There’s no better way to enjoy the sights of New Zealand than through a road trip — and one of the most popular ones revolve around Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the actual sights were the movie was filmed. Grab your sword, bow, and axe (camera, credit card, and insect repellent) and ride your steeds (motorhomes or vans) into Middle Earth (Auckland to Queenstown).
Starting your fellowship
Your journey starts at the Shire or Hobbiton. A couple of hours away from Auckland, Matamata is home to the fictional hobbit village — realized by Peter Jackson. Take a site tour and explore more than 40 hobbit mounds and get a glass of wine or a mug of ale at the Green Dragon Inn. Another hour of driving will bring you to Waitomo, where you can visit the campfire sites used in the movies. It might not be in the movie — but the Glow Worm caves are a great place to visit. Raft down the underground river and marvel at the star-like glow as glow worms light up the caverns and take you to a different world. The caves are to beautiful for Shelob — but they were still used in recordings because of their unique acoustics.
Journey to Mount Doom
Further south, your drive will lead you to Rotorua, a city filled with geysers, hot springs, and boiling mud pools. If you want to have a taste of the rigors of being a ring-bearer, take the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek. The hike is a grueling 20 kilometers (12 miles) across mountains and volcanoes. You don’t have to tangle with Nazgul or orcs — but the trip itself takes 7-8 hours to complete. The trek will bring you near Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe) — but you probably won’t get the chance to throw any kind of ring into its mouth. The volcano is quite active, so unless there are pressing matters involving a Dark Lord — approaching it is foolhardy. After your trek, head down and relax in one of Rotorua’s hot springs. Without Lembas to sooth away your fatigue, a long dip in hot water is the next best thing.
Back to Reality
After the trip to Mount Doom, get to see how the movie props and actual arms and armor were made in Wellington. Visit the Weta Cave and Workshop and learn how the props, special effects, costumes, and creatures were made for the movies. If you want a ring of your own, head to Nelson and visit Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith Workshop. You can get 9-carat or 18-carat rings styled like the One Ring — but no invisibility or threats of corruption and madness. Drive down to Frank Josef and relive the lighting of the beacons. The huge glaciers might seem more suited for Game of Thrones — but fantasy is fantasy. Your journey ends in Wanaka and Queenstown— two places with marvelous views of nature at its finest.
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and the best way to see it is up close. There are many motorhomes in NZ you can rent so you can take your family and friends on a trip to a fantastical realm of wonder and beauty.