Peter Jackson had a vision and he bought it to life. As in previous films he had made, Jackson knew that his home country had all it would take and more to provide mind-blowing scenery for the film he was planning. The Kiwi Director and his crew scouted the terrain to find each ideal location for each part of Tolkien's tale, and then made it blend, so that today, Middle Earth is to be found in New Zealand. Locations throughout the country were chosen and the Lord of the Rings rocketed to the heights with the landscapes selected to bring it to the screen. The Hobbits trilogy followed suit using the beautiful New Zealand countryside as background for the adventures of the Hobbits, their friends and foes.
Hobbiton & The Shire
The beautiful green of the rolling hills in the Waikato was ideal for The Shire and Hobbiton was built in the Hinuera Valley near Matamata. Just 59 km from Hamilton, is found the location for the Hobbit houses, the Green Dragon Pub, and Bag End, Bilbo and Frodo's home. 44 Hobbit holes remain in the Hobbiton community, but only one is open to entry. The doors were built to be different sizes to assist with scaling the differing heights of the actors and characters. The exteriors of each Hole are relative to the occupation of the Hole Owner, and the richer Hobbits lived higher up the hill. The grass is mown by sheep and during filming eight gardeners kept the place looking groomed.
The Buckleberry Ferry that the Hobbits use to cross the Brandywine River is located on the Keeling Farm in the Manukau, and other locations used for parts of the Shire are Otaki Gorge Road (Hobbiton Woods) and Otaki Totara Forest used for the road to Hobbiton. Manukau is the city in South Auckland where the International Airport is located, the Ferry site is in surrounding farmland, and Otaki is a town on Kapiti Coast, 70 km from Wellington.
Sites in Northern Middle Earth
The Ford of Bruinen on the Bruinen (Loudwater) River was a composite of two locations, the Arrowtown Recreational Reserve and the Shotover River and Skipper's Canyon. Arrowtown is a historic tourist town, 20 km from Queenstown, while the Shotover River is a fast-flowing river in the Otago region, 30 km from Queenstown. Please note that the road is very treacherous and the travel time for this 30 km could be in excess of an hour. The river flows through Skipper's Canyon and the Shotover Jet is a popular adrenaline junky ride.
Weathertop Hollow was placed at Port Waikato, a small town 108 km out of Hamilton, where the actors could catch the surf on their time off. Further south, the Waitarere Forest in the Manawatu was used for Trollshaw and Osgiliath Wood. Takaka Hill, near Motueka, out of Nelson, was used as Chetwood Forest, while Bree was set in Wellington in the suburb of Seatoun, at Fort Dorset. Takaka Hill is near the glorious Abel Tasman Park and Golden Bay, well worth a visit just for the scenery.
Southern Middle Earth
Rivendell is a morphed site, using Lake Alta in the Remarkables, the glorious mountains overlooking Queenstown, and Mt Olympus in the Southern Alps. The Kepler Mine, on Dept. of Conservation land, near Lake Te Anau was used for the outdoor views of the Dead Marshes, although a lot of the scene was special effects and completed in Wellington. On Mt Ruapehu, at the Whakapapa Ski area, skiing is not the only activity. Occasionally, film crews assemble the set of Emyn Muil here.
The River Anduin
A number of places were used to create this river, but the majority of the river as filmed on the Rangitikei River, and one of its tributaries, the Moawhango river. The Rangitikei River is one of New Zealand's longest rivers, flowing from the Kaimanawas near Central Plateau to the coast north of Foxton. Both this river and the Moawhango can be viewed near Taihape. The Hutt River in Wellington and the Waiau River in the South Island were also used to create the watery scenes of the Anduin River. The Hutt River is just north of Wellington, emptying into the sea at Petone, while the Waiau River is the largest river in the South Island, flowing from Lake Te Anau to the Foveaux Strait. The Pillars of the Kings, on the River Anduin, on the approach to Nen Hithoel, were filmed on the wild Kawarau River, near where AJ Hackett has his first bungy jumping site.
Isengard & Rivendell
One of the three fortresses of Gondor, Isengard was filmed at Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt, Wellington. The floodplains formed by the Hutt River include the Kaitoke Regional Park, where the Fords of Isen and some Rivendell scenes were located. The Gladden Fields on the verge of the river, are recreated at Arrowtown, a gold rush town near Queenstown.
The forest was being destroyed by Saruman's Orcs, but the filming of the LOTR was in time to record the remaining trees at Mavora Lakes, and the scene, including Treebeard, were completed at the Wellington studios. Lake Mavora is comprised of two lakes (North & South) found between Lake Te Anau and Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu.
The Kingdom of Gondor, home of the men of Middle-earth was placed in the MacKenzie country of the South Island, the tussock grasslands and the glacial turquoise lakes with surrounding mountain ranges make this a breath-taking landscape. By contrast, Dimholt Road, the entrance to the haunted Paths of the Dead found a perfect location at the Putangirua Pinnacles, in the Aorangi Forest Park, a totally alien-looking place. Mt Gunn, near Franz Josef Glacier, was the mountain upon which the Beacons of Gondor flared, while the Pelennor Fields are a blend of a location at Ben Ohau Station, near Twizel, and Queen Elizabeth Park which is north at Wellington at Paraparaumu.
