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Chasing Tolkien: The best places to visit on a New Zealand Middle-earth vacation

Discover New Zealand's Middle-earth on a themed Lord of the Rings vacation.

It may be a fantasy on screen, but in New Zealand, Middle-earth is far from fiction. When you travel through the heart of the country, you'll discover a picturesque world of emerald hills, rugged mountains, and magical forests.

Looking for a Tolkien-themed vacation? You're in luck. We're celebrating 15 years of Middle Earth travel with a list of 20 hobbit haunts you should visit.

Hobbiton, Matamata

See the real ‘Shire' when you visit this fully intact film set surrounded by the emerald hills and lush dairy pastures of the Waikato. Wander the hobbit holes, visit the party tree and have a drink at the green dragon to end the experience.

Hobbiton, Matamata

Deer Park Heights, Queenstown

A spectacular South Island spot where many scenes in Rohan were shot — including the journey from Edoras to Helm's Deep where you can locate the Remarkables or ‘Misty Mountains' in the background.

Twizel, Mackenzie Country

Used in both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies Twizel is instantly recognisable from the big screen. Part of the Wargs chase was filmed here as was the largest battle scene ever — the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Location for the big battle scene - Twizel, Mackenzie Country

Putangirua Pinnacles, Wellington

Although one of the most spectacular locations, the Putangirua Pinnacles is one of the least visited due to its isolation. Also known as ‘Dimholt Road,' this was where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli sought the paths of the dead.

Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

Home to one of the most sinister Lord of the Rings locations, Mt Ngauruhoe, was digitally altered to appear as Mt Doom, the stronghold of the Dark Lord Sauron in Mordor.

Mt Doom - Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

Mt Sunday, Canterbury

In the heart of the Ashburton district's high country is Mount Sunday, the location for Edoras the main city of the Rohan people. Although nothing remains of the set (which took nine months to build by helicopter) the area is instantly recognisable.

Skippers Canyon, Queenstown

At this memorable location (which is spectacular in itself — not just because it featured in the films) Arwen washed away the pursuing ring wraiths.

Ring wraith chase scene location - Skippers Canyon, Queenstown

Waiau River, Southland

This body of water doubled as the river Anduin and the scene where the Uruk-hai chase the fellowship along the river banks was shot here.

Weta Workshop, Wellington

See the digital effects studio behind the making of films. Take a tour through here for an insight into the props, costumes, and special effects. The Weta Cave even includes life-size character replicas.

Twelve Mile Delta, Bob's Cove Track, Otago

The location of the Ithilien Camp. It was here Frodo, Sam and Gollum watch the battle between Faramir's Rangers of Gondor, Oliphaunts, and the men.

Ithilien Camp - Twelve Mile Delta, Otago

Mt Victoria, Wellington

On the outskirts of the city, Mt Victoria was used in several location shots including the outskirts of The Shire, the encampment of Dunharrow and the hidden refuge of Rivendell. The infamous ‘get off the road' scene was also shot here.

Mangawhero River, Ohakune

You'll recognise this area, just before the Mangawhero Falls where Gollum catches a fish and a little further along the river you'll come to the spot where Frodo and Sam passed a ruined column in the clearing.

Paradise, Glenorchy

A beautiful area, truly befitting its name, Paradise is also known as Isengard and the place where Gandalf approaches Saruman's Tower. 

Isengard - Paradise, Glenorchy

Mt Gunn, West Coast, South Island

To see this spectacular mountain, you'll have to take a scenic flight. You'll recognise it from the Return of The Kings, where beacons that run along the White Mountains are lit to call for aid.

Mavora Lakes, Southland

This wet area of Southland was used in scenes such as where Frodo took cover from the Uruk-hai, where the fellowship ended their journey from Anduin and were Merry and Pippin hid from the Orcs.

Various journey locations - Mavora Lakes, Southland

Rangipo Desert, Tongariro National Park

The barrenness of this landscape made this area the perfect backdrop for Mordor and much of the Orc Army scenes were shot here including the ‘storming of the Black Gate.'

Kepler Mire, Te Anau

Known as the ‘Dismal Swamp' Kepler Mire is the largest wetland in the Te Anau basin complex. It was used in the scenes where Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes where the line ‘there are dead faces in the water' is exclaimed.

Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown

It was here that the Fellowship of the Ring paddled down the Anduin River to be greeted by two giant statues on either side of the gorge. Unfortunately, the iconic statues were added in post-production and you won't see them; we still think it's a spectacular location.

The Anduin River - Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown

Snowdon Forest, Fiordland National Park

Snowden is the location for Fangorn Forest the home of the Ents. It is in this area where Gandalf whistles for his majestic horse and Aragorn tracks the Hobbits trail into the forest.

Tawhai Falls, Manawatu

The waterfall and pool below were also used when Gollum was catching fish while Faramir and his Rangers aim their arrows at him. It is now locally known as Gollum's Pool.

Gollum's fish catching scene - Tawhai Falls, Manawatu