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This comprehensive Lord of the Rings tour of NZ hits the film location highlights. Visit these LOTR filming locations:
In addition to film destinations, this Lord of the Rings tour package includes many top New Zealand experiences.
Our self-drive packages include activities, accommodation, and transportation for convenient and stress-free travel.
Read on for the full details of this 21 day Lord of the Rings self-drive tour.
Arrive in Auckland – the “City of Sails” is New Zealand’s largest city and is bordered by two stunning harbours. Collect your rental car from the airport and make your way to your accommodation.
Relax in Auckland. Your options include visiting the Auckland Zoo, or Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World; venturing to one of Auckland’s stunning beaches or West Auckland wineries; or doing a spot of shopping.
Auckland is a shopaholic’s paradise, with everything from top-end designers to open-air street markets. Discover the diverse range of cafés and restaurants offering cuisine from around the globe and check out the buzzing nightlife of the central city. Favourite spots include Wynyard Quarter, the Viaduct Harbour, the Britomart precinct and City Works Depot.
Stay 1 night in Auckland City.
Driving time Auckland to Bay of Islands 219 km / 136 miles, 3 hours
Drive to the Bay of Islands, renowned for its 144 islands and surreal maritime park where you can see an abundance of marine life including whales, penguins and dolphins.
Paihia is the perfect base if you would like to discover the coves and beaches of the Bay of Islands! Paihia is also of historic importance to New Zealand, as this is where the historic Treaty House on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is located, which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. Just west of Paihia is Haruru, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall and a boardwalk.
Stay 2 nights in Paihia, Bay of Islands.
Board your premium cruise ‘Discover the Bay’ and see for yourself the best of what the Bay of Islands has to offer. Journey to the Hole in the Rock and if weather permits, sail through it. See marine wildlife including Dolphins and stop off at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island to have a swim, go for a walk, have a bite to eat and relax. Your Discover the Bay Cruise includes a delicious BBQ lunch.
Relax in the Bay of Islands for the rest of the day. You have the option to experience Maori culture by visiting Waitangi’s treaty house and national marae (meeting house).
Driving time Bay of Islands to Auckland 219 km / 136 miles, 3 hours
Journey back to Auckland and relax in the city for the afternoon. You might like to join the crew and enjoy an America’s Cup sailing trip, a must-do experience where you get a chance to spend 2 hours out on the harbour on an actual America’s Cup yacht!
This evening, if you would like to dine with a spectacular view, you might like to visit the Sky Tower. You are spoilt for choice with three restaurants and cafés up the Sky Tower, including the Orbit 360 degree dining revolving restaurant; The Sugar Club, which is superbly chic and elegant; or the Sky Café, where you can relax with a coffee, cheese board or ice cream. You will have the opportunity to view the city from 328 metres high above street level and take in the beautiful views, up to 80 kilometres in every direction. Spot the key landmarks, including a number of volcanoes and historical locations within the greater Auckland area.
Stay 1 night in Auckland City.
Driving time Auckland to Matamata 148 km / 91 miles, 2 hours
Make your way to Matamata to discover the real Middle-Earth on the most picturesque private farmland. Near Matamata, visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from the Lord of the Rings films in a fascinating two-hour guided tour. The set has been completely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in the films. There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm. You can relax and soak up the unique atmosphere with a great cup of coffee or a light meal in The Shire’s Rest Café.
Driving time Matamata to Hamilton 62 km / 38 miles, 1 hour
After your Hobbiton adventure, journey to Hamilton, New Zealand’s largest inland city, situated on the banks of the Waikato River. As Hamilton is located in the hub of the central North Island, visitors have easy access to iconic attractions such as Raglan’s surf coast and Te Aroha Mineral Pools. For fun, visit the chocolate and candy factory, the Hamilton Gardens, or the weekly markets.
