The Lord of the Rings (LotR) and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed all across New Zealand. From snow-swept mountains to forest vistas, the places they used as backdrops are absolutely stunning to see in person. No self respecting fan would consider a trip to New Zealand complete without stopping by at least a few of these filming sites. To help, we’ve picked 7 of our favorite LotR and The Hobbit destinations that’ll seamlessly fit into any South Island Itinerary.
In Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Lake Pukaki is a stunning body of water inside the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. With crystal blue hues and the Southern Alps mountain range in the background, you’ll quickly fall in love. It’s easy to see why they chose it for the home of Laketown.
- Name in RL: Lake Pukaki
- Movie it was Featured: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Address: 4587 Tekapo-Twizel Road, Pukaki 7999
The southern shore of Lake Pukaki is located along the Tekapo-Twizel Road (aka State Highway 8). You’ll find a notable rest stop along the highway where you can pull in and wander the banks.
The Lonely Mountain
The Southern Alps of New Zealand, and Mount Cook in particular, was featured as The Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit.
Pro Tip: Thanks to it’s proximity to Lake Pukaki, you can easily visit both locations in the same day trip.
- Name in RL: Mount Cook
- Movie it was Featured: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Address: Hooker Valley Track, Mount Cook National Park 7999
The easiest way to see Mount Cook is by hiking the Hooker Valley Trail. Located inside Mount Cook National Park, you’ll hug the coast of Lake Pukaki on the drive in, receiving great views of the water and Mount Cook along the way.
Once you’ve hit the trail, it’s about an hour’s hike up the glacial valley. Enjoy the scenery and bask in the views of Mount Cook in the distance. It’s the tallest mountain in New Zealand, rising 3,742 meters (12,277 feet) high!
Located outside Twizel, the Mackenzie Basin grasslands were used as Gondor in The LotR trilogy. Many of the horse riding scenes were filmed with this dramatic backdrop, including The Battle of Pelennor Fields, which is the largest battle scene in the films. From what we’ve read, it took quite a lot of coordination to pull off the shot with all those horses and actors involved!
- Name in RL: Twizel
- Movie it was Featured: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
- Address: Mackenzie Basin, Mackenzie District, Canterbury Region 7999
This is literally a filming location you can drive through! Imagine your vehicle is a steed as you race down State Highway 8. Just don’t forget to pull over along the road to snap a few pictures before heading on.
Ithilien Camp and Lookout
Remember the scene where Sam and Frodo witness a skirmish between Faramir’s Rangers of Gondor and the Oliphaunts Army of Harad? Well this was filmed at Twelve Mile Delta, a local campground just outside of Queenstown. It’s a short drive away from downtown and perfect for a weekend or day trip.
- Name in RL: Twelve Mile Delta
- Movie it was Featured: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- Address: 12 Mile Delta Camp, Mount Creighton 9371
From Queenstown take the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road. After about 10 km (6.21 miles) turn left into Twelve Mile Delta Campsite.
After parking your car, go for a walk along Bob’s Cove Track. You’ll find the Ithilien Camp shortly after the entrance to the track. From there you’ll pass over a bridge and begin to climb a small ridge. Here you’ll encounter the Ithilien Lookout, where Sam and Frodo were hiding.
Lothlorien, Rohan and The Misty Mountains
Although Queenstown Hill isn’t specifically featured in the movies, it does provide a budget-friendly way of seeing multiple LotR and Hobbit filming locations in one go.
- Name in RL: Queenstown Hill Time Walk
- Movies it was Featured: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- Address: 9300/58 Belfast Terrace, Queenstown 9300
First up is Peninsula Hill. It was featured many times in The LotR, most often to depict Rohan. Scenes you may remember include the escape from Edoras at Helm’s Deep, the encampment scene where Eowyn discovers that Aragorn is the last survivor of Dunedain, and part of Galdolf’s epic ride through Gondor.
Next to Peninsula Hill lies The Remarkables mountain range. It’s name comes from being one of only two mountain ranges in the world that run directly north to south. In LotR and The Hobbit, they portrayed the Misty Mountains.
Lastly, the hike up Queenstown Hill will provide views of Lake Wakatipu. With gorgeous waters and steep mountains to keep the place safe, this location was chosen as the set for Lothlorien.
Entering Queenstown on State Highway 6A, you’ll want to turn right onto Hensman road. After about 900 m (2,952 feet), you’ll continue onto Edinburgh Drive. Soon after, you’ll turn right onto Belfast Terrace; follow this road until you reach the carpark for the Queenstown Hill Walking Track.
Pro Tip: The parking area is very small, with only a few spots available. Unless you’re lucky enough to snag one, park on the side of the road and walk back to the trailhead. Just make sure to follow any road signs that are posted.
Near Milford Sound
Fangorn Forest is located inside Fiordland National Park. Home of the Ents, it’s described as dense, lush and old. That’s what makes Fiordland National Park such a great choice for the film! UNESCO has claimed this place “an area of magnificent primeval vistas” with only “traces of human influence”. I seriously wouldn’t have been surprised to see a tree guardian walking about.
- Name in RL: Snowdon Forest
- Movie it was Featured: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- Address: Fiordland National Park, Te Anau 9679
From Te Anau take State Highway 94. Turn on Kakapo Road, then Takaroa Road.
Pro Tip: Guided tours to Milford Sound will not make a stop at this location. It’s best seen on a self-drive to the park.
Along the West Coast Drive
Beacons of Gondor
Mount Gunn is where they shot the sequence of the beacons being lit between Gondor and Rohan. Besides taking a scenic flight over the mountains, the best budget-friendly way to get views of the mountain range is by walking the Franz Joseph Glacier Access Track. It provides close up shots of the Franz Joseph Glacier with the mountains in the background. The hike is easy, taking about 90 minutes round trip.
- Name in RL: Mount Gunn
- Movie it was Featured: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- Address: Unnamed Road, Westland National Park 7886
Mount Gunn is located off State Highway 6 (also known as the West Coast Drive). Before crossing the bridge into Franz Joseph Village, turn right onto the Franz Joseph Glacier Access Road. Continue until you reach a car park at the back. From here you can access the Franz Joseph Glacier Access Track.