If you love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’re going to want to visit some of these filming locations in New Zealand. With many fans visiting New Zealand just for that purpose, there are plenty of places where you can get a sense of what it was like on set and even meet with some people who filmed scenes! You’ll enjoy your trip more if it’s done right. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 16 locations that helped make J.R.R Tolkien’s novels into one epic cinematic experience.
Where was Lord of the Rings Filmed?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. There were two trilogies that went back and forth between Wellington and Auckland. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was filmed in Wellington, while The Two Towers and The Return of the King were shot in Auckland. The reason for the two-parter production was a change in legislation allowing film companies to shoot in New Zealand. Prior to that, they would have had to leave the country after shooting one movie. After the change, they could stay and film multiple movies in New Zealand at the same time.
What’s a Ringwraith?
The Rings of Power were physically represented by rings worn by actors who doubled for the scenes where wizards or other characters use magic. In fact, the Rings of Power are a key part of the plot of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. They were originally designed by Ian Maclaren and modeled after his wedding ring. Tolkien’s inspiration for them was Maclaren’s wedding ring, which came from an ancient Celtic family.
Lord of the Rings Tours in New Zealand
The Lord of the Rings tours that are offered in New Zealand is one of the best ways to take in the country and visit filming locations. You can even meet up with locals who worked on the production if you get a VIP tour. If you want to save some money, look into flying into Queenstown, which is where some of the best tour options are based.
Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in New Zealand
The beauty and dramatic cosmopolitan essence of New Zealand is a constant reminder that these stories may have taken place a thousand years ago, but the people and places that they were set in live on today. To this day, many of the locations will look familiar to fans. They’ll probably recognize what’s now a mall, gas station, or pub as something they’ve seen in the film!
1. Hobbiton, Matamata
This is the place to begin your journey. Hobbiton was featured in all three Lord of the Rings films and it was so popular that it opened up as an actual tourist attraction. You’ll be able to feel the nostalgia (and get some good photos) by visiting Hobbiton Movie Set Tours. There are plenty of photos and an orientation video that tell the story of how the Hobbiton movie set was built. The Hobbiton Movie Set Tours are run by the same people who run The Real Middle Earth. Both of these companies are doing a great job of making New Zealand’s Hobbiton movie set the community into a tourist attraction, allowing fans to take a tour while getting information about what they saw in the films.
2. Tarewa, Carterton
Tarewa is a sheep farm on the Hapuawhenua Stream, near Carterton, that was used for one of the Lord of the Rings films. In The Return of the King, it was where Arwen and Elrond were married. Tarewa is a sheep farm on the Hapuawhenua Stream in Carterton city. The homestead houses a museum devoted to Middle-earth. There is a collection of rugs and clothes available for visitors to see and take photos with. The property has been in the owner’s family for five generations.
3. Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park includes Mount Ruapehu, which is one of the location’s most recognizable filming spots. Mount Doom was filmed on the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe, a real active volcano. Real snow and ash were created for the scenes to help ensure that filming was done during the ideal season for snow. When you arrive at Tongariro National Park, you’ll probably want to go hiking on one of the walking trails that are in the area. Lord of the Rings filming locations but two of the most popular are Mt. Ngauruhoe and the Tawhai Falls.
Mt. Ngauruhoe: Mt. Ngauruhoe is one of the best places to see Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. The Tawarhui Falls were used as Rivendell, where Strider and Frodo traveled to meet Glorfindel in Mordor. You’ll also find a short path that leads to the Waiau Pass, which was where Aragorn and the hobbits were kidnapped by Orcs.
Tawhai Falls: Tawhai Falls were used in several Lord of the Rings films as Rivendell, where Aragorn and the Company of The Fellowship of The Ring were attacked. It was also used in The Two Towers as Caras Galadhon, the Elven-kingdom that Frodo and the Fellowship pass through on the way to Mount Doom. The hike ends at a viewing platform that looks down on the forests and farmland beyond.
4. Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook National Park
Located in the city of Twizel, Lake Pukaki was used as one of the locations for filming The Return of the King. It was where many scenes were shot that involved Arwen, who arrives on horseback to warn Frodo about the Ringwraith’s imminent attack. After it was filmed, some pyrotechnics were used to make sure that it looked more like a moving lake rather than a still one.
5. Mavora Lakes Park, Mount Maunganui
As an alternative to the more popular Lake Pukaki, you might consider a day trip to Mount Maunganui, which is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. This is an area that has been used for countless movies and TV shows. The Lord of the Rings was filmed here as well as some memorable scenes from the movie Life and Consequences. You’ll see some parts of Game of Thrones and even Once Upon a Time filmed here too. Mt. Maunganui’s most popular attraction is Milford Sound, which is known to be among the most beautiful places in the world. You can take a boat tour through the sound or hike up to the top of Aoraki/Tongariro and see this place from above.
