Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Mar 11, 2019 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Last summer, my students and I read The Hobbit together. It had been 30 years since I’d read it. I have to admit, I reveled in the classic story, long buried in my brain under years of reading. As you know, it is a classic tale of a quest; a long, life-changing journey. The travelers have to battle (and avoid) various creatures, traverse extraordinarily vast plains, wend their way through mountain paths, and pursue their quest across Middle Earth.

Then, there was a movie (isn’t there always?), or several. Directed by Peter Jackson, this is the first installment of three movies based on The Hobbit. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a sweeping reintroduction to the lands (and characters) we loved in Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s passion for Tolkien’s books can be seen in the extreme care he takes in the films. For instance, Bilbo’s house is a work of art, beautifully created and shaped from Tolkien’s words. Don't even get me started on the Green Dragon Tavern! And, Jackson’s love for his country can be seen in the beautifully captured landscapes in the movies, as he introduces us to New Zealand.

Green Dragon Inn, Waikato. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand. From Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand
Green Dragon Inn, Waikato. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand 

If you, like me, love literary travel and want to visit Hobbiton and see the landscapes of Rivendell, Mordor, and more, get yourself to New Zealand.

Hobbiton. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand, adapted by Wandering Educators. From Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand
Hobbiton. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand, adapted by Wandering Educators

The film locations for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are extraordinary. 

In Matamata (in the Waikato region, North Island), you can visit the Hobbiton movie set, which offers tours. 

Visit Tongariro National Park (Mordor), Mt Ruapehu (Mt Doom), and Queenstown (Pillars of Argonath, Eregion Hills).

If you’re brave, visit Harwood’s Hole, on the South Island. It’s one of the deepest explored caves in NZ. Along that path, you'll see the locations for the filming of Chetwood Forest and  Beorn's house.

Also on South Island, look for The Remarkables–a mountain range whose high point is Double Cone. This area was used in filming the action of Dimrill Dale (where Aragorn leads the fellowship after the Mines of Moria). 

If you’re in love with Rivendell, head to Braemar Station at Lake Pukaki. The lake was also the setting for Lake Town.

Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook, Photo by Rob Suisted, Tourism New Zealand. From Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand
Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook, Photo by Rob Suisted, Tourism New Zealand

Queenstown driving tour to Glenorchy. Photo by Miles Holden, Tourism New Zealand. From Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand
Queenstown driving tour to Glenorchy. Photo by Miles Holden, Tourism New Zealand. 

While you’re there, check out Mt Cook, aka The Lonely Mountain. It is New Zealand’s highest mountain; Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on it, in preparation for climbing Everest.

The scenery I was most impressed by in the movie, however, was Strath Tieri (central Otago), where the company was hunted by Orcs on Wargs. The wide, sweeping landscape, dotted by enormous schist rocks, is incredibly beautiful. While you’re there, take the Taieri Gorge Train to get a feel for the land.

While I usually prefer books to movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought the book to life for me. It propelled New Zealand to the top of my travel list.

Whether you are discovering Rivendell or New Zealand, please remember, as Gandalf says to Bilbo,

You’ll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire. But home is now behind you. The world is ahead.

Hobbiton, Waikato. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand. From Visiting the Shire: Middle Earth Locations in New Zealand
Hobbiton, Waikato. Photo: Sara Orme, Tourism New Zealand. 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Tourism New Zealand and respective photographers.

This article was originally published over at A Traveler's Library, which has now ceased publication. It has been adapted and updated.

 

 

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