Port Waikato – Weathertop
The longest river in New Zealand is the Waikato River at 425 kilometers, and Port Waikato is where the river reaches the sea. The Lord of the Rings Weathertop Hollow was filmed at the rock formation.
Kiwis visit this coastal town for the beaches, surfing, and fresh seafood. The beach is also call Sunset Beach where you get to see the most spectacular sun-setting show in New Zealand.
Matamata – Hobbiton
Matamata is a small rural town known for their Thoroughbred horse breeding and training. Now, it is more referred to as Hobbiton, thanks to Lord of the Rings movie.
As the actual film site is located on private land, no personal visits are allowed. To get to Hobbiton, you will need to go for a guided tour. Registration can be done at Matamata I-Site.
Tongariro National Park – Mordor
This is the first National Park in New Zealand, and fourth in the world. It is also a World Heritage area with important links to Maori cultural and spiritual associations, as well as its volcanic features.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular one-day tramp in New Zealand. This route is a part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand. This crossing takes about 7 hours of constant walking and requires a good fitness level.
Whakapapa Ski Field – Mordor and Emyn Muil
Whakapapa and Turoa make the largest ski resort in New Zealand during winter. But during other seasons, Mount Ruapehu is just an area full of mountainous volcanic rocks, with little activity.
The alpine weather conditions are unpredictable and changeable over the day. Even if you are going in the middle of summer day, you can still find un-melted snow around the area.
Ohakune – Ithilien and Mordor
Ohakune has rich volcanic soil, which allows the claim to the largest carrot production in New Zealand. Try spotting the Big Carrot around town; you will look so tiny beside it!
Ithilien is located at Turoa Ski Field Road aka Ohakune Mountain Road Scenic Drive. To reach the film site, you will need to travel as far as the Mangawhero Falls.
Rangitikei River Gorge – River Anduin
The river starts from the Kaimanawa Ranges (southeast of Lake Taupo), flows through Central Plateau and out at South Taranaki Bight at Tangimoana, 40 kilometers southeast of Wanganui.
Steep vertical cliffs, deep canyons boulders and ancient shellfish create a unique setting for adventure activities. The world-famous attraction, Gravity Canyon, is located here.
Waitarere Forest – Trollshaw Forest and Osgiliath Wood
The Waitarere Forest is at the south of Foxton on the Kapiti Coast. This is one of the less-known forest track and not so common for tourists. If you want to go in, do bring sufficient food, water and a GPS along.
Kapiti Coast, on the other hand, is a popular holiday site for many Kiwis. It is about an hour from Wellington city, and you can get spectacular sea views, glorious sunsets, with an untouched native forest and dramatic landscapes.
Otaki and Otaki Gorge – Leaving the Shire
I had the impression I went somewhere in Otaki once for a camp. It was an outdoorsy camp and they recommended not to bring valuables. There is no reception for any mobile phone either.
There are several tracks that go from Otaki Gorge Road down to the gorge. However, the actual locations used to show the Hobbits leaving the Shire in The Fellowship of the Ring are not accessible by public.
Paraparaumu – Pelenor Fields
It is a small suburban town near Wellington. The Maori name parapara means food scrapes, and umu is an earth oven. It probably refers to the arrival of a war party and found only a few scrapes of food in abandoned earth ovens.
The closed shots for Battle of the Pelenor Fields in Lord of the Rings were filmed at Queen Elizabeth Park near Paraparaumu and the paddocks near MacKays Crossing. You can also check out the Wellington Tramway Museum here on weekends.
Mt Victoria – 'Get off the road' and 'Escape from the Nazgul'
Go up Mount Victoria (Mt Vic for short) to get an excellent view of the city, Cook Straits and harbor. It is quite a long uphill walk. Try Metlink bus # 20 on weekdays if you do not drive and really want to check out the view.
I think I went up once or twice by car, enjoyed the view and wind while I was there, but not much impression of it now. You can also pass through Mount Victoria Tunnel when traveling between city center and airport.
Mt Victoria and Lyall Bay – Dunharrow
If my memory is correct, this was one of the sites I went to on Wellington Rover Tours. Since I can not even remember the exact scenes from Lord of the Rings, I do not have much impression of this location.
The close-up shots for Dunharrow were filmed at this location while the wide shots were filmed in the South Island. Movie effects have a way of integrating the various scenes together seamlessly!
Fernside – Lothlorien and Gladden Fields
Fernside's gardens was established around 1870 and attributed to English designer Gertrude Jekyll. The peaceful and tranquil gardens and the man-made lake fitted the portrait of LOTR Lothlorien – home of the Elves – perfectly.
Do note that this site at South Wairarapa is not open for casual visits. You will need to go for their organized garden tours to get in.
Putangirua Pinnacles – Dimholt Road
The special feature of Putangirua Pinnacles is the 'badlands erosion'. It is a spectacular landscape formed over time as streamed exposed layers of gravel to rain and floods. The rocks that are more resistant formed the pinnacles.
Check out the viewing platform near the base of the pinnacles. The top bush walk track to the viewing platform above the Pinnacles formations has already been closed for safety reasons.
Kaitoke Regional Park – Rivendell
Among all the film sites in North Island, this is my favorite. Perhaps I really like the fantasy Rivendell. Somehow, Kaitoke Regional Park has the ethereal look, not sure if it is because this place was used as Rivendell.
The park is located at the foothills of Tararua Ranges, with many mature native trees such as beech, rata, and rimu. Best thing about this place, the "magical tranquility" remained almost the same for centuries.
Harcourt Park – Isengard Gardens and Orc Tree
Other than the beautiful park, the unique feature of Harcourt Park is that it shows an example of the Wellington Fault – one of the 4 major active fault lines running through the Wellington Region.
The Wellington Fault last ruptured about 200-450 years ago, with repeating intervals every 500-1000 years, and moves 4-6metres each time. Also, vertical ground motion causes difference in terrace heights.
Hutt River – River Anduin and Rohan River
The scenes are filmed in multiple sites along Hutt River, with the major location between Moonshine and Totara Park. Wellington Fault activity in the last 2 million years weakened the bedrock and formed the river floodplain.
A way to follow the river is to walk all or part of the Hutt River Trail. Short walk will be accessible via Moonshine Bridge to the bank of Totara Park. Long walk (~ 24km) will be from Petone toward Upper Hutt.
Fort Dorset – Bree
Bree is filmed at an old army base in the suburb of Seatoun. Nothing is left from the set and this place is also not accessible by public. The closest view is from the end of Burnham Street and walk around the beach.
Dry Creek Quarry – Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith
Dry Creek Quarry is located on the Western Hutt Road to Haywards Hill Road. Do note that the set has been removed and the quarry is now operational again. Yes, it is not accessible by public too.