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contributor to Fodor’s Travel New Zealand Guide


Visiting Hobbiton

Visiting Hobbiton

Leading some LOTR fans at Waitomo Caves

Leading some LOTR fans at Waitomo Caves

Mike Stearne

I am Mike Stearne, a tour guide currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand. I own and operate, offering custom private tours of New Zealand for individuals, couples and small groups. When not hosting clients on Private New Zealand tours, I also offer Private Wellington Day Tours, tailoring each trip to the client’s specific tastes and interests.

A New Zealand native, I grew up in a small town of about 800 people in Southland called Otautau, before moving to Queenstown when I was 19.  Although it’s only 2 hours from where I grew up, Queenstown is a different world, also known as the Adventure Capital of New Zealand. I did a short stint in Australia, living in both Sydney and Melbourne for a while, before returning to New Zealand.

In 1999 I was fortunate to spend a week working as an extra on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I was a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books as a teenager and it was such an exciting opportunity to be involved in this epic trilogy. I played an Uruk-Hai – one of Saruman’s orc soldiers, who fought at the end of the film in a place called Amon Hen. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the catalyst for me starting a career as a tour guide – one who gets to share my love of The Lord of the Rings on a regular basis.

My life as a tour guide began in Queenstown in 2002, where I first worked for Nomad Safaris. There I got to drive Land Rover Defenders through mud, dust and water every day, showing off some of the world’s most beautiful scenery to visitors, including more Lord of the Rings filming locations and historic gold mining settlements. I was bitten by the guiding bug and decided that this is the industry I belong in. Not only do I get to share and show off my beautiful country every day, but I meet amazing people and learn as much as I teach while on the road.

disclaimer: All information given was correct at the time of writing. Some activities and prices change over time, or due to unforeseen circumstances. Please always reconfirm details with the operator/proprietor to avoid any disappointment or nasty surprises.

  • Experienced. I’ve been a tour guide in New Zealand since 2002.

  • Personal. I’m your point of contact from your initial enquiry and I’m your driver/guide once you get here.

  • Exclusive. It’s just you (or your group/client) and me.

Tour Snapshot

Mike and (serious LOTR fan) Sarah
Mike and (serious LOTR fan) Sarah
Sarah was part of a group of 12 passionate LOTR fans I took on a 12 day tour of Middle-earth and Narnia filming locations, to coincide with the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in November 2012.

LOTR Credentials

Ian Brodie, author of the official Hobbit Location Guidebook has very generously recommended me as the preferred guide for bespoke tours of Middle-earth filming locations in New Zealand.

We were introduced over 10 years ago when Ian began working on his bestselling The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook. As we were both huge fans, we had an excellent time as I helped Ian pinpoint and photograph the filming locations around Queenstown. We became (and remain) great friends, and it’s been very exciting to watch Ian rise to the top of his profession as a film set photographer and film location author.


In November 1999, production of The Lord of the Rings trilogy moved to Queenstown. They had advertised a few months earlier for extras, and I was lucky enough to be cast as an Uruk-Hai in the Amon Hen battle scenes at end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I was a huge fan of the books and it was a great experience and honour to be able to say I was involved in the movies, even in this tiniest of ways. I was part of the army that killed Boromir and kidnapped Merry and Pippin.

Six days of shooting bought me about 15 seconds of screen time – where I look exactly like the other hundred Uruk-Hai running around on screen.

I’m an an unashamed LOTR and film geek and fan boy. As well as being an extra in the first film, I travelled to Wellington from Queenstown for the red carpet parade for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King world premiere, was lucky enough to attend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey world premiere, and a special Wellington premiere screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, thanks to Jack from Welly-moot (the New Zealand chapter of the Tolkien Society). I met my amazing wife, Nicole on a half day filming location tour in Queenstown in February 2004, and one of our groomsmen at our wedding was another passionate fan I met on a day tour.