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South Island Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Tours

Tours of Lord of the Rings & Hobbit Film Locations in the South Island

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The South Island was the ideal place for many of the scenes of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Filming of all three movies took place between October 1999 and December 2000. They were released in 2001 (The Fellowship of the Ring), 2002 (The Two Towers) and 2003 (The Return of the Ring). It was one of the largest film projects ever undertaken.

The Hobbit, the first in a new trilogy on the same theme, was released in December 2012.

The best way to appreciate the beauty of the locations where the filming took place is on a guided tour. Here are some of the best in the South Island.

1. Nelson

LOTR Scenes: Dimrill Dale, Erigion Hills

Details: Dimrill Dale and Erigion Hills are located in the Kahurangi National Park and are only accessible by helicopter. Chetwood Forest is at Takaka Hill on the edge of the National Park and can be reached by road.

Recommended Tour:

  • Nelson Helicopter Tour: A flight to one or both of Dimrill Dale and Erigion Hills, for a maximum of two hours.

2. Canterbury

Filming at Flock Hill
Image Courtesy of New Zealand Tourism/Ian Brodie

LOTR Scenes: Edoras, Meduseld, Plains of Rohan

Details: Situated about 2.5 hours' drive from Christchurch, the sets constructed here were some of the most elaborate of the entire project. The setting makes the most of two of the South Island's most contrasting features, the vast and flat Canterbury Plains and the majestic mountains of the Southern Alps.

Recommended Tour:

  • Christchurch to Edoras Tour: A four-wheel-drive adventure to Edoras from Christchurch. The tour is a full day and includes lunch.

3. Twizel

LOTR Scenes: Pelennor Field, Plains of Rohan

Details: This is close to the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and New Zealand's highest mountain. It is the setting for the opening scenes of "The Two Towers." Although on private land, the locations are accessible by guided tour.

Recommended Tour:

  • Lord of the Rings Tour Twizel: With a maximum of only nine people per trip, these tours are of one or two hours in length.

4. Queenstown and Wanaka

Deep Park Heights, Scene of the attack of the Wargs
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

LOTR Scenes: Dimrill Dale, Golden Plain, Lothlorien, Pillars of the Argonath, River Anduin, Rohan and many others

Details: One of the most picturesque areas in New Zealand, this was an obvious choice for many Lord of the Rings locations. It is little wonder that this was one of the favorite areas for the cast and crew.

Recommended Tours:

  • Nomad Safaris Queenstown Tours: These are small, personalised tours that will show you the variety and beauty of the Lord of the Rings locations in the area. Both full and half day, conducted in four-wheel-drive vehicles.
  • Helicopter Tours: The ultimate Lord of the Rings tours, with the very company used for aerial filming in the movies themselves.

5. Fiordland: Milford Sound and Te Anau

The mists of Milford Sound
Image Courtesy of New Zealand Tourism/Tourism Holdings

LOTR Scenes: The Dead Marshes, Fangorn Forest, Nen Hithoel, River Anduin, Silverlode River and others.

Details: This was another rich area for Lord of the Rings scenes. The ancient beech forests of the Fiordland National Park near Milford Sound was the perfect setting for Fangorn Forest. Lake Te Anau is one of the South Island's largest lakes and provided scenes for Nen Hithoel, Silverlode River and Fangorn Forest. Due to the remoteness of the region, the only way to see Lord of the Rings locations here is by helicopter.

Recommended Tours:

  • Helicopter Flight from Queenstown: This is a 1.5 hour flight departing from Queenstown and landing in Milford Sound.

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