New Zealand's top LOTR destinations to visit
See where the magic happened
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$89 per adult - not too bad for a Lord of the Rings fan’s dream come true.
The Shadow of Mount Doom
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.
“ Experience the Hobbiton woods in which Frodo and his friends hid from the Black Rider on Mount Victoria ”
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.