The Lord Of The Rings boosted New Zealand’s tourist numbers for years, so many in the industry hope that plenty of Hobbit fans will make the long trek to Middle Earth. If you are planning a trip these five stops should probably be on your itinerary. Flying into Auckland and then from Wellington to Christchurch and the departing ex-Christchurch would make this itinerary work quite well.
A 160km south of Auckland this peaceful town was nowhere in the New Zealand tourism world, until Peter Jackson decided to build Hobbiton there. In fact the original set was just that, a set which was removed and the “damage” made good at the end of the filming for the Lord of the Rings movies. However as more and more tourists kept on coming the farmer recognised an opportunity and setup a cafe and started doing tours of the sheep paddocks. When Jackson wanted to use the same location in The Hobbit – they came to an arrangement that saw the set built in permanent materials – so worth a stop if you are a fan. Please note in the winter particularly the weather isn’t actually as good in Matamata as it is in Hobbiton – it can be wet and cold.
More information: http://www.hobbitontours.com/
Wellington – Weta Workshops
Another six hours drive south, with spectacular views of Mordor (Mt Ruapehu) you’ll reach New Zealand’s own Wellywood – Wellington. Peter Jackson’s film studios along with Weta Workshops, the special effects company, located in the airport suburb of Miramar, about 5km from the central city. The studios themselves are not open for tours – but the Weta Cave is a free museum (actually a shop) which is worth a trip. They run a the free movie which plays describing the history of Weta Studios. While you are in the area – walk back up the street around 500m to the Roxy Cinema – the façade of the building dates from the days of silent movies, but the cinema was re-built by the founders of Weta Workshops – the interiors were designed and created by their craftsman. This is boutique cinema with two screens as well as a restaurant, coffee shop and bar.
More Information: http://www.wetanz.com/cave/
Driving south from Christchurch will get you to Lake Pukaki in the McKenzie country, at the base of the Southern Alps – everywhere you look you will scenes reminiscent of Middle Earth, you can overnight at the small hydro town Twizel which was also used for filming (but isn’t pretty, the setting is the draw here). If you want somewhere prettier try Mt Cook village from where even the unfit hobbits can take a short hike up into the mountains.
Wanaka and nearby Queenstown have days and days worth of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings locations, and a plethora of companies ready to take you there. Many of the locations are on private land so you do need to arrange a tour. However others are easily accessible by rental car including Glenorchy out of Queenstown and Mt Aspiring out of Wanaka. In season take a trip up to Treble Cone ski area which boasts not only New Zealand’s best skiing, but also some of Middle Earth’s spectacular scenery. If it’s not snowing hang gliding from some of the many operations around Wanaka and Queenstown will give a view from up top as well.
Heading south from Queenstown to Te Anau and Fiordland will take you to the edge of some of Middle Earth’s, sorry I mean New Zealand’s, most remote and spectacular country. All those fly-over scenes of remote and razor-sharp mountains: Fiordland. This is genuinely remote country though so if you want to get up in the air you’ll going to need to pay for a helicopter or chartered flight. Also not cheap, but spectacular it is. One point though this is temperate rainforest. It rains over 300 days a year in Milford Sound, so plan for rain and be happy if you get clear weather! Also remember that flights can’t take off when the cloud is lower than the mountains!