Elves, dwarves, wizards – all this comes to my mind when I think of the wonderful Hobbit trilogy! On December 1st the third and final movie of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” finally went to the cinemas. This however also means that the end of our journey through Middle Earth, which started 15 years ago with the production of “The Lord of the Rings,” has now come. The first two parts of “The Hobbit” were shot in the years 2012 and 2013, the third one last year’s summer. Those of you who are interested in a glimpse behind the scenes and the famous sets of the trilogy will enjoy this article very much. What about the rest of you? Well New Zealand itself will convince you! Have fun! :)
Hobbiton is already a popular tourist attraction
Like the famous “Lord of the Rings” films, shooting the Hobbit trilogy took also place in the insular state of New Zealand. This way all the settings in the Shire, like the Hobbit holes, the stone bridge and even “The Green Dragon Inn” had to be built anew. Settings from the Hobbit films can be found all over the islands – the north as well as the south island. One of the most frequented sites which is growing even more popular with tourists and is definitely one of the most famous attractions in New Zealand is Hobbiton. The town in the western area of the Shire, near the provincial town of Matamata, south from Auckland, is located on the territory of a former sheep farm.
When the shooting of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy ended, all of the set was taken down. By this time the first tourists came, to see what is left of the beautiful village. In the end it was rebuilt in 2011, this time with bricks and solid material. Thus, when the shootings for “The Hobbit” began, the plan was not to remove the village after the production, but keep the settings for the tourists to visit.
Here you can see the approximately 5 hectares of Hobbit holes and treat yourself to a Hobbit beer in the “Green Dragon Inn”. However, you cannot pass through the doors of the holes because the houses are fake. All the scenes from the inside of the holes were actually filmed in the studio. Outside in the “real world” you even find a number of gardeners who take care of the “village” – so that Hobbiton always looks the way you know it from the films! This magical place is definitely worth a visit for all the Hobbit fans out there, if not even a must. By now it is even so popular that not only passionate fans set out to come here but also tourists who know neither films nor books :)
Here you can see just how spectacular Middle Earth really looks like
Tongariro National Park – at lonely mountain Erebor
Tongariro National Park, in the centre of the North Island, has already been a very important location for the “Lord of the Rings” films. And also in the Hobbit trilogy, the very impressive National Park with its three volcanoes was used again as a setting. This way the area around the volcano Ruapehu is presented as Mordor and the lonely mountain Erebor. Visitors can come and explore the hills either with a ski trip in the Winter or with a hiking trip. Tongariro National Park is the oldest one in New Zealand and by now it belongs to the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Beorn’s House and the beginning of the journey in Rivendell
Next to Hobitton and Tongariro National Park there are of course many other places that were predestined for the Hobbit trilogy. If you are interested in visiting those, Queenstown is one of the must-sees. The Southern Lakes Region in New Zealand with its majestic snowy hills and deep valleys as well as the gigantic waterfalls, is seen as the embodiment of Middle Earth. This is why a huge part of the scenes were shot here. For example, a farm in the highlands in the area of Paradise near Queenstown has been re-built into Beorn’s House. This place also serves as setting to numerous fighting scenes in most of the films. Earnslaw Burn with its many waterfalls is also a popular place, located north of Queenstown and one of the most magical shooting places. It is here where Bilbo and his companions were filmed on their way from Rivendell. To explore this special set you can join a 4 hours hike which presents you a breathtaking view over the whole valley.
Chetwood and Azanulbizar on the South Island
Next stop is Piopio, a small town in Waitomo district in the west of the north island. Rising cliffs, unique rock formations as well as the prehistoric forest of Mangaotaki Rocks look like they were actually made for the trilogy. This is where the famous Trollshaws Forest and the Staddles Farm are located. Here, many scenes from the first part of the trilogy were shot.
Another film set is located at the north point of the south island around Nelson, probably one of the sunniest places in New Zealand. This area represents Chetwood as well as Azanulbizar in Moria, besides others. This is the area where Bilbo and the dwarves are escaping the elves and float along the Pelorus River in wine barrels. The region around Nelson is a good starting point especially for hiking trips. Additionally, it can be explored in a horseback-riding trip. Most of the sets, however, are located on private grounds and can thus not be entered. But a special highlight is the view on the famous Golden Bay.
Lake-town Esgaroth: Lake Pukaki at Aoraki Mount Cook
Pukaki, a lake on the South Island of New Zealand, was used as setting for lake-town Esgaroth. It has a very intensive blue colour, thanks to the glaciers which run into the lake. Especially the mixture of landscape of highlands, lake and grassy fields is perfectly suited for a fantasy epos. Not only is this area a famous shooting place. With New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook, it is also a popular skiing area in winter. Additionally, the place draws a huge number of cyclists, hikers and tourists looking for romantic sights like the stars at night every year. Of course there is a huge offer on guided tours to bring interested tourists close to the most important shooting places in the region. Another highlight can be an exclusive helicopter flight around the area in which you can experience the mountains, lakes and glaciers from one of the most beautiful perspectives.
Hobbit movies: Positive impacts on New Zealand’s tourism
Especially for tourism in New Zealand, the trilogies by Peter Jackson have been a great success. Since the beginning of the journey through Middle Earth in 2001 with the first screening of “The Lord of the Rings” and the following Hobbit trilogy, this wonderful insular state draws huge numbers of tourists to the most famous screening places every year. For many people it is the only reason to spend their holidays here. There are, however, also those who just happen to pass by on their way and are not even Tolkien fans. The most popular and most frequented tourist spot is definitely Hobbiton, a former farmland near the town of Matamata on the north island. By now, the town is one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand, which should definitely have some impacts on the country’s tourism.
Even Air New Zealand, one of the country’s airline companies, is celebrating the Hobbit movies with their own security videos, and they’re definitely worth a look! But go ahead and see for yourself what effort the company put in the project. Without a doubt, it is the ‘most epic safety video ever made’.
As you can see, the various sets can be visited and experienced in many different ways. By now, the insular state of New Zealand is offering multiple film tours and location trips to provide all of the fans with an unforgettable experience. Whether you join in a hiking trip, a kayak ride or in a special flight around the area – these places are a must-see for every Tolkien fan! Let yourself be enchanted by these magical film sets and experience a breathtaking journey through Middle Earth. I can definitely recommend it! ;)