Tourists can now enjoy an in-depth Middle-earth experience – peering over a Hobbit’s front gate to see if anyone’s at home, dancing under the party tree, or swigging back a beer at The Green Dragon pub.
AUCKLAND- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has hit cinemas worldwide, captivating audiences and showcasing the exceptional New Zealand landscapes used to illustrate Middle-earth.
New Zealand is well-loved by filmmakers, including The Hobbit Trilogy director Peter Jackson, for its huge diversity of accessible and dramatic landscapes, including locations such as:
Fans of The Hobbit film can begin their journey through ‘Middle-earth’ in the same way that Bilbo did, at Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, near the farming town of Matamata in the Waikato region, located in the North Island of New Zealand. Hobbiton Movie Set Tours take tour groups around the 44 Hobbit holes every 15 – 30 minutes, seven days a week.
Yeti Tours run kayaking trips down the Whanganui River from Mt Ruapehu (used for the “slopes of Mordor” in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) to the Tasman Sea. On this overnight trip visitors can immerse themselves in nature, and spend a night in the wilderness surrounded by native birds including kiwi.
Or, if sitting back in front of a log fire with a wine in hand is more appealing, visitors can spend an evening or three at the Powderhorn Chalet, in Ohakune, where cast and crew stayed during filming.
Moving down to the South Island, Passburn was used for the approach to Misty Mountains and the film location is on land owned by New Zealand’s Ngai Tahu Maori tribe and managed by the Department of Conservation – but has public access.
The hiking route offers a three- to four-day walk, through varied landscapes of mountains, lakes, beech forest and tussock country.
Visitors can also take to the skies with a local helicopter company, such as Heliworks or Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, who flew cast and crew during filming.
Fiordland National Park is another location used in The Lord of the Rings films that has been revisited in The Hobbit Trilogy for some epic scenic shots.
Visitors can take a helicopter flight into the wilderness region with numerous tour companies such as Real Journeys, which offers a tour option of a landing in Milford or Doubtful Sounds, and a cruise through the fiords for an intimate experience of spectacular waterfalls and wildlife like pods of playful dolphins.
Queenstown and the Southern Lakes region were ranked #8 by international travel authority Lonely Planet for its year-round activities and spectacular scenery.
Tourists may choose to finish their Middle-earth adventure in the ski resort town of Wanaka, a 40-minute drive from Queenstown. Treble Cone Ski Area was used as ‘Misty Mountain pathways’ for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and is a world-class ski field renowned for its off-piste terrain and unrivalled views across Lake Wanaka and the Central Otago region.
Other picturesque locations used in the film include:
- Mangaotaki Rocks, Piopio –Visitors can choose from a number of attractions and adventures at the unique Waitomo Caves including easy walking cave tours, abseiling, rock climbing and black water rafting thrills. New Zealand’s highest cave abseil descends 100 metres into the ‘Lost World’.
- Kaihoka Station, Nelson –Visitors can experience the filming location with Cape Farewell Horse Treks in a ride across private farmland to the dramatic cliff top where The Company continue their journey along steep and rocky ridges (used for Weatherhills Trees & Rocks) which offers spectacular coastal views over Golden Bay.
- Braemar Station, Lake Pukaki – Visitors can stay at the station (as The Hobbit Trilogy crew members did), and enjoy activities including helping out on the farm, fishing, bike riding, or a quiet picnic by the lake.
- Earnslaw Burn, Queenstown – A sheer wall of granite rising 800 metres from the basin floor with a monumental glacier cascading from the top of the cliff forms ice caves below – which melt during summer to create dozens of waterfalls.
- Central Otago – Two further locations – Klifden Station in Ida Valley and Hartfield at Middlemarch in Central Otago – also provided epic landscapes for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey where the Orcs and Wargs hunt The Company.
From wandering through the lush green countryside at Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata in the North Island, to flying over dramatic waterfalls and cliff tops in Fiordland National Park on the South Island’s west coast, the films show that New Zealand has a Middle-earth experience for everyone.
Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.