Essential Middle Earth

Bring the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton to life with this 10 day tour of the key filming locations in the North Island. 

Highlights include: a scenic flight over Mt Doom and Mordor,  a visit to the living village of Hobbiton, and a behind the scenes tour of Weta Cave - the creative genius behind the movies.  In Waitomo, you'll stay in your very own Hobbit Hole!

price pp from
NZD$3,412
based on twin share
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About this NZ Road Trip

North Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$3,412 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Wellington

10 days/9 nights

Motels

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 15 times in the last 7 days

Tour map
Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland, transfer to your accommodation and rest of day at leisure

Essential Middle Earth - Day 1
Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The APP includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

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Day 2 - Enjoy a full day exploring Auckland's wild side

Essential Middle Earth - Day 2
Coast and Rainforest Full Day Tour with Bush and Beach

Your full day excursion takes you first to the Arataki Visitor Centre - gateway to the Waitakere Ranges and a short drive from Auckland Central. Enjoy panoramic views - extending from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean - as you absorb the area's history and admire the magnificent traditional Maori carvings. Walk the regenerating rainforest where your experienced guide will detail local flora and fauna. Take in the giant tree ferns, bubbling streams and cascading waterfalls before venturing onto a wild west coast beach. Enjoy a picnic lunch before your eco-tour ends in an area of untamed original rainforest. Here, mature 1,000 year old kauri trees have developed separately from the rest of the world for millions of years and this part of the rainforest is particularly rich in bird life due to a successful programme to eradicate pests.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

Meals included: Lunch

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Day 3 - Travel to Hobbiton Village in Matamata, then on to Waitomo where you'll stay in your very own Hobbit Hole

Essential Middle Earth - Day 3
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton

Head southbound on State Highway one through the lush farmland and dairy pastures of the Waikato region. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of the greater Auckland area and its here you turn inland towards Matamata. This is the real Middle Earth, and you'll see many locations used in the filming of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit - as well as visiting the actual set of Hobbiton.

Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest

Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart the lush Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.

Matamata to Waitomo

Today you'll head towards the coast to arrive in Waitomo. Stop in historic Cambridge, home to a host of cafes, antique stores and a large village green. Cambridge has the feel of a traditional English country town and noteworthy buildings include St. Andrew's church, the old water tower and original courthouse. Cambridge is also the centre of New Zealand’s equine industry, and an impressive bronze horse sculpture pays tribute to its history.

Continue on to Otorohanga - renowned for its celebration of New Zealand's popular culture 'Kiwiana.' Stop for a visit to the ‘Kiwi House’ a native bird park owned and operated by the Otorohanga Zoological Society, Inc. Dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife. Within the park you will find nocturnal kiwi houses, Tuataras and many native and endangered birds. From Otorohanga it is only a short drive to the limestone hills that mark the Waitomo region and its famous cave complex.

Your accommodation: Abseil Breakfast Inn

Architecturally designed, the Abseil Inn is situated on a ridge overlooking both the Waitomo Caves Village and the beautiful Waitomo Valley. Sited to maximize both views and rural ambience it offers an authentic slice of rural NZ

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 263 kms / 164 miles : 3.2 hours

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Day 4 - Delve into the underground world of Waitomo

Essential Middle Earth - Day 4
Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour (4 hours)

Abseil 100m into a spectacular world of prehistoric forest, glow-worms, rivers, flowstone formations and massive caverns. Explore the depths before ascending a gigantic ladder through the craggy upper levels of the 'Spider Hole'. Nothing short of sensational, this underground adventure is 4 hours in length.

Your accommodation: Abseil Breakfast Inn

Architecturally designed, the Abseil Inn is situated on a ridge overlooking both the Waitomo Caves Village and the beautiful Waitomo Valley. Sited to maximize both views and rural ambience it offers an authentic slice of rural NZ

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Day 5 - Continue south to Tongariro National Park

Essential Middle Earth - Day 5
Waitomo to Whakapapa Village

Travel south into the heart of the Central Volcanic Plateau, Tongariro National Park. Leaving the limestone hills of Waitomo, follow the road through lush King Country pastures, named after the Maori King Tawhiao who lived here in exile during the mid 1800's. Continue on to arrive in this World Heritage Park, home to three active volcanoes - Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe - as well as many walking tracks, adventure activities and the renowned Tongariro Crossing.

