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Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in New Zealand: What to visit and how to get there

Whether you’re a Tolkien fan or just want to explore some of the most cinematic scenery in the world, here’s where to find your own slice of Middle Earth.
By · March 1, 2024
Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in New Zealand: What to visit and how to get there

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was shot across more than 150 stunning locations spanning from the top of New Zealand’s North Island to locations in the far south. Whether you’re a Tolkien fan or just want to explore some of the most cinematic scenery in the world, here’s where to find your own slice of Middle Earth.

Matamata - The Shire and Hobbiton

Starting where it all began in the Shire, the rolling green hills and grassy pastures of Matamata brought the Shire to life. Located less than an hour's drive from Hamilton, Rotorua, and Tauranga, this small town is relatively easy to get to. The village of Hobbiton was originally created for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, it wasn’t until it was rebuilt for the filming of The Hobbit that the movie set became a permanent attraction.

The Hobbiton movie set offers a range of experiences, including set tours, private tours, dinner and second breakfast experiences and even a Middle Earth Halfling marathon. There’s also much to enjoy in the area, with nature walks, waterfalls, natural hot springs and the Kaimai Ranges close by.

Wellington - Isengard, Rivendell and Putangirua Pinnacles

Wellington is the home to Weta Workshop, Weta Digital, and director Peter Jackson, so it makes sense that it was chosen as the location for many scenes throughout the three films. The easiest and most accessible location can be found on Mount Victoria. This walk between the central city and the Wellington suburb of Hataitai was the setting of the Hobbiton woods.

Wellington’s Kaitoke Park, a forty-minute drive away, was used as the filming location for Rivendell, with the exact filming location signposted from the car park.

One of the most stunning filming locations near Wellington is the Putangirua Pinnacles. Whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, you’ll be mesmerised by these towering pillars of rock that serve as the backdrop where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli search for the Paths of the Dead in The Return of the King. The Putangirua Pinnacles are located not far from Martinborough, a small town located about an hour and twenty minutes drive northeast of Wellington.

Tongariro - Mount Doom

Mount Ngauruhoe is part of the Tongariro volcanic formation and is located in the central North Island. This mountain and the landscapes of Tongariro National Park provided the otherworldly and majestic backdrops for Sauron’s Mount Doom.

There are several hikes open to the general public on Mount Tongariro, which will take you deep into the volcanic terrain. Visitors should keep in mind that these walks aren’t easy and are best attempted with proper hiking shoes, a day pack for snacks and water, and plenty of sunscreen and a hat. The shale-like slopes of the mountain can be hard for inexperienced walkers. There are two main walks: the Tongariro Northern Circuit, which takes 3-4 days to complete, or the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which can be completed in a day.

Both walks will take you past jagged mountain peaks emerald-coloured volcanic lakes and reward climbers with views of the volcanic craters. To get to Tongariro, many people stay at Taupo or Whanganui or look for accommodation in the small towns nearby.

Twizel - Pelennor Fields and Eriador

The South Island provided many of the most stunning locations for filming the sweeping battle scenes that took place in the final film.

With its stunning landscapes, McKenzie Country was used for scenes depicting Middle-earth's vast and wild landscapes. The area around Twizel, Lake Pukaki, and the nearby Southern Alps was transformed into the fictional land of Eriador.

The Pelennor Fields were primarily filmed near Twizel on the South Island. This area was transformed into the vast battlefield where the Battle of Pelennor Fields took place in The Return of the King. While this battle took place on private land, you can arrange a private tour via the

A visit to Twizel will allow you to soak in these stunning filming locations and experience nature at its finest. Twizel is close to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin and is located a 4-hour drive from Dunedin or a 2.5-hour drive north of Queenstown. While there, you can enjoy mountain biking, horse trekking, hiking, kayaking, fishing and mountain climbing.

Central Otago - Isengard, Lothlorien, Ford of Bruinen

Glenorchy was a captivating location in the second LOTR film, The Two Towers. The north-western slopes of Mount Earnslaw served as the opening shots of The Two Towers and are visible from Glenorchy, located at the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu and is an hour north of Queenstown.

A short drive north towards the tiny town of Paradise will take you past the Isengard Lookout and the beech first of Lothlorien. North of Paradise, you’ll find even more cinematic photo opportunities although these take some effort to get to as you’ll be driving on narrow gravel roads. From here, you can experience the Wizard’s Vail near Mount Earnslaw, the Edge of Lothlorien and the road towards Isengard framed by meadows as seen in the films.

If that still hasn’t wet your whistle, heading back inland, Arrowtown’s Arrow River was used as the location of the Ford Of Bruinen. From Arrowtown, a short but windy drive over the Crown Ranges will give you panoramic views of the Cardrona Valley, the backdrop for the River Anduin and the Pillars of the Argonath.

Fiordland - Fangorn Forest and River Anduin

Whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, Fiordland is home to some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery and is well worth adding to your itinerary. Located between the towns of Te Anau and Manapouri in Fiordland is the Waiau River, which is used for the River Anduin. The surrounding rough and jagged peaks were used for the rough country south or Rivendell.

While not used for filming, Doubtful Sound’s awe-inspiring fjords and dramatic scenery inspired the eerie yet beautiful atmosphere created in the films. Its lush greenery, steep cliffs and serene waters are worth visiting to feel immersed in Middle Earth.

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