Read the ultimate travel guide to The Lord of the Rings movie locations across New Zealand and visit all of the famous destinations from the films.
New Zealand’s dramatic landscapes captivated fans across the globe as it became the natural star of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Home to rare wildlife, ice-age glaciers, rugged mountains, lakes, meandering rivers and native forests, much of the scenery is unchanged since ancient times. Visit these stunning filming locations and transport yourself deep into the heart of Tolkein’s Middle-earth.
There are plenty of spots to visit with over 150 locations used in New Zealand. Most of the movie sets are now a distant dream, the diverse geography of New Zealand’s North and South Island is naturally the nearest thing on earth to the fantasy world. From the North Island to the South Island, we round up the best Lord of the Rings movie locations to visit.
North Island Lord of the Rings Movie Locations
Stop 1 – Hamilton Waikato | Hobbiton Movie Set
It’s impossible to experience a Middle-earth guided journey around New Zealand without starting it off at the mecca of hobbit, Hobbiton. In the heart of the Hamilton-Waikato region, you can explore the lush pastures of the Shire™ with a guided walking tour of Hobbiton™, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.
This privately-owned family farm was spotted by Sir Peter Jackson in 1998 during an aerial search for filming locations for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. A picturesque lake, rolling green hills and the mighty Kaimai Ranges in the distance, it perfectly resembled the Shire as described by author J.R.R. Tolkien. It became the infamous setting for Hobbiton and was rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit Trilogy to remain a permanent tourist attraction. See the 44 hobbit holes on site that have been rebuilt exactly as they appeared on film, and visit the Mill, and the Green Dragon Inn and try an exclusive Southfarthing beverage – a must-visit for any fan.
Stop 2 -Wellington | Gardens of Isengard, the River Anduin, Rivendell, Osgiliath Wood, Paths of the Dead
The most accessible filming location in Wellington is Mount Victoria, which is within walking distance of the central city. The forested areas of the
mountain were used to depict Hobbiton Woods, where the hobbits hid from the black riders. This also lays claim to where the very first footage for the Fellowship of the Ring was filmed in 1999.
Wellington’s Miramar suburb is also home to Wētā Workshop and Wētā FX – the masterminds behind the concept design, armour, weapons, creatures, miniatures and special effects for the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Witness the artistry, processes and props that bring the imaginary worlds to life on one of the Workshop Tours.
Other Wellington locations include: The Hutt River between Moonshine and Tōtara Park, which played the part of the River Anduin; and Harcourt Park, which was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard.
Lyall Bay, a popular surf beach along Wellington’s rugged South Coast, is home to a cliff face that was the setting for Dunharrow in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Seaside suburb Seatoun was where The Prancing Pony and village of Bree were built around army barracks for The Lord of the Rings. Wellington’s Kaitoke Regional Park became Rivendell, where Frodo recovered from a knife attack. The exact location, a grassy area surrounded by native forest, is signposted from the carpark.
A replica Elvish archway stands in the park for visitors to recreate the iconic Arwen/Aragorn kiss. A drive over the hills to the Wairarapa region will take you to the eerie Putangirua Pinnacles, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli sought the Paths of the Dead. Take the train and make a day of it, the Wairarapa is known as Wellington’s wine region so there’s plenty to eat and drink after your hard work film spotting.
Stop 3 – Ruapehu | Mordor, Mount Doom, and Gollum’s Pool
The desolate, volcanic atmosphere of Tongariro National Park and Mount Ruapehu provided the perfect environment for orc-ridden Mordor and Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe), where it all began with the forging of the Great Ring, in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Trek to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to imagine the fiery peaks of Mt Doom. The hike is no small feat, so heading off on a guided tour, such as Adrift Tongariro, is the way to go. See craters, glistening lakes, mountain springs and volcanic rock as you trek throughout the National Park, covering more filming locations as you go.
Additional filming locations include:
Tawhai Falls – an iconic waterfall in Tongariro National Park that was used for Gollum’s Pool. This forbidden pool is where Frodo and Faramir capture Gollum.
Rangipo desert was where many of the Orc army scenes were shot.
The rocky slopes of Tukino ski field were the setting for Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The crew filmed here for one day, in which giant scaffolding was built down to the site in order to protect native flora and fauna on the mountain.
Nearby Mount Ngauruhoe was digitally enhanced to create the fiery Mount Doom. The Chateau Tongariro hosted crew for an extended period of time while they filmed in the park. They used the downstairs cinema to review their shots each day. Stay in this beautiful historic accommodation for yourself and live like the stars.