Stay in a Hobbit Hole New Zealand. If staying in a Hobbit Hole, Hobbit Hole House or Hobbit Hotel is on your bucket list, we can arrange this for you. We often get asked whether you can rent a Hobbit Hole in New Zealand! There are two properties in New Zealand that offers this experience, Underhill offer hobbit-style accommodation hand crafted with rustic native timbers and ironwork and caters for couples. Huge timber doors open wide to overlook a picturesque pond and farmland beyond. Woodlyn Park offers a Hobbit Motel offering two motels beamed beneath a hill where sheep and donkey wander for grazing. From the exterior, these units look like a perfect Hobbit Hotel. In total, each motel can sleep up to 6 people making it ideal for families. Ask us to include your very own stay in a Hobbit Hole New Zealand!
Stay 1 night in Hamilton or stay in a Hobbit Hole New Zealand.
Driving time Hamilton to Waitomo Caves 73 km / 45 miles, 1 hour
Venture to the Waitomo Caves, where you will enjoy the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Caves Combo! Deep underground in the heart of the Waikato are a series of unique caves that will take your breath away. At the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, thousands of tiny glowworms cling to the cave ceiling, creating a starry sky within the underground night. Nearby, the Ruakuri Cave is home to an innovative spiral entrance, echoing waterfalls, and limestone that flows into delicate shawl-like formations.
Driving time Waitomo Caves to Rotorua 148 km / 91 miles, 2 hours
Enjoy the scenic journey to Rotorua, distinguished by Maori culture and geothermal activity. This diverse city will put on a display as you encounter geysers, mud pools, steaming craters and 16 beautiful lakes.
Stay 2 nights in Rotorua.
Relax and explore Rotorua today, with the option to take a trip to one of the surrounding towns. One destination you may want to visit is Hamurana—this small township with 900 dwellings is located 15 kms (20 mins drive) northeast of Rotorua, and is renowned for the stunning Hamurana Springs. A stream-side walk runs through a redwood grove with beautiful views of the crystal-clear water that runs into Lake Rotorua.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at Rotorua’s most spectacular location – Skyline Restaurant. Sit back and relax as the views from the gondola unfold on your journey to the Skyline complex. The Skyline Restaurant will then serve you a mouthwatering taste of New Zealand, a buffet of legendary proportions. Tiered seating guarantees stunning views from every table! After dinner, enjoy the scenic ride back down on the gondola.
At the top of the gondola you also have the option to add on a thrilling Luge Ride, enjoy nature walks, and visit the Jelly Belly Shop and Volcanic Hills winery and tasting room.
Driving time Rotorua to Taupo 76 km / 47 miles, 1 hour
Enjoy the short drive south to Taupo, rich in natural beauty and filled with attractions such as the Huka Falls. The Huka Falls is New Zealand’s most visited attraction, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second.
Keeping with the water theme, Taupo is a great lake for trout fishing, boat cruises, water-skiing, sailing and kayaking. The Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be seen from the water, make for a great boat trip or kayaking excursion. The forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking to suit all levels of experience.
Stay 1 night in Taupo.
Driving time Taupo to Wellington 375 km / 233 miles, 4.5 hours
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, has so much to offer. Set on the edge of a stunning harbour, surrounded by rolling hills, it’s a city rich in culture waiting to be explored. From shopping and picturesque walks to concerts, live theatre, exhibitions, festivals, Te Papa Tongarewa: the Museum of New Zealand, and more – Wellington has something for everyone.
Wellington’s top attractions include Te Papa, Weta Workshop, Wellington Cable Car, Mt Victoria Lookout and Wellington Zoo.
Stay 2 nights in Wellington.
Today, join a Full Day Lord of the Rings Tour! Follow in the footsteps of Hobbits, Dwarfs, Elves and Men. You will cover a lot of ground on the tour, but there is enough time to explore, recreate scenes for yourself, and work out how the movies were made.
The morning is spent exploring the city locations; you will spend 40 minutes walking through the Outer Shire. This location includes the famous ‘Get off the road’ scene, the ‘shortcut to mushrooms,’ the Black Rider scenes and many more. Then it’s off to the Weta Studios for an inside look at the Wellington film industry. Your visit to Weta will include the ‘Window into Workshop’ exhibition, which is a guided tour of the inner working of the Weta Studios. After the morning’s excitement, it’s time for an Orc-sized lunch. You will head out to Scorch-O-Rama café for
Sailing time Wellington to Picton 70 km / 43 miles, 3
It’s all about the journey today as you board the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry, which will transport you on a scenic cruise to Picton. Back on dry land, drive through Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region, to reach your destination.
