Why didn’t the hobbits just fly to Mordor? Because the eagles didn’t have a frequent flyer programme!
Jokes aside, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering where exactly in Middle-earth Frodo and his companions journeyed, you’re in the right place.
After all, we’re about to embark on a quest of our own and discover the stunning real-world locations where the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. So, buckle up your hobbit-sized boots, and let’s discover where the magic of The Lord of the Rings was brought to life!
Matamata: The Shire
Before filming, Matamata was relatively unknown. Now, this quaint rural town has become synonymous with the idyllic Shire from the Lord of the Rings.
It all started when the film scouts for the Lord of the Rings trilogy stumbled upon the Alexander family’s farm. Its rolling hills and large oak trees made it the perfect setting for Hobbiton, the home of the hobbits.
The production team spent many months building the set, complete with 44 Hobbit Holes, gardens, a double-arch bridge, and the iconic Party Tree. The most prominent Hobbit Hole, Bag End, where Bilbo and Frodo Baggins live, sits overlooking the whole set.
Since filming, the set has been preserved and is now known as the Hobbiton Movie Set. Some of the memorable scenes filmed here include Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party and the touching moment when Gandalf rides his wagon through the Shire while the hobbits run alongside.
Tongariro National Park: Mordor
Venturing away from the tranquility of the Shire, we find ourselves at Tongariro National Park, better known to Lord of the Rings fans as the dreaded Mordor. If you’re brave enough, you can explore the very landscapes that stood as the stronghold of the Dark Lord Sauron.
Tongariro National Park’s desolate volcanic landscape, dominated by the three active volcanoes—Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu—perfectly depicted the sinister and unforgiving land of Mordor.
One of the most iconic scenes filmed here is Frodo and Sam’s treacherous journey to Mount Doom, which is actually Mount Ngauruhoe in real life. The slopes of Mount Ruapehu were also used to represent the rocky terrain of Emyn Muil, where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum travel.
Kaitoke Regional Park: Rivendell
Tucked away in the heart of the city, the Wellington region’s Kaitoke Regional Park was transformed into the enchanting haven of Rivendell. The park’s vast, ancient forest, with its towering trees and verdant undergrowth, provided the perfect backdrop for the home of Elrond and his Elven kin.
Several key scenes were filmed here, including the council meeting where the decision to destroy the Ring is made and the emotional moment when Arwen and Aragorn say their goodbyes.
While the Elven structures have been removed, the magic of Rivendell still lingers in the air. You can walk along the same paths where the elves once trod and enjoy a picnic in one of the meadows.
The park has also installed interpretive panels featuring images from the films and information about the filming process, allowing fans to fully immerse themselves in their Lord of the Rings experience.
Nelson: Chetwood Forest
Nelson is known for its sunny weather, creative arts scene, and stunning natural landscapes. But, for Lord of the Rings fans, it’s also the filming location for Chetwood Forest.
Chetwood Forest’s scenes, though brief, are memorable. The dense, lush forest is where Strider, also known as Aragorn, leads the hobbits after they leave Bree to avoid the pursuing Black Riders.
The filming site is situated in a forest near Nelson. The production team chose this location for its dense vegetation and towering trees, which created the perfect secluded and somewhat eerie atmosphere for Chetwood Forest.
The area’s natural beauty, combined with clever cinematography, brought this part of Middle-earth to life on the big screen. Today, the filming location is not marked, and the forest remains largely untouched, retaining its natural beauty.
Fiordland National Park: Fangorn Forest
Fiordland served as the backdrop for many scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, most notably the mystical Fangorn Forest. Fangorn Forest, home to the Ents, the ancient tree-herders, was brought to life amidst the towering trees and moss-covered grounds of this national park.
It is here that Merry and Pippin encounter Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents, and persuade him to rally his kind against Saruman’s destruction. The forest’s eerie, ancient atmosphere, as portrayed in the movies, perfectly embodies the mystical and somewhat intimidating spirit of Fangorn Forest as described in Tolkien’s books.
Honestly, Fiordland’s natural beauty didn’t need much enhancement to portray the enchanting world of Middle-earth. The production team used its lush vegetation, towering waterfalls, and serene lakes to capture the essence of Fangorn Forest.