This week International Hobbit Day was celebrated across Middle Earth and beyond on September 22nd. From The Shire to Mount Doom on the North Island and the Misty Mountains to the Pillars of the Kings on the South Island, Peter Jackson discovered Middle Earth within New Zealand to bring Toilkien’s famous novels to life.
The Shire (otherwise known as Hobbiton), located in the small farming town of Matamata and not far from Rotorua, is a breathtaking exploration of the living set. Visitors get to experience hobbit holes, drinks at The Green Dragon Inn, and lunch or dinner feasts.
The stand in for Mount Doom, known locally as Mt Ngauruhoe, is one of New Zealand’s active volcanos. A great way to explore the mountain area is through the Tongariro Crossing – it’s one of the best day hikes in all of New Zealand! Located in Tongariro National Park, also a World Heritage site, this hike (or tramp as Kiwis would say) takes you through craters, around lakes, across open tussock land with gorgeous scenery at every turn and outlook points. For the ultimate splurge, we recommend taking a helicopter flight to get a bird’s eye view of the out of this world scenery. We love the Volcanic Exoplorer tour which flies around 10,000 feet over all three volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park, which includes Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu, the active crater lake of Mt Ruapehu and other surprise Lord of the Rings sites.
For those interested in the behind-the-scenes action, a visit to Weta Workshop in Wellington (or Wellywood) is a must! Their Combo Tour begins by taking you through their Cave Workshop where guests get to learn and interact with props, costumes and creatures from some of your favorite films. Next up is their Miniature Effects tour which takes you through the magic of miniatures in film and TV. Come to expect the unexpected at every turn… there might be some trolls hidden nearby.
Down on the South Island, more gorgeous scenery awaits you in Nelson Tasman. A bit more off the beaten path so to speak, this area is filled with hidden Lord of the Rings film sites. Our favorite way to explore these parts are via heli with Tasman Helicopters. They take you to see Dimrill Dale (Mt. Owen), where the depleted Fellowship were filmed escaping from the horrors of Moria. Next landing site is South of Rivendell (Mt. Olympus) with its rocky outcrops and columnar shapes where the Fellowship hid from Saruman’s Crebain. Finish with a scenic flight over Chetwood Forest (Canaan Downs) where the Hobbits are lead by Aragorn into the Chetwood Forest northeast of Bree.
Near Queenstown, there is the tour to rule them all for LOTR fans. Glenorchy is only about a 40 minute drive from central Queenstown and a must-see for everyone, not just LOTR fans, due to its postcard scenery. Take a scenic 4WD safari which offers breathtaking mountain and forest views along the shore of Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy and the Paradise Valley. Visit the filming locations for Isengard, the Ithilien Camp, Lothlorien & Fanghorn forest and the Seat of Seeing/ Battle of Amon Hen, and many more. Bonus for all movie buffs – X-men Origins: Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the new Mulan movie were all filmed in this area too!