6. Hutt Valley, Ashhurst, Kamo
Hutt Valley was used for several scenes in The Two Towers. One of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand, this was one of the places where Frodo and Samwise Gamgee were captured. The Hutt Valley is also home to a famous winery that was used in these scenes.
7. Skippers Canyon Road
This winding road is included on many Lord of the Rings tours and there are some great reasons as to why. You’ll find some great views from this spot, including a view of The River Anduin, which is where Arwen swam across during her first meeting with Elrond. This is also where Frodo released the ring into the water before Sam got it back in the films. Hiking through Skippers Canyon will give you an almost tropical feel with its lush greenery and gurgling waterfalls. This is a must-see spot if you’re on a Lord of the Rings tour.
8. Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. It was also home to one of my favorite scenes from The Return of the King, which was when Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Eowyn were captured by the Uruk-hai. The cliffs are just amazing and there are some phenomenal 360-degree views that allow you to see all around you. You’ll also find lots of waterfalls here.
9. Putangirua Pinnacles
Popular with Lord of the Rings fans, this place is also a great place to visit if you’re looking for a little outdoor adventure. The Putangirua Pinnacles are located in the Waikato area and they were the site of a lot of filming during The Two Towers. This is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand and it’s one of my favorite spots to go. The pinnacles themselves are not huge, so don’t expect to see them from afar. But the look down into the valley from a high vantage point is breathtaking.
10. Mount Sunday
Mount Sunday is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. It was also used in several scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring, including the opening scene when Aragorn and Gandalf went to visit Galadriel. Hobbiton As mentioned earlier, Hobbiton is a village that serves as a movie set based on the village where The Hobbit takes place. It’s actually a working sheep farm that was used as a movie set for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Booking in advance is highly recommended if you want to visit due to high demand.
11. Kaitoke Regional Park
Kaitoke Regional Park is another great place to visit if you’re looking for a little outdoor adventure. In the movie, The Lord of the Rings, Mount Doom was filmed on the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is a real active volcano. Real snow and ash were created for this shot because you can’t film snow without it melting just before it’s supposed to snow. You can hike through Kaitoke and around Mount Ngauruhoe if you want to see where this was filmed.
12. Paradise Road
Paradise Road is located along the east coast of New Zealand and it’s home to several filming locations. These are among the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand and they’re popular too. The location ended up on The Lord of the Rings Journey trilogy as well. You’ll find sunny beaches, rocky cliffs as well as a house where Odo was imprisoned during The Hobbit trilogy.
13. Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. As a bonus, there are chances to spot some great wildlife here too, including deer and other birds. It’s also home to great hiking trails and a backcountry hut that was used by Aragorn and Gandalf when they hiked across New Zealand.
14. Franz Josef Glacier
If you are visiting the Fiordland region, then you should definitely visit Franz Josef Glacier, which is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. The glacier is located near to a tiny town called Franz Josef. It’s a great place to go and see some of the most amazing scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You’ll see some of the most popular parts filmed here: the falls, the caves, volcanic rock and Hobbiton. Franz Josef is also home to several other great locations and adventures that are definitely worth your time.
15. Port Waikato
Port Waikato is on the west coast of New Zealand and it’s home to some great filming locations too, including the Bay of Plenty where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli met Gloin in The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s also a great spot for kayaking.
16. Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves are a really stunning natural attraction that’s also home to many movie sets. In The Lord of the Rings, the caves were used during the scene where Frodo, Sam and Gollum met Tom the Goatherd. There’s also a scene in which Frodo encounters a cave troll and there’s even one where he falls off a cliff while trying to escape. If you’re on a Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand, this is definitely worth checking out.
17. Kawarau Gorge
This is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. It’s located at the edge of Queenstown and it’s where Frodo and Sam were chased by Black Riders, which is also known as Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings. This is one place that you must see if you’re on a tour.
18. Ben Ohau Station
Ben Ohau Station is a sheep station that doubles as a great outdoor adventure spot. In The Lord of the Rings, it was used for the scene where Frodo and Sam are led by Gollum down to the waterfall. The track leads you past some small waterfalls, native bush and turquoise pools. It’s worth adding to your itinerary if you’re exploring the Otago area.
19. Lake Ohau
Lake Ohau is located near the town of Arrowtown and it’s where some of the filming for The Lord of the Rings took place. It’s spectacular and it’s worth a visit if you have time to explore all around the lake area. There are several lookouts, walking trails and many scenic views that make it one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand. You can also walk up to Barrier Peak from here, which is a short distance away.
20. Arthur’s Pass
Arthur’s Pass is a real mountain pass located in the South Island of New Zealand. It was filmed during The Lord of the Rings when they scaled Mount Doom and reached Mordor. This is one of the best Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand and it also doubles as a tourist attraction. It’s worth considering if you want to see some great mountain scenery and you’ve never paid a visit to New Zealand before.
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