Can I make a confession? New Zealand was never all that high up on my list of travel destinations until I saw the Lord of the Rings movies. Oh, I knew it had breathtaking landscapes, but I just assumed it was a country intended for more adventurous, outdoorsy travelers than me. But then along came the movies. Suddenly, those breathtaking New Zealand landscapes took on more meaning for me, because they were transformed into Middle Earth. Yes, I’m a big ol’ sci fi and fantasy geek, so that made a difference to me.
JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series of novels are among the most read books of the last 50 years. (I’ve personally read the trilogy at least a dozen times since I was 11.) When Jackson’s film adaptations came out, there were high hopes attached to them—hopes they ultimately fulfilled (for most of us). As a result, Peter Jackson has probably done more for New Zealand tourism than anyone else in recent history. By superimposing (so to speak) locations from the books and films onto New Zealand landscapes, he has forever transformed this country into Middle Earth in the hearts and minds of the movies’ fans.
My personal interest in New Zealand skyrocketed after seeing the films. I haven’t actually made it there yet, because of the time issue. I would need more than a week of vacation to do it justice. But I guarantee that when I do go, I’m going on a Lord of the Rings tour. Maybe more than one.
If I were a bit less geographically-challenged, I might try to find the locations myself. I’m sure there are those who do. But I’d probably get lost in the wilds of New Zealand and never be heard from again. In any case, part of the fun of seeing the sites in person is also reliving the epic movie scenes with fellow fans. You can’t get that on your own (especially if you’re traveling solo). And really, isn’t traveling with a group of strangers–joining a “fellowship,” so to speak–in keeping with the spirit of the movies anyway? The trick, of course, is to figure out which locations are most important to you, as filming for the movie took place all over New Zealand, on both the North Island and the South Island. You’d have to be a hard-core fan to see them all.
Which movie locations would be on my list?
On the South Island
Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park – Canterbury region, West of Christchurch. These alpine peaks were featured prominently in the gorgeous opening sequence of The Two Towers and represented the Misty Mountains of Middle Earth, where Gandalf fell in the Mines of Moria. (Sob.)
Mt. Gun, Franz Joseph Glacier – West of Christchuch. That’s where the lighting of the beacons of Gondor scenes in The Return of the King were reportedly shot. This is hands down one of my favorite scenes of all three movies.
Mount Sunday – Canterbury region. Do you recognize it? Yes, it stood in for Edoras . What can I say? I’m a big fan of Rohan.
On the North Island
Matamata – Southeast of Auckland. The Hobbiton set and farmland is here. How could any fan of the movies not want to see Hobbiton?
Are you a fan of Lord of the Rings? Would you consider going on a LOTR tour in New Zealand? If so, which locations would you want to see?
This post was written as part of blog4nz (Blog for New Zealand), a travel bloggers’ effort to create 72 hours of content about travel to New Zealand to help revitalize tourism after their recent earthquake.