When my Auntie had her first overseas trip, nobody knew where New Zealand was. In fact, it wasn’t even on many maps. When i first started traveling however, it was a different story. NZ had shot to fame upon the release of the Lord of the Rings films and ever since, many foreigners desired to see Middle Earth. Upon greeting a new traveler and explaining i was from NZ, their first statement was how amazing Middle Earth looks.
So when a group of American friends journeyed to NZ, i thought, why not jump back across the ditch and explore Middle Earth. Heck i’d driven through Matamata plenty of times before, yet never stopped off at what seems to have made NZ immensely popular. Luckily we had a LOTR buff in our midsts and she knew exactly what we needed to see.
If your dream is to journey to Middle Earth in New Zealand’s Central North Island, then these are the top spots you need to visit.
Hobbiton Movie Set
Just like the movies, embark on your own unexpected journey. Starting in The Shire, visit all your favourite movie locations. Drink amber ale at The Green Dragon Inn, watch the water wheel at the Mill House, meet Bilbo at the Party Tree and get a photo at the green door of Bag End. Delve into the knowledge of your tour guide and find out all the intricacies of building the world’s only living movie set. This journey around the Hobbiton Movie Set really does place you into the heart of your very own film fantasy.
Find out more: Hobbiton Movie Set, Buckland Road, Matamata
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is the home of Mordor. Situated in the centre of the North Island, Mordor is a collection of three volcanoes; Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro. This stunning landscape is NZs largest winter playground, with the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu- Whakapapa & Turoa- boasting 54 runs of varying terrains and difficulties. Trekking the volcanic terrain of the Tongariro Alpine crossing is the active way to take in this World Heritage National Park and thanks to the declining orc population, you can safely follow in the footsteps of Frodo.
Find out more: Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, State Highway 48
Hairy Feet Waitomo
Visit the location that holds the most filming time in The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey. Denize Bluffs, aka Trollshaw Forest- a primeval native forest in the heart of NZ- has been a family run farm for over 70 years. Massive limestone cliffs tower over the impressive Piopio farm, mesmerizing Peter Jackson whilst he was scouting for locations. Stand in the same spot as several key characters from the films, including Gandolf bestowing ‘Stig’ upon Bilbo, the dwarves exit from the troll hoard, Radagast arriving and the Orcs attacking.
Find out more: Hairy Feet Waitomo, 1411 Mangaotaki Rd, Piopio
Waitomo Caves is one of NZs most popular tourist attractions. This underground world is a series of caves and caverns, lit up by billions of glow worms. What began with the creation of limestone at the bottom of the ocean has transformed into one of the worlds most inspiring natural wonders and the home of a native species of glowworm. The caves were carved by underground streams pushing through the soft limestone over thousands of years. It was within these caves that the sound specialists from the movies recorded the eerie sounds of Gollums cave. If you listen hard enough, you can just hear the faint whisper of Gollums riddles.
Find out more: Waitomo Glowworm Caves, 585 Waitomo Village Rd, Waitomo
A few pictures from our Middle Earth journey: