Been to several Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand, and this is my favorite. Not sure if it is because this is the place with Rivendell, or perhaps I had a knowledgeable and interesting guide.
Went for this tour in September 2006. According to my friend who went in March 2008, there were some changes. Just checked the website, there are even more additions to it now!
The first stop was to Mount Victoria. From the top, it provides a 360-degree view of Wellington city, harbor, and ocean. Mount Victoria is part of the Wellington town belt, land set-aside in 1841 as public recreation ground.
On the slopes of the mountain, is a film site for Lord of the Rings. Here is where terrified hobbits hid from Black Riders in dense forest undergrowth. The guide even got us to re-enact the scene!
Then we proceed to Wellington Town Belt, walking through the outer shire. This location also includes scenes of 'get off the road' and 'shortcut to mushrooms'. This is such a 'nature' place and it is surprisingly close to Wellington city.
During the drive along southern suburbs, this is supposedly where the famous stars lived. The guide pointed out Peter Jackson's home (or childhood home). But nope, did not get to see him in there.
Weta Caves only opened in 2008; hence, it was not in my Lord of the Rings tour. It is like a mini-museum-shop-theatrette, all in one. I remember seeing Arwen's Hadhafang and Peter's Rhindon. Beautiful swords.
Previously, we stopped at Chocolate Fish Café, but they have changed it to Scorch o Rama Café since then. Not sure if it is a name change or location change, but it is a nice café in Wellington suburbs.
We drve pass the Weta Studios, and went to this private site that can look into the studio outdoor film set. No photo taking allowed. Also, there was not any film set up during that time anyway.
Next up was to Dry Creek Quarry, which is an actual operational quarry. The guide said that they stopped the works during the filming process. For obvious reasons, we just have to look at the 'site' from outside now.
The afternoon is spent in Hutt Valley. We stopped by to see the Hutt River (River Anduin) and the silver tree fern. The fern is one of the most widely recognized symbols of New Zealand, second to the Kiwi.
Rivendell was filmed right here in Kaitoke Regional Park! They even have a permanent storyboard for it. Somehow, the plants here are of a lighter green shade, which probably brave a more ethereal look to the whole environment.
Over here, we get to play elf (aka Legolas!). Put on the blond wig and elf's ears, and pose next to the tree where Orlando posed once upon a time. That was pretty cool and really awesome!
In our world, Isengard is less than 15 minutes away from Rivendell, at Harcourt Park. When I went in 2006, the strip of grass that became a pathway still looked slightly different from the rest of the lawn. I assumed that should be ok now.
To conclude, the whole experience was simply fantastic! And I learnt to appreciate the film and making of Lord of the Rings a lot more after this. Oh, my SobeRing Thought beer is still unopened in Singapore now!