With the upcoming release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand will once again be showcased on the big screen. And for those inspired to take a trip to the country that brought Middle-earth to life, there are plenty of tourism activities in New Zealand related to the trilogy to thrill “Hobbit” fans and non-fans alike.
In the Marlborough region — located on New Zealand’s South Island, an area known for its fabulous sauvignon blanc — visitors can take an awe-inspiring trip down the Pelorus River to the spot where the “dwarves in the barrels” scene from the second movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, was set. Pelorus Eco Adventures offers three-hour guided tours in tandem kayaks. Explore the crystal clear river, stop at beautiful waterfalls, and check out one of the film locations up close and personal.
In Wellington, the country’s capital, fans can check out the Weta Cave, which screens a behind-the-scenes look at Weta Digital, the special effects firm behind much of the dazzle in current, popular flicks, and includes an interview with co-founder Peter Jackson. Also a mini-museum, the Cave features props and displays from Lord of the Rings films and a unique gift shop. While in Wellington, known as “Wellywood” because of its flourishing film industry, visitors can experience the ultimate Middle-earth full-day tour with Wellington Rover Tours – following in the footsteps of Hobbits and learning behind-the-scenes secrets.
On the North Island, in the small town of Piopio, visitors can experience Hairy Feet Waitomo, one of the newest movie-based adventures in New Zealand. This company provides personally guided visits around the sites screened in the first movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Walk through the very place where the troll campfire scenes were filmed and the spot where Gandalf bestowed the small sword to Bilbo. A recent addition to Hairy Feet Waitomo, and a spectacular Middle-earth experience, is a 90-minute guided tour around the towering Mangaotaki Rocks on the private farm Sir Peter Jackson used to depict Trollshaw’s Forest in the first movie.
Just north of Piopio, in the mysterious Waitomo Caves cluster, Ruakuri Cave provided the sound for the goblin cave scenes in An Unexpected Journey.
Northeast from there, near the town of Matamata, is the incredible Hobbiton Movie Set, or “The Shire.” Meander among charming, specially crafted Hobbit Holes, have a drink at The Green Dragon Pub, and spend time in the lush, beautiful New Zealand countryside. Spending time at Hobbiton feels like you have stepped right into Frodo and Bilbo’s world; it is a must-do for fans of the films.
New Zealand is a compact country and a multifaceted destination in its own right. For the best experience, allocate two to three nights per region. With a population of only four million people, it’s also gloriously uncrowded.
New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine. The summer months of December and January are in the peak season.
If you are there near December 25, look for the Kiwi Christmas tree – the pohutukawa – in full bloom.
If you are lucky enough to be in New Zealand for New Year’s Eve, it is one of the first places in the world to celebrate it.
Getting there — Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.ca) has direct non-stop flights from Vancouver to Auckland and offers flights from many other North American cities. For more information about New Zealand, please visit: www.NewZealand.com.
Pelorus Eco Adventures – www.kayak-newzealand.com
Weta Cave – www.wetanz.com/cave
Wellington Rover Tours – www.wellingtonrover.co.nz
Hairy Feet Waitomo – www.hairyfeetwaitomo.co.nz
Ruakuri Cave – www.waitomo.com/ruakuri-cave.aspx
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours – www.hobbitontours.com