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Chasing Tolkien: The best places to visit on a New Zealand Middle-earth vacation

It may be a fantasy on screen, but in New Zealand, Middle-earth is far from fiction. When you travel through the heart of the country, you'll discover a picturesque world of emerald hills, rugged mountains, and magical forests.

Looking for a Tolkien-themed vacation? You're in luck. We have gathered a list of 20 hobbit haunts you should visit.

  • Hobbiton, Matamata. See the real ‘Shire' when you visit this fully intact film set surrounded by the emerald hills and lush dairy pastures of the Waikato. Wander the hobbit holes, visit the party tree and have a drink at the green dragon to end the experience. 
  • Twizel, Mackenzie Country. Used in both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies Twizel is instantly recognisable from the big screen. Part of the Wargs chase was filmed here as was the largest battle scene ever — the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. 
  • Putangirua Pinnacles, Wellington. Although one of the most spectacular locations, the Putangirua Pinnacles is one of the least visited due to its isolation. Also known as ‘Dimholt Road,' this was where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli sought the paths of the dead.
  • Deer Park Heights, Queenstown. A spectacular South Island spot where many scenes in Rohan were shot — including the journey from Edoras to Helm's Deep where you can locate the Remarkables or ‘Misty Mountains' in the background.
  • Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park. Home to one of the most sinister Lord of the Rings locations, Mt Ngauruhoe, was digitally altered to appear as Mt Doom, the stronghold of the Dark Lord Sauron in Mordor.
  • Mt Sunday, Canterbury. In the heart of the Ashburton district's high country is Mount Sunday, the location for Edoras the main city of the Rohan people. Although nothing remains of the set (which took nine months to build by helicopter) the area is instantly recognisable.
  • Skippers Canyon, Queenstown. At this memorable location (which is spectacular in itself — not just because it featured in the films) Arwen washed away the pursuing ring wraiths.
  • Waiau River, Southland. This body of water doubled as the river Anduin and the scene where the Uruk-hai chase the fellowship along the river banks was shot here.
  • Mt Victoria, Wellington. On the outskirts of the city, Mt Victoria was used in several location shots including the outskirts of The Shire, the encampment of Dunharrow and the hidden refuge of Rivendell. The infamous ‘get off the road' scene was also shot here.
  • Mangawhero River, Ohakune. You'll recognise this area, just before the Mangawhero Falls where Gollum catches a fish and a little further along the river you'll come to the spot where Frodo and Sam passed a ruined column in the clearing.
  • Rangipo Desert, Tongariro National Park. The barrenness of this landscape made this area the perfect backdrop for Mordor and much of the Orc Army scenes were shot here including the ‘storming of the Black Gate.'
  • Kepler Mire, Te Anau. Known as the ‘Dismal Swamp' Kepler Mire is the largest wetland in the Te Anau basin complex. It was used in the scenes where Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes where the line ‘there are dead faces in the water' is exclaimed.
  • Snowdon Forest, Fiordland National Park. Snowden is the location for Fangorn Forest the home of the Ents. It is in this area where Gandalf whistles for his majestic horse and Aragorn tracks the Hobbits trail into the forest.
  • Weta Workshop, Wellington. See the digital effects studio behind the making of films. Take a tour through here for an insight into the props, costumes, and special effects. The Weta Cave even includes life-size character replicas.
  • Twelve Mile Delta, Bob's Cove Track, Otago. The location of the Ithilien Camp. It was here Frodo, Sam and Gollum watch the battle between Faramir's Rangers of Gondor, Oliphaunts, and the men.
  • Paradise, Glenorchy. A beautiful area, truly befitting its name, Paradise is also known as Isengard and the place where Gandalf approaches Saruman's Tower. 
  • Mt Gunn, West Coast, South Island.  To see this spectacular mountain, you'll have to take a scenic flight. You'll recognise it from the Return of The Kings, where beacons that run along the White Mountains are lit to call for aid.
  • Mavora Lakes, Southland. This wet area of Southland was used in scenes such as where Frodo took cover from the Uruk-hai, where the fellowship ended their journey from Anduin and were Merry and Pippin hid from the Orcs.
  • Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown. It was here that the Fellowship of the Ring paddled down the Anduin River to be greeted by two giant statues on either side of the gorge. Unfortunately, the iconic statues were added in post-production and you won't see them; we still think it's a spectacular location.
  • Tawhai Falls, Manawatu. The waterfall and pool below were also used when Gollum was catching fish while Faramir and his Rangers aim their arrows at him. It is now locally known as Gollum's Pool.

Fitting all these destinations into your itinerary is a formidable challenge. But the sheer number of places Frodo, Biilbo & co have been mean a taste of Middle Earth can and should be added to just about any NZ journey. Talk to an experienced journey planner about how much of Middle Earth you want to experience while you're in New Zealand.

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