If there’s one country I never need to find an excuse to write about, it’s New Zealand, and this time I’m bringing you some of the LOTR and Hobbit filming locations. Being a New Zealander, the director of LOTR and The Hobbit will have needed no encouragement or inducement to use his breathtakingly jaw-dropping, gorgeous homeland to make his movies. Practically recreating Tolkien’s world in the Land of the Long White Cloud, it was a no-brainer that Peter Jackson used the Hobbit filming locations that have became so familiar to us as moviegoers.
Top of the Hobbit filming locations has to be the recreation of the village in The Shire that is home to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and all the other Hobbits. Hobbiton is one of those rare film sets that will probably remain as is for a long time after the movies are archived. The transformation of a picture perfect slice of green New Zealand countryside is located in Matamata on North Island and can be viewed on tours when filming is not taking place. You’re more likely to run into roaming sheep than hobbits though.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of the great wizard Gandalf and ride to Isengard, you’ll need to make your way to New Zealand’s South Island. Isengard is in actuality an area of Mount Aspiring National Park known as Dan’s Paddock. In the Queenstown Lakes Region, near to Otago, Dan’s Paddock is a wonderful mixture of high mountains, beautiful river valleys and remote wilderness.
In my opinion, one of the most visually spectacular scenes in LOTR is the view of the lit beacons high in the peaks between Rohan and Gondor. This is the pivotal moment in The Return of the King when fortune finally turns the way of the light and we know there’s hope. You won’t be able to see a string of beacons, but visit Westland Tai Potini National Park on South Island and you won’t need much to fire your imagination.
To portray the Dead Marshes, Peter Jackson needed to find LOTR filming locations that really captured the atmosphere and foreboding of scenes where Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the swamps, having to save Frodo from falling under the spell of the floating dead. Fiordland National Park is perfect. Occupying the corner of South Island, Fiordland is part of South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, known as Te Wāhipounamu. Fiordland is an area of spectacular narrow fjords carved over millennia by ice, deep valleys and gorges, pristine, crystal lakes and rugged granite mountains. It is beautiful, vast and wild.
Remember the gorgeous forest where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meet up with Gandalf the White? That place for real is Snowden Forest, another of the Hobbit filming locations on South Island. And this too lies within Te Wāhipounamu. A popular recreation area, the forest is visited by many sportsmen who love to fish and hunt as well as hikers, bird watchers and wildlife viewers.
It’s a magnificent dichotomy that something in the actual world that we see as breathtakingly beautiful can, in the hands of skilled movie makers, become a land as dark and full of evil as Mordor. Such is the case with Tongariro National Park on North Island that provides much of the setting and backdrop for the land where the shadows lie. One of the most spectacular LOTR and Hobbit filming locations, the 300 square mile national park features the active volcanoes, emerald lakes, steam vents and very desolate terrain of Tolkien’s imagination.
Edoras is the capital of Rohan and home to Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden. The focal point of the fictional kingdom of Edoras is Mount Sunday, which is actually a hill called Mount Potts which sits in Hakatere Conservation Park in mid-central South Island. Mount Potts sits on a rugged grassy plain (known as tussocklands) surrounded by rugged mountains, beech forest and crystal clear rivers.
If you can’t travel to these amazing Hobbit filming locations, you’ll have to satisfy your Tolkien wanderlust by watching the movies. Which of the Hobbit and LOTR filming locations do you think is a best match for how Tolkien described them?