Answer: The Lord of the Rings was Filmed in New Zealand!
Ok, you probably know that The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand. Not only was the director of The Lord of the Rings movies, Sir Peter Jackson, born and bred in New Zealand, but New Zealand also contains a huge variety of landscapes within a small country. This made it easy to depict the entirety of the Middle-earth universe all in one small country of New Zealand. New Zealand also holds scenery that can easily fit a fantasy world. So where was The Lord of the Rings filmed exactly? We’ll go through all of that and more in this guide to the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings.
While many of The Lord of the Rings filming locations are on public land, others can only be accessed through special tours. The best way to see as many Lord of the Rings locations as possible is to have your own transport. However, you can still see the highlights of the movies through The Lord of the Rings tours.
5 Fun Facts About The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand
Who doesn’t love a good fun fact?
- Every single leaf on the tree above Bag End has been hand-painted and glued individually.
- Because Sean Bean, the actor that plays Boromir, was afraid of flying in a helicopter, he hiked to many of the alpine locations himself in costume.
- The New Zealand government had a Minister of The Lord of the Rings.
- Shelob, the giant spider in The Return of the King, is based off a real spider found in New Zealand called the tunnel web spider.
- Many of the horse-riders for the battle scenes were teenage girls in costume. They were the majority of people living around the filming locations with a horse.
The Lord of the Rings in Queenstown
Queenstown is renowned for its adventure activities and outstanding scenery, so it’s no surprise that this popular South Island destination was chosen to feature in The Lord of the Rings. Most of The Lord of the Rings filming locations can be accessed a short drive away. Alternatively, tours with Nomad Safaris are available to take you to some of The Lord of the Rings location highlights. Here are some Lord of the Rings locations in Queenstown to add to your bucket list:
- Arwen’s river flood Skippers Canyon
- Dimrill Dale Lake Alta
- Edoras to Helms Deep Deer Park Heights
- River Anduin Kawarau Gorge
- Faramir Vs. the Oliphaunts Twelve Mile Delta
- Isengard Paradise
- Rivendell (The Hobbit) Earnslaw Burn
For an in-depth location guide to each of these Queenstown Lord of the Rings locations, check out Lord of the Rings Locations in Queenstown. Plus, for more things to do in Queenstown, take a look at 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.
The Lord of the Rings in the Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its culture and natural landscape, but it was also chosen to be the backdrop in many scenes for The Lord of the Rings. More specifically, the volcanic landscape made the perfect location to depict Mordor. While many scenes were filmed around the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand’s largest volcano, the most iconic site has to be Mt Ngauruhoe used to play “Mt Doom” itself.
Check out these Lord of the Rings locations when you are in the Tongariro National Park:
- Mt Doom Mt Ngauruhoe
- Gollum’s fishing pool Mangawhero Falls
- Emyn Muil Whakapapa Ski Field
- Isiliador cuts Sauron’s finger off Whakapapa Ski Field
- The Black Gate Rangipo Desert
- Hidden Bay (entrance to the Lonely Mountain) Turoa Ski Field
For more details on finding these locations, take a look at The Famous Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in Ruapehu. Plus, don’t miss these 10 Tongariro National Park Must-Dos.
The Lord of the Rings in Wellington
Wellington doesn’t have the nickname “Wellywood” for no reason! Not only is Wellington New Zealand’s capital city, but it’s also a hub for film-making in New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings was filmed in several locations around the city. Plus, the majority of special effects, props and studio effects were created in studios around Wellington. Here are a few locations and studios to add to your Lord of the Rings must-do list:
- Lord of the Rings props and special effects Weta Workshop
- Forest Road of The Shire Mt Victoria
- Dimholt Road Putangirua Pinnacles
- River Anduin Hutt River
- Isengard Harcourt Park
- Rivendell Kaitoke Regional Park
- Pelennor Fields Queen Elizabeth Park
- Minas Tirith & Helm’s Deep Dry Creek Quarry
Lord of the Rings in Te Anau
Te Anau is the gateway to the majestic Fiordland National Park and also a great base to scout out The Lord of the Rings filming locations. A real mix scenes were shot throughout the area to display different locations of Middle-earth. Lakes and rivers were mostly used in these scenes, which many can be accessed by driving and/or taking hiking trails. Here are some Lord of the Rings locations around Te Anau to add to your must-see list:
- Dead Marshes Kepler Mire
- Fangorn Forest Snowdon Forest
- Anduin River Waiau River
- Edge of Fangorn Forest Mavora Lakes
- Lothlorien Mararoa River
- End of the Anduin River journey North Mavora Lakes
The Lord of the Rings on Mt Sunday
Getting more off the beaten track now, Mt Sunday is home to one of The Lord of the Rings most stunning filming locations. An entire set for Edoras was constructed atop of the mountain found about 2 hours drive out of Christchurch in the Ashburton Lakes on the foothills of the Southern Alps.
Mt Sunday can be accessed by car (be aware that much of the area is gravel roads). Alternatively, tours with Hassle-Free Tours depart from Christchurch and Methven taking you to the location. A walking track takes you up the mountain providing endless photo opportunities.
The Lord of the Rings in Twizel
This high country town in the South Island was chosen to depict the majority of the scenes for the Battle of Pelennor Fields. The sweeping grassy fields with the backdrop of the Southern Alps was the perfect location for Lord of the Rings battle scenes.
The fields used in the filming itself is on private land, so access is only available of a Lord of the Rings guided tour with One Ring Tours in Twizel. Nevertheless, that also means the opportunity to get photos with props and costume!
Lord of the Rings in Matamata
The Hobbiton Movie Set, a short drive from Matamata, is the last remaining built set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Tours of the movie set allow visitors to relive the magic of the movies where it doesn’t take much imagination to see where the movie was shot right in front of your eyes. It’s by far the most popular Lord of the Rings attraction in New Zealand.
After your day tour or evening tour, sit down in The Green Dragon Tavern for a cup of beer, cider or ginger beer brewed, especially for Hobbit fanatics.
Aside from Hobbiton, there are plenty of other things to do in the town while you are there. Check out 11 Things to Do in Matamata (That Doesn’t Involve Hobbits).