This country, easternmost province of Gondor, and bordering Mordor, was filmed in several locations. A campground on the banks of Lake Wakatipu called Twelve Mile Delta was used for scenes of the Ithilien Camp, with the Crossroads of Mordor being located in Makara, to the west of Wellington. There are some walks with spectacular views in this area. Then, the Rangers of Ithilien have a hideout at Henneth Annun, which can be found near the Mangawhero Falls, near Mt Ruapehu. These falls are easily accessible, being only a 20-minute walk from Ohakune, at the south of the Central Plateau.
Home to the Elves, Lothlorien was tucked into the mountains behind Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, in a small lace called Paradise, past Glenorchy. It is claimed that the drive to Paradise is one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. The Silverlode River, following from Lothlorien to the River Anduin, was filmed on the Mararoa River, near the South Mavora Lake, further south towards Lake Te Anau. Some riverbank scenes were added from Fernside Gardens in Featherston, just north of Wellington.
The territory of the evil forces of Sauron, Mordor was sited at Cape Palliser, east of Wellington. A dramatic and scenic drive from the capital brings you to this rocky headland, with its lighthouse and seal colony. Other scenes of Mordor were shot in the Tongariro National Park with the Black Gate of Mordor, placed in the austere landscape of the Rangipo Desert. Desert Road cuts through this area, cutting past the mountains to the Army Camp at Waiouru. Higher in the mountains, the well-known Whakapapa Ski Fields stage as the Gorgoroth Plains and the Tukino Ski fields are used as the slopes of Mt Doom. Panoramic views of Mt Doom are of Mt Ngauruhoe, a mountain sacred to the Maori. The best way to see and enjoy the scenery of this area is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing walk, a 19km walk across the best that the mountains can offer.
The Kingdom of the Horse-Lords, Rohan was mainly based in the South Island. Near Queenstown, the recently closed Deer Park Heights was used together with the Ben Ohau Station in Twizel, like the foothills of the White Mountains. The capital of Rohan, Edoras, can be found on Mt Sunday in Canterbury. Near Methven, this is a glorious setting that may be visited and enjoyed by fans today. Helm's Deep, the stronghold of the Rohans, was filmed in a quarry on Western Hutt Road out of Wellington.
Dimrill Dale, the source of the Silverlode River, is found on the east of the Misty Mountains and was recorded on film at Mt Owen, in the Kahurangi National Park near Nelson. Together with the nearby Abel Tasman National Park, there are some magical walks into untouched and naturally beautiful forestlands that are popular tourist destinations. The Misty Mountains were located in a number of places in the Southern Alps, including mountains near Glenorchy and Treble Cone near Wanaka.
The Pelorus River, which has been called New Zealand's most beautiful river, was used for the Forest River scene where the Hobbits ride the waters in barrels. Located between Blenheim and Nelson in the north of the South Island, try a kayak trip down the same river.
New Zealand Locations:
Port Waikato: Weathertop Hollow
Keeling Farm, near Manukau: Buckleberry Ferry & Brandywine River
Hinuera Valley, near Matamata: Hobbiton & The Shire.
Whakapapa Ski Fields, Mt Ruapehu: Emyn Muil
Rangitikei River: River Anduin
Otaki Gorge Road, Kapiti Coast: Hobbiton Woods
Otaki Totara Forest, Kapiti Coast: Road to Hobbiton
Waitarere Forest in the Manawatu: Trollshaw and Osgiliath Wood
Moawhango River, Wellington: River Anduin
Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt, Wellington: Isengard & Rivendell
Seatoun, at Fort Dorset Wellington: Bree
Hutt River, Wellington: River Anduin
Whakapapa Ski Fields, Mt Ruapehu: Gorgoroth Plains
Rangipo Desert, Central Plateau: Black Gate of Mordor
Tukino Ski Fields, Mt Ruapehu: slopes of Mt Doom
Mt Ngauruhoe: Mt Doom
Mangawhero Falls, near Mt Ruapehu: Henneth Annun
Fernside Gardens, Featherston: Silverlode River
Putangirua Pinnacles, Aorangi Forest Park: Dimholt Road, & Paths of the Dead
Kaitoke Regional Park: Fords of Isen & Rivendell
Queen Elizabeth Park, Paraparaumu: Pelennor Fields
A quarry, Western Hutt Road, Wellington: Helm's Deep
Makara, Wellington: Crossroads of Mordor
Cape Palliser: Mordor
Takaka Hill, near Motueka, Nelson: Chetwood Forest
Lake Alta in the Remarkables: Rivendell
Arrowtown: Gladden Fields
Arrowtown Recreational Reserve, Shotover River & Skipper's Canyon: Ford of Bruinen & Bruinen (Loudwater) River
Kawarau River, near Queenstown: Pillars of the Kings
Mt Olympus near Arthurs Pass: Rivendell
Waiau River, South Island: River Anduin
The Kepler Mine, near Lake Te Anau- Dead Marshes
Pelorus River: Forest River
Mt Owen, Kahurangi National Park: Dimrill Dale
MacKenzie country, South Island: Gondor
Ben Ohau Station, near Twizel: Pelennor Fields & White Mountains, Rohan
Mt Gunn, near Franz Josef Glacier: Beacons of Gondor
Mt Sunday, near Methven: Edoras
Twelve Mile Delta, near Lake Wakatipu: Ithilien Camp
Paradise, past Glenorchy, Queenstown area: Lothlorien
Mountains Near Glenorchy & Wanaka: Misty Mountains
Deer Park Heights, Queenstown: White Mountains, Rohan
Mavora Lakes, Fiordland: Fangorn Forest
Mararoa River, Fiordland: Silverlode River
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