Searching For The Lord of The Rings

Arts & Culture

Our guide to discovering the Lord of the Rings sites around Wellington

Sure it had an all-Hollywood cast, but everyone who has been to the country knows that the real star of the Lord of the Rings films was the New Zealand landscape. Fans are in luck, since unlike movies filmed on sets, Lord of the Rings made use of the stunning New Zealand landscape and filmed most scenes in real, visit-able places. And though the crews have packed up, the locations exist and are waiting to be explored.

Wellington is a perfect destination for fans of the movies. Not only were a number of scenes in Lord of the Rings were filmed in the area, but the cast was based here during filming (Elijah Wood said he loved the city).  Whether you’ve got a few hours or a few days to devote to LOTR destinations, here are some great ones around Wellington:

Weta Cave

Weta Studios, where the costumes and effects for the movie were created, is in the suburb of Miramar in Wellington. The studios are not open to the public, but Weta has opened a small museum/gift shop for fans. The space is small but offers a look at some of the original props from the movies (plus others that Weta has worked on).  Be sure to stick around for the twenty minute behind-the-scenes movie - you’ll be blown away by the artistry and engineering that went in to the making of the films.Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria served as a location for the outskirts of the Shire. The scenes in which the Hobbits hid from the Black Rider and where they listened for the Nazgul are both along a trail up this hill (to find it, drive halfway up the hill via Alexandra Road, until you reach a parking lot with a trailhead on your left.  The site is just down the trail).  Also down the path is a ledge that you might recognise from the scene where the hobbits are being pursued by the Black Rider.  As a bonus attraction, keep walking to the top of Mount Victoria for one of the best views in Wellington.Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell)

Scenes set in the mystical Elven outpost of Rivendell were filmed a 45-minute drive north of the city, in Kaitoke Regional Park. The filming location is easy to find (it’s marked with signs) and features a flat grassy area as well as a shallow river great for swimming.  While not necessarily the most distinctive LOTR setting in New Zealand, it is quite possibly the best for a picnic.  

Hutt River (Great River Anduin)

A 30km stretch of the Hutt River (between Moonshine Bridge and Poet’s Park) was used as the Great River Anduin in the Lord of the Rings films. You can walk down to the river at Moonshine Bridge or, if you have the time and the energy, walk the 24 km Hutt River Trail, a picturesque track that follows the riverbank all the way down to Petone, where it feeds into the harbour.  

Pinnacles (Dimholt Road)

A few hours from Wellington, in the Wairarapa, is one of the most recognisable filming sites from the movie.  Dimholt Road, where Aragon, Legolas and Gimley trek to meet the Army of the Dead in Return of the King.  You can easily spend a few hours walking the trail through the Pinnacles and climbing the hill for a prime view.  There is also a campsite at the head of the trail, though it’s a notoriously windy spot to pitch a tent.Tours

The easiest and most thorough way to see the sites is through a Lord of the Rings tour. Not only do you visit a number of locations, but your guide will be able to answer any questions you have.

Rover Rings Tours offers both full and half-day options for LOTR fans. The tours hit the filming sites of the area and are led by funny and knowledgeable guides.  

Flat Earth New Zealand Experiences runs three different LOTR tours: the half-day Middle Earth Filming Locations Tour, the full-day Extended Version and the Deluxe Middle Earth Tour. The Deluxe trip takes in all the sites of the filing location tours but with an added helicopter ride over the Pinnacles.