Your accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Bayview Chateau Tongariro, nestled at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, was completed in 1929 and still retains many of its original features. It is one of New Zealand's few hotels located in a World Heritage Park and offers the most prestigious accommodation in the region.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.8 hours

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Day 6 - Today you'll take a spectacular flight over Mt Doom and Mordor

Essential Middle Earth - Day 6
Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane

Take a scenic flight over New Zealand's oldest National Park and world heritage site for a spectacular view of this unique volcanic landscape. See all three volcanoes - Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu as well as the iconic Emerald Lakes, the Blue Lake and the Tama lake. Climbing to 10,000 ft, you'll also view the active Mount Ruapehu crater lake, and spot some of the landscapes used in the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Walking tracks in and around Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park

There are a plethora of walks in and around Whakapapa Village and Tongariro National Park. From short 15 minute hikes to longer 5 hour treks, there is something for every level of fitness. All established tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation and before heading out on a walk, it is best to check the track conditions and suitability at the local DOC information office in the centre of the village. Below are a selection of the best walks to do:

  1. Whakapapa Nature Walk,15 min loop track
  2. Mounds Walk, 20 min one way
  3. Tawhai Falls, 20 min one way
  4. Ridge Track, 340 min return
  5. Taranaki Falls, 2 hour return
  6. Whakapapanui Walk, 2 hour return
  7. Tupapakurua Falls Track, 5 hour return

Your accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Bayview Chateau Tongariro, nestled at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, was completed in 1929 and still retains many of its original features. It is one of New Zealand's few hotels located in a World Heritage Park and offers the most prestigious accommodation in the region.

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Day 7 - Head down the coast to the vibrant metro area of Wellington

Essential Middle Earth - Day 7
Whakapapa Village to Wellington

Your drive today takes you from the North Island Volcanic Plateau to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Leaving Whakapapa Village, make your way through the Rangipo Desert, skirting the edges of the Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites.

Catch a glimpse of the volcanically active Mt Ruapehu and if you're Lord of the Rings fan, you'll enjoy seeing the symmetrical Mt. Ngauruhoe - better known as Mt Doom. A little further is the military town of Waiouru, home to the New Zealand Army museum and a unique collection of military history.

Continue south to the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving on the spectacular Kapiti Coast. Take a short detour to the quaint seaside town of Paraparaumu before arriving into Wellington City.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 320 kms / 199 miles : 3.9 hours

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Day 8 - Spend the day discovering the LOTR filming locations in Wellington

Essential Middle Earth - Day 8
Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

In a small group, you will head out to the Valley to explore the very best filming locations Wellington has to offer. See Rivendell where Frodo recovered from his knife attack, the River Anduin where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen, the Gardens of Isengard where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs felling the trees, the quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Then back to the city to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest where you can find the "shortcut to mushrooms" then "get off the road" and hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

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Day 9 - Today explore Wellington, then visit Weta Cave, the genius behind the LOTR and Hobbit special effects

Essential Middle Earth - Day 9
Wellington

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

Take a turn on the boardwalk en-route to Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum or catch a historic cable car from Lambton Quay and soak up the city sights. Wander the boutiques on Cuba St and check out the aptly named ‘Beehive’ off Parliament House.

Play hobbit for day and book a tour through Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award winning design studio for Lord Of The Rings. If eating is your thing, drive an hour out of town to Martinborough and experience some of the region's best food and wine. For those interested in New Zealand's native species, a trip to Zealandia is a must - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary. Then kick off your evening in style - search ‘Metro Eats’ to choose from a plethora of the city’s best restaurants to dine.
 

Weta Cave Workshop Tour

Visit The Weta Cave, a mini-museum filled with props, characters and displays from well known movies including Avatar, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Hear stories of how these figures were brought to life and learn about the artists who created them. Watch behind-the-scenes interviews from Weta co-founders Sir Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk - and gain insight into the creativity and imagination that comes with crafting the art of Weta.
Take a guided tour through the inner workings of Weta Workshop and learn about its processes and design elements. Please keep in mind that many of the projects Weta Workshop has been involved in contain graphic scenes and special effects that may not be suitable for everyone.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

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Day 10 - See more of New Zealand's capital city then depart for your onward journey

Essential Middle Earth - Day 10
Depart Wellington today

Choose to explore more of Wellington's sights before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 6 kms / 4 miles : 0.1 hours

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