“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Growing up, my imagination was captured by Tolkien’s world; the darkness of Mordor, the purity of the elves and, especially, the joy and innocence found in Hobbits. After the movies were filmed in New Zealand, Middle Earth came alive. Words on paper were given color and the story breathed air with Tolkien’s characters coming to screen. From that moment, it became my dream to visit New Zealand before I turned 30 and at 25, I made that dream come true.
New Zealand is beautiful. Neverending rolling green hills with mountaintops covered by the clouds. The country held some magic that was long there before Tolkien’s works saw life. Pack your bags and your plane ticket, as we’re going on an adventure.
The Shire/ Hobbiton
Personally, I think this should be the last stop on your Hobbit journey, but if you’re crunched for time this can be your one stop Tolkien fix. Hobbiton is located in the very quiet town of Matamata and wasn’t actually established as a permanent site until 2011 The tour lasts about 2 hours (wear comfortable shoes!) and you learn all about the filming of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. After exploring the set, the tour ends at the Green Dragon where you get a chance to sample one of four beverages made exclusively for Hobbiton (the stout is highly recommended).
Book your tickets in advance (http://www.hobbitontours.com/) to ensure you get the date and time slot you want! Group tours run about every 30 minutes, but are limited to about 20 people so the tours fill up fast. You won’t be allowed into Bilbo’s Hobbit hole though, as only guests with party business are allowed!
Have some more time on your hands and find yourself craving a little more Tolkien?
Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park
Frodo and Sam’s quest centers on Frodo bringing the ring to Mordor and casting it into the depths of Mount Doom. Remember Sam carrying Frodo up the final steps? Shivers! I think we can all agree, that is one mountain no one should climb lightly
Luckily for us, the mountain that was used for filming is less intimidating. With a little movie magic, Mount Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park became Mount Doom.
While scenes were not filmed at the summit (the summit is sacred to the Maori people), many scenes were filmed at the lower slopes. It’s a full day’s hike so pack water and lembas bread!
Mount Sunday, Canterbury
It’s easy to imagine the sprawling kingdom of Rohan in Mount Sunday’s shadow. Rohan’s capital, Edoras, is on top of Mount Sunday.
Imagine Gondor’s White Tree banners and relive the Battle of Pelennor Fields. The Lord of the Rings Twizel Tour (http://lordoftheringstour.com/) will let you recreate Eowyn’s heroic moment of stabbing a ring wraith in the face.
The Weta Cave
Wellington, New Zealand
While not a filming site, the Weta Cave is the studio that was responsible for creating the props, makeup, costumes and special effects used in the films.
About the author: Stephanie Danckert studied history at Drew Univertisy and takes her love of fantasy wherever she goes.