Go behind-the-scenes on Pete’s Dragon: New Zealand’s newest movie phenomenon.
Forget about Orcs, Hobbits and Gandalf the Grey - there’s a brand new reason to take a holiday down under. Pete’s Dragon, New Zealand’s latest movie success is turning heads for its spectacular showcase of Kiwiland scenery.
And in this endearing tale, the sheer diversity of New Zealand landscapes are on full, magnificent display. From the towering Redwood Forests in Rotorua to Queenstown’s snow-capped mountains, you too can experience a little movie magic when you visit these key filming locations while you're here.
A popular geothermal hotspot, Rotorua is renowned for its many volcanic and cultural attractions. Also home to over 5600 hectares of magnificent Californian Redwoods, most of the forest scenes were shot in the Whakarewarewa Forest - doubling as Central America. With many mountain biking and hiking trails within the forest, exploring the fictional ‘home’ of Elliott the Dragon is a rewarding experience.
The main trails offer sweeping views over the lakes and thermal wonders of Rotorua and for the truly spectacular -w e recommend the doing the ‘Redwoods Treewalk,’ taking you right into the upper reaches of the treetops. With 23 bridges suspended 12 metres above the ground you’ll get a true dragon's-eye view.
Other things to do while you're in Rotorua. Rotorua is a popular tourist destination. We recommend visiting the Mitai Maori Village for a insight into New Zealand’s indigenous culture and Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland to experience steaming geysers, colorful sulphur attractions and boiling mud pools.
Several scenes were shot in Wellington, and all of the films computer generated imagery (including bringing to life Elliot the Dragon) was done here at Weta Digital - the visual effects company behind the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Visit the Weta Workshop and go behind the scenes to see movie props, prosthetics and special effects artists at work. You can also visit the Weta Cave - a mini museum of props, costumes and life-size movie characters.
One memorable scene - where Pete makers the leap off the cliff, only to land on Elliot's back - was filmed just 30 minutes out of Wellington at Battle Hill Farm Park. A popular spot for walking and biking, Battle Hill is also a designated camping area, so you can stay overnight in this popular film location.
Other things to do while you’re in Wellington. Described as the Coolest little Capital in the world, Wellington is a vibrant metropolitan hub. Visit one of its many laneway cafes, and be sure to see Te-Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. Jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay, the only running funicular railway in the country. We also recommend visiting Zealandia Wildlife park - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary.
Known as New Zealand’s ‘adventure capital,’ Queenstown is surrounded by picture perfect snow capped mountains and glassy Lake Wakatipu. Nearly all of the film’s aerial sequences were also filmed here with local helicopter company Glacier Southern Lakes. Visitors have the chance to take their own aerial adventure with the same company offering daily scenic rides and private charters.
The scene where Pete watches as Elliot the Dragon appears from beneath a cliff top to fly over him was filmed just below the resort town’s iconic Remarkables Mountains. Further shooting was done at Deer Park Heights, a farm 20 minutes out of central Queenstown that offers the opportunity to drive up to the filming location.
Other things to do while you're in Queenstown. A 30 minute drive from Queenstown, on the ‘most beautiful stretch of road’ in the world is Glenorchy - gateway to the small hamlet of Paradise. Well worth a visit, there are many opportunities to jet boat, horse ride or visit some of the Lord of the Rings film locations. Spend time on the Gibbston Valley wine trail or catch a ride on the 100 year old steamship the ‘TSS Earnslaw.’ For an adrenaline rush head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis bungy or canyon swing, or Zip Line the Gondola.
Surrounded by gently rolling farmland, Tapanui is a small rural area a two and a half hour drive from Queenstown. With rivers brimming with brown trout and salmon, Tapanui is known for its world class fishing.
This picturesque location was transformed into Millhaven, a small logging town in America’s Pacific Northwest. Filming also took place at nearby Conical Hill, the site of a disused sawmill. While much of the set has been taken down, the main street is instantly recognisable as being from the movie.
Other things to do in Tapanui. Tapanui is close to the Otago Rail Trail - one of New Zealand’s great rides. A 73 km cycling trail tracking New Zealand’s gold mining history. The ride takes you through spectacular scenery and over 20 of New Zealand’s rural mining towns. The Otago Coastline is another must do while you're here . Visit Nugget Point- home to a variety of native wildlife including New Zealand fur seals, sea lions and yellow eyed penguins. And if you're really lucky you might even spot a dolphin or two.
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Written by: David Kettle