South Island Lord of the Rings Movie Locations
Stop 4 – Nelson Tasman | Dimrill Dale, Exit from the Mines of Moria, and the creator of The One Ring
The South Island is filled with drama, from its towering mountain ranges, dense wilderness areas and wide-open valleys, all close to urban centres, it is a filmmaker’s dream. The stunning natural landscapes of the Nelson Tasman region are popular with Lord of the Rings fans and capture their hearts in the same way they captured Sir Peter Jackson’s.
Kahurangi National Park is home to Mount Olympus and Mount Owen, aka Dimrill Dale. Mount Olympus and its Boulder Lake feature in the scene where The Fellowship hides from Saruman’s black crows. It was here, as the nine rested and cooked a meal, that the crebain crows of Saruman, searching for news of the One Ring, spied the travellers below. Mount Owen is the place where the fellowship escaped the Mines of Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring.
A helicopter ride with Helicopters Nelson or GCH Aviation is the best way to experience these terrains from above in all their glory. With a stunning landscape of glaciated marble karst with picturesque views over Tasman and Golden Bay, Mount Owen is a magical location that few get to experience in their lifetime. Beyond the scenery, in Nelson you can visit the artisanal talent of Jens Hansen. Jens designed and created more than 40 beautifully handcrafted pieces for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, including the renowned ‘One Ring’. One of the original rings is on display in store, or you can buy your own copy – complete with Elvish engraving.
Stop 5 – West Coast | Ered Nimrais, Lighting of the Beacons
The West Coast is a region that seems raw and untouched, filled with wild coastlines, deserted beaches, glacier topped mountains and seemingly endless native bush and rainforest. It is a region that has you up close, and personal with nature, feeling in awe of the landscapes around you. Witness the location of the lighting of the beacons that run along The White Mountains (Ered
Nimrais) from Gondor to Rohan was filmed at Mount Gunn, near Franz Josef Glacier.
The best way to view this location is via a scenic flight, Glacier Country Helicopters offers a great experience, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a skydive with Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier. If you’re looking to stretch your legs, view the mountain range from the Franz Josef Glacier access track, and check out the impressive glacier while you’re there.
Stop 6 – Canterbury | Edoras
Canterbury, with its vast plains and stunning mountains was an obvious choice for The Lord of the Rings location scouts. The first place you will come across is Edoras, the capital city for the people of Rohan, and perhaps one of the most recognisable of all film locations. Known as Mount Sunday, it’s a sheer-sided hill set against the backdrop of the Southern Alps.
Although nothing remains of the set, which took nine months to build, you can take a walk up to the site, which is well worth it for the stunning views. Head to Christchurch afterwards and experience a truly modern city. Filled with new cafes, restaurants and accommodation, it’s the ultimate place to refresh and rejuvenate with a spot of shopping and something delicious to eat, Little High and Riverside Markets are a good place to start.
Stop 7 – Mackenzie Country | Pelennor Fields
The Mackenzie region is home to high-country farms, dry tussock plains, stunning blue alpine lakes and jagged mountain ranges. Lake-town, one of the most extensive outdoor sets built for The Hobbit Trilogy, was created at Tasman Downs Station on the shores of the mesmerizingly blue, glacier-fed Lake Pukaki. The whimsical lakeside village set sits over water incorporating clusters of two-storey wooden dwellings arranged around connecting walkways, waterways and wharves, all featuring the highly detailed style that Sir Peter Jackson is recognised for.
Filming at this location was one of the largest operational periods
in the shooting schedule with around 700 people on set. At the same time, Jackson was also filming earlier scenes of the ‘Misty Mountains’ for The
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on a hilltop plateau overlooking the lake at nearby Braemar Station, an operation that required ten helicopters to transport cast and crew. Further south in Twizel, part of the Wargs chase was filmed here and the largest battle scene ever – the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The grassy fields that stretch to the foothills of the mountains look exactly as described in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Stop 8 – Queenstown | Lothlorien, Parth Galen, Ithilien Camp, the Ford of Bruinen
Queenstown’s spectacular, diverse scenery and easy access made it a popular choice for many of The Lord of the Rings filming locations. Skippers Canyon became the Ford of Buinen where Arwen summoned a magical flood to defeat Nazgul. In nearby Glenorchy, the north-western slopes of Mount Earnslaw were the mountain featured in the opening sequence of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. On the other side, Cardrona Valley, near Wanaka, will give travellers a glimpse of the River Anduin and the Pillars of Argonath, while Mount Aspiring National Park is the place that brought us the scene in which Gandalf rides to Isengard in Nan Curunír.
