Middle Earth

New Zealand and The Lord of the Rings, a Match Made in Middle-earth

Paul Rowsthorn, Airguides

08 January 2020

As the Tour de France showcases the dramatic French scenery to the world, the same can be said for The Lord of the Rings and its impact on New Zealand tourism. While not everyone has seen the movies, hardly a person hasn’t been awe inspired as they see images and scenes from the trilogy. As is often the case with these things, reality doesn’t meet expectations, this is gladly not the case with New Zealand. From the volcanic landscapes in the South to the lush rolling hills in the North, it’s not hard to imagine why Sir Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as Middle‑earth™. It also doesn’t hurt he’s a proud Kiwi himself.

While these movies will always remain a draw-card, this is set to become even stronger after Amazon released news it is set to start filming its new The Lord of the Rings series in New Zealand. With a budget of over US$1 billion, this multi-part series is set to showcase more of what makes New Zealand one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Interestingly, and somewhat controversially, Scotland tried to lure the production away from its, in our humble opinion, rightful home. Fortunately for Aotearoa, Scotland was unsuccessful. So Middle‑earth™ will remain as part of New Zealand’s DNA for years to come.

So, what are the absolute must-see Middle‑earth™ destinations to include while you’re planning your trip to New Zealand? Who better to ask than Shaun Jeffers. Shaun is one of the Airguides storytellers, but also the official Hobbiton™ Movie Set photographer. 

Find some of Shaun’s recommendations below.

Hobbiton™ Movie Set.

Photograph by Shaun Jeffers

Hobbiton™ Movie Set, Matamata, North Island

Of course, a visit to the most famous filming location of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit can’t be missed. Experience the real Middle-earth™ at the Hobbiton™ Movie Set, where, in the heart of the Waikato region, you can step into the lush pastures of the Shire™, as seen in both trilogies.

“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story” – Bilbo

Trollshaw & Hairy Feet, Piopio, North Island

Visit New Zealand’s stunning Denize Bluffs farm and join a private tour where Sir Peter Jackson filmed the most location screen time for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Mordor)

Photograph by Shaun Jeffers

Mordor, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, North Island

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the filming location of Mordor and also known as the country’s best day walk. This 19-km hike through landscape made famous in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is well worth the effort. A shuttle bus from Taupo will take you to the start of the hike. Shorter walks to Mordor are also possible.

Weta Workshop, Wellington, North Island

Embark on a journey through Wellington’s award-winning Weta Studio & Workshop. Immerse yourself in blockbuster behind-the-scenes magic from Lord of the Rings, Hobbiton and countless other Hollywood blockbusters.

Gondor, Twizel, South Island

Relive the Battle of the Pelennor Fields as you wander through the grassy plains of Twizel and the Mackenzie country.

Isengard, Glenorchy, South Island

The hidden gem where Gandalf rode to meet Saruman. To reach this The Lord of the Rings location, drive past Paradise, a small village north of Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand.

Want more The Lord of the Rings locations and Middle‑earth experiences? Book Shaun’s 12-Day Lord Of The Rings Photography Trip!