We don’t know about you, but Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” was an epic standout of our growing-up years. We still remember waiting in endless lines, chomping at the bit to get tickets to the very first showing of each installment in the three-part series. Jackson’s film-making — and the incredible talent featured in the movie — never let us down.
So what better way to keep the LOTR excitement going than experiencing a tour of the film’s diverse setting among the hills, mountains, and rivers of New Zealand? Yep; we’re going to give you a look at the best New Zealand Lord of the Rings tours out there — in the hopes that you make time to wander the sets, scenes, and breathtaking vistas captured in the film. Oh, and be sure to grab a pint of halfling ale while you’re at it.
Here are our favorite LOTR sites and tours in New Zealand:
Live like a capricious, trouble-making Hobbit for a day and wander the narrow paths of Hobbiton. You’ll get to see the home of Bilbo and Frodo in Bag End, take in a slog at The Green Dragon Inn, gobble up an evening banquet in Hobbit surroundings, and listen to tales of how Hobbiton was born. In between, snap photos of you living your best Hobbit life, spot Hobbiton’s famous landmarks (the Party Tree always makes us smile), and soak in the natural beauty of this peaceful spot in Middle Earth — er, New Zealand. Tours depart from Matamata and last between two and three hours, depending on meal inclusions. Cost is $84-120 NZD ($54-77 USD); check the website for full details and times.
Care to slick along the rocks that served as the home of slinking-slithery Gollum? Repel down into the depth of the Waitomo Caves, where you will walk, wade, and swim through the cavernous “Lost World.” Peter Jackson actually used sound recordings from these caves in “The Lord of the Rings,” and we like to imagine the same sounds cooed Smeagol to sleep. Be warned, however: repelling, climbing, and swimming requires a moderate level of fitness. You’ll also be burning plenty of calories, so be sure to eat the lunch that’s provided. Full-day and half-day epics are available, with prices ranging from $380 to $545 NZD ($245-380 USD).
Want to devote even more of your trip to LOTR? Take this two-week adventure across all of New Zealand, giving you access to Hobbiton, various scenes within Mordor, Edoras, Pelennor Fields, and more. Plus, you’ll get to visit Weta Workshop, where many of the set and prop pieces were designed, all while enjoying fabulous feasts and good drink. This tour will take you to some of the most scenic sites in all of New Zealand, give you a chance to do some bungee jumping, and allow you to meet the artists and creative minds behind Jackon’s trilogy. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $7,500 NZD ($4,720 USD) per person, but includes multiple meals, hotel accommodations, and more than half a dozen tours and activities.
For nature aficionados (and lovers of LOTR), this is a dynamite one-day tour that highlights sites of major import in the movies. You’ll visit the 12 Mile Delta and Paradise Valley, among other locations, which served as the setting for the Elvish Lothlorien and the Orcish Isengard. You’ll be treated to a restaurant meal midday atop Mount Earnslaw, giving you a chance to reflect on the balance of good and evil in Middle Earth. This is one of the more affordable options at $299 NZD ($192 USD), and offers up many prime opportunities for photography.
5: Edoras Tour
In the lore of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Edoras served as the capital of Rohan and the home of King Theoden. New Zealand supplied its own Mount Potts and Mount Sunday as the staging ground for this region of the horse-riders, surrounded by unending arid plains — the same ones traversed by Gandalf on his way to save Theoden from the evil sorcery of Grima Wormtongue. Soak in the sprawling vistas and enjoy a few replicas that you can take home with you, including a flag of Rohan and a map of Middle Earth. Bonus: There’s a Champagne lunch included with the tour. Tickets are $299 NZD ($192 USD), and are the perfect treat for those who aim to capture some phenomenal photos.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty more “Lord of the Rings” tours in New Zealand. To get a full taste, visit newzealand.com.
And if you want more adventure in beautiful New Zealand, we suggest some bungee jumping. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.