If you thought that the days of people flocking to New Zealand to see hobbit holes and elven forests were over now that the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films are finished, you’d be very mistaken. In a survey conducted by the UK arm of HBO Entertainment, New Zealand came in at No. 1 on the list of film and TV destinations that adults want to visit, with most citing The Lord of the Rings as their major draw card.
Colin Smith, Director of HBO Entertainment UK, said that because many films and television shows are now shot in a variety of locations around the world, people are being exposed to destinations that they never would have thought of otherwise. “Some shows are introducing us to countries or cities away from the beaten track, and are helping to broaden our horizons when it comes to our travel plans.”
In the year ending March 2015, more than 80,000 visitors said that The Hobbit trilogy was a factor when it came to picking their holiday destination. Tourism New Zealand CEO Kevin Bowler commented, “There’s no doubt that these movies have given us a very successful platform on which to promote New Zealand as a great place to visit and experience a real movie set and we have been reaping the benefits of this for some time now … we are confident our role in film tourism is going to keep us top of mind for those people wanting to live the dream and visit their favourite film locations.”
If you’re among the many who’ve always dreamed of visiting the Shire or trekking up the slopes of Mount Doom, we have something special just for you: read on for a quick guide to experiencing some of New Zealand’s most iconic movie locations - while we can’t guarantee elvish encounters, the stunning scenery of the real Middle Earth will more than make up for it.
To begin your fantastic journey, grab an Auckland motorhome rental and set off for the rural town of Matamata. About two hours south of Auckland City, Matamata is perched on the eastern edge of the lush Waikato region. Waikato, thanks to its verdant plains and rolling farmland, doubled as Tolkien’s bucolic Shire (home to Frodo, Bilbo and the rest of the hobbits) in the Peter Jackson blockbusters. But it’s only in Matamata that you’ll find Hobbiton itself. While the set was left in a sad state of neglect after the initial Lord of the Rings trilogy, the site was restored for the more recent Hobbit films and now there are guided tours through the beautiful set - well worth the price for those keen to experience the now famous spot right up close. Starting from Matamata’s visitor information centre, or i-SITE, a tour will set you back NZD$75 per adult - not too bad for a Lord of the Rings fan’s dream come true.
While it was later enhanced with CG imagery to make it look more menacing, Mount Ngauruhoe formed the basis of the Dark Lord’s centre of power in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Adding an extra slice of realism, Ngauruhoe really is an active volcano although the risk involved in visiting this impeccably formed peak is extremely low. To get a fantastic look at the iconic volcano, the actively inclined may want to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The full day trip hike is just under 20 kilometres, but many choose to do just one piece of the crossing - or for the bragging rights and stunning views you can even take a side trip up to the top of Mount Ngauruhoe. There’s no cost to do the walk, but make sure you’re well prepared as the higher altitude sections are fairly demanding, and inclement weather can be a very real hazard.
To discover even more real-world Middle Earth locations, keep heading south to Wellington. While the Miramar studios in New Zealand’s capital city were used to shoot much of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, these aren’t accessible to your average visitor. What you can experience however are the Hobbiton woods in which Frodo and his friends hid from the Black Rider on Mount Victoria, a hill on the eastern side of Wellington, and Harcourt Park which was transformed into the well kept gardens around Saruman’s Isengard.
This is just a small taste of the many, many film locations around New Zealand - but we wouldn’t want to spoil all the surprises. Why not start planning your own adventure today? Take a look through the many rental packages on offer, Christchurch is a great place to start your campervan journey through middle earth! Our NZ motorhome hire page has all the other options on offer.