There are countless reasons to add New Zealand to your list of dream destinations—dramatic landscapes, jaw-dropping wildlife, adrenaline-pumping adventures—but for fans of The Lord of the Rings, it can be an especially magical experience. New Zealand is happy to share its Middle-earth history with visitors, and there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s world on your trip.
Tolkien aficionados might consider dedicating a few days to explore the numerous Middle-earth attractions. Most of the more accessible (and obvious) ones are clustered around the center of North Island. Movie locations on South Island are generally less-developed scenic landscapes scattered over a wide region and are often more difficult to reach. If you’d rather leave the planning to others, Great Sights offers a range of Middle-earth tours across both islands. Moa Trek visits a greater range of movie locations via hike or helicopter ride.
Hobbiton (the Shire)
The rolling green meadows of Waikato served as the Shire backdrop for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies. You can explore the original movie set by guided tour at Hobbiton, on the outskirts of Matamata. The tour ends with a cup of specially brewed cider at the Green Dragon.
Tongariro National Park (Mount Doom)
In Tongariro National Park stands Mount Ngauruhoe—otherwise known as “Mount Doom.” It’s easily viewable from the roads around the park; better still, hike past it along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 6-8-hour hike that winds right under the peak. Even hiking an hour or so from Mangatepopo car park brings the volcano into view.
Wellington is filled with Tolkien goodies. If you fly into Wellington Airport, you’ll be greeted by Gollum as he catches a fish, along with an array of enormous movie props. The woods around Mount Victoria are where the hobbits ran from the Ringwraiths. Kaitoke Regional Park, otherwise known as Rivendell, is lined with handy information boards around its trails detailing its cinematic history. Fans should not miss a visit to The Weta Cave and Workshop, where most of the special effects used in the films were created.
One Ring to Rule Them All
In Nelson, visit the jewelers Jens Hansen, where the One Ring was made. (There were actually 40 rings made for the film, not just one.) Original rings are on display and replicas are available for sale.
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