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Top 5 Middle Earth filming locations (North Island)

If you’re anything like me, you couldn’t avoid getting caught up in the Lord of the Rings whirlwind that was the early 2000s (wow… that makes me feel old). I’d read the books before the movies came out and like all loyal book fans, I didn’t know what to expect from the movies. To be entirely honest, I was a little scared of seeing the orcs on the big screen! Honestly, I would call The Lord of the Rings movies some of the best book-to-screen adaptations of all time. Peter Jackson and his team really brought Middle Earth to our screens through the magic of filmmaking and the ethereal beauty of New Zealand.


Fast forward 21 years from the release of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 and the movies still stand up against technologically advanced techniques and mega-blockbusters. One reason for that is the incredible natural beauty of the settings. New Zealand wholeheartedly became Middle Earth and Peter Jackson’s extensive use of the physical landscape instead of sets put this small island nation on the international stage.


Having toured New Zealand on a specialised Middle Earth locations tour, I can honestly say the locations are as breathtaking in person as they are on screen. It was difficult to pick from all the incredible places but below are my top 5 locations to visit on a Middle Earth tour of the North Island! I will do another blog about the South Island soon!

Hobbiton

“I’m going on an adventure!” A Middle Earth tour wouldn’t be a Middle Earth tour without a visit to where it all begins – Hobbiton. Nestled in the rolling hills and farmland of Matamata, lies probably the most famous Middle Earth location. The Hobbiton Movie Set is an immersive experience that is not to be missed! Take photos in front of some Hobbit holes and discover some of the movie magic – you can be the size of a Hobbit or a Wizard in this place! Don’t forget to stop in at the Green Dragon pub for a pint when you’ve finished your guided tour of this beautiful village. For more information, check out their website.

Hairy Feet Waitomo – Trollshaws Forest

“Look Mr Frodo. It’s Mr Bilbo’s trolls!” While the trolls might not be there anymore, you can still bask in the incredible beauty of Trollshaws forest. The lovely people at Hairy Feet Waitomo will take you on a guided tour of their land that was utilised in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Be absolutely blown away by the stark contrast of sheer limestone cliffs and almost rainforest-y greenery that makes you feel you’re on an alien planet. For more information, check out their website.

Mt Ruapehu – Mordor

“One does not simply walk into Mordor.” We all know that line from Boromir at the Council of Elrond. Well, step aside Boromir because you can simply walk into Mordor! Take a trip to Mount Ruapehu and wander the craggy rocks of Emyn Muil and get a view of Mt Tongariro, or Mount Doom. I do recommend doing this on a tour or at least with other people – those rocks can be treacherous, and orcs may be lurking!

Mount Victoria, Wellington – Get off the road

“Get off the road!” The nation’s capital of Wellington has a few locations scattered around but one of the most iconic is the ‘Get off the road’ location where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin hide from the Black Rider on their way to Bree. The exact location is difficult to pinpoint (I’ve tried my best on the map above) but if you wander the trails of Mount Victoria, you’ll definitely stumble across it and maybe some other locations too!

Weta Workshop, Wellington

Technically not a ‘filming location’ but not something you should miss on a Middle Earth tour. Weta Workshop is the epicentre of the creative minds that create the incredible creatures, weapons and so much more for these (and many more) movies. While you can’t technically go into the workshop, they have a gift shop where you can purchase props and other merchandise from the Middle Earth films, along with other project Weta has worked on. They also have a guided ‘backstage’ experience where you will be shown some incredible props and memorabilia from the many projects Weta works on – you may even get to see some artists at work! Weta also runs creative workshops from this location. For more information, check out their website.



To get the most out of your Middle Earth experience I recommend booking a guided tour. This way you’ll get an incredible experience with other fans, and you don’t have to worry about getting to some pretty remote places – you may even be able to visit places not open to the general public! My #1 pick for Middle Earth tours is Red Carpet Tours, a family-based tour company providing immersive and extensive tours all over New Zealand.




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