativity. Learn about the making of movie effects and get up close with everything from armour to weapons, creatures to costumes, make-up to miniatures. 

See a Film at Embassy Theatre | Wellington 

Originally built in 1926, the grand Embassy Theatre was fully refurbished in 2003 for the world premiere of 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'. Since then, the theatre has hosted the Australasian premieres of Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' and 'The Lovely Bones', and many of Wellington's finest film and arts festivals. It's also where the world premiere of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' was held on 28 November 2012.

Wellington Film Map 

Explore more film locations, discover bars and restaurants popular with international stars and check out the sculptures crafted by artisans who have worked on some of the world’s biggest movies with the Wellington Film Map.  

Re-enact river scenes from 'The Desolation of Smaug' | Marlborough

Experience an eye-opening adventure down Marlborough’s Pelorus River – made famous by the barrel scene in the second Hobbit movie, 'The Desolation of Smaug'. Drift down the crystal-clear Pelorus river paddling your own canoe and enjoy New Zealand’s pristine native forest as you float past. Stand on the very rocks and see the waterfall visited by Bilbo and his friends. 

View Sir Peter Jackon’s private aircraft collection| Marlborough 

The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre has two major exhibitions based on filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson’s huge private aircraft collection. The incredible ‘Knights of the Sky’ exhibition features WW1 aircraft and other artefacts from the Great War, brought to life with sensational sets created by the acclaimed talent from WingNut Films and Weta Workshop. Omaka’s second exhibition 'Dangerous Skies' features stories and aircraft from World War II. The impressive movie set style treatment puts an exciting creative spin on the traditional museum.

Jens Hansen - Creators of the “One Ring” | Nelson

Meet Halfdan Hansen, the son of Jens Hansen who designed and made the rings used in 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogies at his jewellery store.  Jens died in late 1999 before he was able to see his creation immortalised on screen, but his sons have continued the legacy as the “Creators of The One Ring” featuring in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. They sell replicas in store, as well as other stunning jewellery pieces. 

Hike to Earnslaw Burn | Queenstown

The Queenstown region is full of film locations and tours. Hike to Earnslaw Burn - one of the locations from 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. Bilbo and The Company appeared in this magnificent landscape of cascading waterfalls while on their quest. The Earnslaw Burn Track - beginning in Glenorchy - is a challenging 4-hour hike that rewards with spectacular views at the head of the valley over the glacier. For a less energetic experience, Nomad Safaris can take you deep into film country via 4WD or helicopter. 

Scenic Flights | Fiordland 

Both 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogies used the majestic Fiordland National Park for epic scenic shots. The scene where The Company flees the mountains on the backs of eagles in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' was filmed here. Experience giant fiords and spectacular waterfalls with a helicopter flight or boat cruise. The grasslands of Te Anau Downs provided the backdrop for chase scenes, while Mararoa Saddle doubled as the wildlands that Thorin led the dwarves through. 

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