This morning we discover the heart of the Wellywood film industry – Miramar. After checking out the Stone Street Studio (from the outside – this place is off limits unless you’re making a movie), we visit the Weta Cave. This is part gallery, part museum and part gift shop where we will also enjoy a 25 minute behind the scenes documentary outlining the history of Weta and the roles their many departments play in the creation of Film, TV and collectibles. The highlight of our Weta visit is the Weta Cave Workshop tour, where a Weta artist takes you on a behind the scenes Glimpse into the workings of Weta Workshop. (optional upgrade – exclusive tour)
After leaving Weta, we visit the Roxy Cinema. This beautiful art deco style cinema is owned by some of the Weta directors and was rebuilt from the ground up with no expense spared. It is a must stop for any film buff. Coco at the Roxy is the perfect spot for lunch today.
In the afternoon we explore The Lord of the Rings Trilogy filming locations on Mt Victoria, and Owhiro Bay, where scenes outside the Gates of Mordor were shot. Most of the sites visited here are from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Filming sites visited:
- “A Shortcut to Mushrooms” where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin tumbled down the hill after escaping from Farmer Maggot
- “Get off the Road” where the hobbits hid from the Ringwraith
- “Wood Elves!” where Frodo and Sam were camped in a huge tree when they spied Elves leaving Middle-earth (extended edition scene)
- “Dunharrow Encampment” where Aragorn and King Theoden mustered the Rohirrim Troops before the march to Gondor
- “Flight to the Ford” where the Hobbits escape the Ringwraiths before running to the Buckleberry Ferry
- “Gates of Mordor” where Sam fell down the rocky slope and Frodo hid them both under his Elven cloak
After a busy day of adventuring, I’ll point out a few great options for your dinner and/or an evening drink. Wellington has an amazing food and drink scene and you are never far away from fine New Zealand wines or our delicious local craft beer.
Day 3 (Sunday) – (includes Breakfast – staying tonight: Ohtel, Wellington)
Today we take State Highway 2 North of Wellington into the Hutt Valley to visit many more The Lord of the Rings Trilogy filming locations.
Kaitoke Regional Park, AKA Rivendell.
Filming sites visited:
- quarry used to create “Helm’s Deep” and “Minas Tirith”
- Hutt River filming site #1 for the “River Anduin” (one of many rivers used around New Zealand)
- “Gardens of Isengard” scenes, where Gandalf met Saruman to ask for his help
- Hutt River site #2 where Aragorn washed ashore and was rescued by the horse, Brego
- Hutt River site #3, “Faramir’s Dream” (extended edition scene) where Faramir dreamed of seeing Boromir’s body drifting in a strange boat
- “Rivendell” filming location, in an old growth native forest. The film set is long gone, but the location is perfect, it feels like the Elves just left! This is also a site where pickup shots were done of Eomer looking for Theodred, King Theoden’s son.
We will also visit Stansborough – creators of the Fellowship cloaks, and many other garments used in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies as well as The Chronicles of Narnia films.
We’ll return to the city in time for Dinner – it’s a big day tomorrow!
Day 4 (Monday) – (includes Breakfast – staying tonight: Chateau Tongariro, Mount Ruapehu – Mordor!)
This is the first of our two big driving days, as we start our journey North. We follow State Highway 1 along the beautiful Kapiti Coast before moving inland for our first stop at Gravity Canyon. This remarkable river valley was used to show the voyage of the Fellowship as they travelled on the River Anduin. While here you may want to sign up for a bungy jump, giant swing, or flying fox (optional extra).
After lunch, we proceed to Ohakune, on the southern side of Mt Ruapehu. Here we visit the location where Gollum was fishing at the head of a giant waterfall (actor Andy Serkis nearly slid right over the edge!).
We finish the day on Mount Ruapehu at the Whakapapa Ski Area where we explore the filming location for Mordor and Emyn Muil (this is subject to road and snow conditions, if there is late spring snow we may do something else). At the end of today’s adventuring, we stay at a grand old hotel right on the mountain, the Chateau Tongariro. Film buffs can’t help but be reminded of the Outlook Hotel from The Shining (without the ghosts!).
Mt Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe) from Mt Ruapehu (Mordor)
The River Anduin -Rangitikei River
Filming sites visited:
- “River Anduin” aerial shots of the Fellowship in their boats
- Gollum fishing scene
- “Emyn Muil” at Whakapapa Ski Area
- “Mordor” at Whakapapa Ski Area
- “Mount Doom” views at Whakapapa Ski Area
Day 5 (Tuesday) – (includes Breakfast & Dinner – staying tonight: Black Swan, Rotorua)
This morning is an early start as we leave the Chateau Tongariro at 7.30am. We will arrive at Piopio in time for a morning farm tour with Hairy Feet Waitomo. This is where several scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were shot.
Filming sites visited:
- The Company arriving at a destroyed farmhouse
- The exit from the cave containing the troll hoard
- Gandalf bestowing the sword, “Sting” upon Bilbo
- Radagast the Brown arriving
- The Orcs and Wargs attacking
From Piopio we drive straight to Waitomo Caves for lunch, before taking the exceptional Glowworm Cave Tour. This wasn’t used in filming, but once inside, it’s hard to not feel like you’ve stumbled into the real Middle-earth!
We finish our day with a drive to Rotorua where we join the Te Pō Indigenous Evening Experience. This is a great way to experience Maori culture and cuisine amongst the wild geothermal activity of Rotorua.
Day 6 (Wednesday) – (includes Breakfast and Dinner- staying tonight: Hotel DeBrett, Auckland)
After a long couple of days, we can sleep in this morning. Today is a day of leisure, where you can visit more Geothermal areas around Rotorua, possibly taking in a day spa or the Rotorua Museum.
Mid afternoon, we depart Rotorua for the Hobbiton Movie Set! We’ll be joining the recently launched Evening Dinner Tour, which includes a guided walk through the (perfect!) 12 acre movie set. After looking at the village, we arrive at the Green Dragon Inn where a complimentary beverage brewed exclusively for this Pub will be waiting. After a drink we move through to the dining room for a true Hobbit style banquet feast! After dinner we walk back through the lit pathways of Hobbiton, each carrying a handheld lantern.
If you want, you can take a nap in the car while we drive to Hotel deBrett in Auckland for your last night in New Zealand.
Day 7 (Thursday) – (includes Breakfast – departing Auckland International Airport)
Today you must return home, and if time allows we can spend the morning looking around Auckland City (and discussing your next visit to NZ), before driving to Auckland Airport for our final farewell as you return home across the sea!
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Namárië – Haere Rā – Farewell!
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