There are lots of different ways to experience the abundant filming locations in the Queenstown area. From a 4WD tour with Pure Glenorchy or Nomad Safaris to a helicopter tour with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters. The bonus is that the entire area looks straight out of a postcard, so you’ll feel as if you’re living in a real-life movie. Make sure you spend some time in Queenstown itself, thriving with cafes, restaurants, shops, and all the adventure activities you could ask for.
Venture further afield to spot more Lord of the Rings Movie Locations
Kawarau River /Sindarin Pillars of the Kings/ Anduin/ Argonath
Directly opposite the Kawarau Bridge and home of AJ Hackett Bungy, is the entrance road to Chard Farm Vineyard and a magnificent view of Anduin and Argonath (Sindarin Pillars of the Kings) The Pillars were computer generated into each side of the river, but the area is still instantly recognisable.
Arrowtown /The Ford of Bruinen
The Ford is only minutes from the centre of the village on the Arrow River. To reach the exact spot walk on the riverbank that is adjacent to the main street, walk upstream for approximately 200 metres where you can wade in the river up to ankle height. This will place you in the direction the Nazgul charged as Arwen ferried Frodo across the river on Asfaloth, her Elven steed.
The path that Nazgul took down the river is clearly visible on the left. The scene that showed the flooding of the river was shot at Skippers Canyon. You can also walk to Wilcox Green, where the Gladden Fields scenes were filmed. Arrowtown itself is a picturesque historic settlement with beautiful, restored cottages, known for its place in gold mining history.
Deer Park Heights / The Two Towers
Deer Park Heights is located on Kelvin Heights Peninsula, approximately 20 minutes’ drive from Queenstown on the road to Te Anau. Looking north over the airport, the River Anduin can be seen flowing towards the Pillars of the Kings. The hillside was used for all three films due to the proximity to Queenstown and was used for ‘pick-up’ shots.
The Remarkables and Lake Alta / Dimrill Dale
The famous Remarkables Ski Resort is a popular winter destination with New Zealand families. Located just 40-minutes from central Queenstown, the sequences shot here show the Fellowship fleeing from their ordeal in the Mines of Moria without Gandalf. Aragon also leads the fellowship down the slopes of Dimrill Dale towards Lothlorien.
One of the most magical locations in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; Earnslaw Burn is a glacier with cascading waterfalls that tumble down a huge rock face. Here, Bilbo and The Company are filmed continuing their quest after departing Rivendell. The Earnslaw Burn track, beginning in Glenorchy, is a challenging 4-hour hike for experienced hikers that rewards with spectacular views at the head of the valley over the glacier and beyond. For a more leisurely and awe-inspiring birds eye view of the area, Nomad Safaris offer a helicopter tour that lands right in the heart of the area.
Stop 9 – Fiordland | Fangorn Forest
Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s most treasured natural icons and is internationally recognised as part of the wider UNESCO World Heritage site, Te Wāhipounamu (Place of the Greenstone). The park covers 1.2 million hectares of mountains, lakes, fiords and rainforest environments, and is an iconic backdrop to many scenes in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, including Fangorn Forest. Ask for directions to Takaro Road – both sides of the road were filmed as Fangorn Forest and remote cameras were strung from high wires to film the hobbits moving through the trees.
It is where Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard and is the home of the Ents. It’s also where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli enter the forest and encounter the White Rider, whom they believed to be Saruman, but was Gandalf returning from his battle at Khazad-dum. Sutherland Falls, Fiordland Sutherland Falls are in the Fiordland National Park and are one of the highest waterfalls in New Zealand, standing at 580 metres.
In the last minute of the first Hobbit film, after a desperate confrontation with mounted Orcs, Dwarves are rescued by giant eagles who soar over the breath-taking Sutherland Falls. The huge birds carry the dwarves to ‘The Carrock’, the summit peak just to the south of Lake Dale in the Light River Valley southeast of the falls.
It’s not an easily accessible location, and best seen by taking a scenic flight with Heli Glenorchy or Southern Lakes Helicopters, not to mention the birds eye views of some of the highest and most photogenic mountains in Fiordland. If you’re an adventure buff, the Falls feature on the infamous Milford Track, well worth the multi day hike.
With this Ultimate Guide to The Lord of the Rings Movie Locations you will be able to travel New Zealand and witness some of the most magical scenery on earth.