The Abel Tasman is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, rich unmodified estuaries, long sunshine hours, and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Stay 2 nights in Abel Tasman.
Today, enjoy a boat cruise into Abel Tasman National Park, where you can relax on the hot golden sand or enjoy a day walk. Take in the natural beauty and enjoy!
Relax in style with the best view of the Abel Tasman National Park from comfortable seats around tables on upper and lower decks with an Abel Tasman cruise. Featuring a café and bar on board. Let the friendly hosts introduce you to the stories of the landscape.
Driving time Abel Tasman to Hokitika 377 km / 243 miles, 5 hours
Discover the rugged West Coast as you travel to Hokitika, famous for its arts and crafts. Watch a masterpiece being crafted from gold, silver, molten glass, bone, silk or greywacke or carve your own creation from wood or jade (pounamu). Take in Hokitika’s natural beauty, enjoy its expansive beach, or venture down one of the many walking and mountain biking tracks.
While in Hokitika, you may wish to make the scenic drive to Hokitika Gorge, where an impressive turquoise river flows through a narrow canyon, or Lake Kaniere, a beautiful lake nestled beneath the mountains.
You could also visit the National Kiwi Centre, where you will be able to see a rare kiwi; view New Zealand’s living dinosaur, the Tuatara; and participate in feeding the giant eels. Or make a drive north to Shantytown, where you can explore the heritage village, ride the steam train, try your hand at panning for gold, and take old-time styled photos.
Stay 1 night in Hokitika.
Driving time Hokitika to Franz Josef 136 km / 85 miles, 2.5 hours
Continue south through dense rainforest towards New Zealand’s most famous glaciers.
While in Franz Josef you may wish to soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, nestled in lush rainforest in a haven of natural tranquility. You can walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier to take a look at the ice, or enjoy one of the local walks. In Franz Josef township you have the chance to see New Zealand’s rarest kiwi at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, a unique and interactive experience that brings together nature, conservation, and wildlife all under one roof.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Wanaka 285 km / 177 miles, 4 hours
Continue down the West Coast. Discover the Haast Pass Highway, where there are many short walks and natural attractions to view along the way before your arrival into Wanaka, an alpine town boasting panoramic views and a relaxing atmosphere.
Wanaka has the buzz of a genuine alpine town and is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures, and with Mount Aspiring National Park located close by it’s the perfect destination for exploring the Southern Alps.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Relax and explore Wanaka today. You may want to visit Puzzling World, Wanaka’s illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include strolling along one of Wanaka’s stunning walking tracks, relaxing on the lake’s edge or browsing through Wanaka’s boutique shops.
You could also visit Rippon Vineyard and Tasting Room to sample local wines, or catch a film at Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka’s quirky local theatre.
Driving time Wanaka to Te Anau 230 km / 143 miles, 3 hours
Travel to Te Anau this morning. Nestled on the edge of a lake, the picturesque township of Te Anau is the main visitor base for the glacier-carved wilderness that is Fiordland National Park.
In the afternoon, experience a spectacular Lord of the Rings Helicopter Flight over Fiordland. Whether you are an ardent Lord of the Rings fan or not, this flight will give you a taste of the magnificent Fiordland scenery, and your pilot will point out the points of interest along the way. If you have seen the movies you will probably recognise many locations. Flight includes a mountain landing.
Stay 2 nights in Te Anau.
Driving time Te Anau to Milford Sound 116 km / 72 miles, 2.5 hours
Today, enjoy the stunning Milford Sound Nature Cruise! The Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest, and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand’s alpine zone.
Upon reaching Milford Sound, you will enjoy a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. With specialist nature guides on board, Real Journeys Nature Cruises offer a close-up experience of Milford Sound’s rainforest, soaring rock walls, and wildlife. Throughout the cruise, the guides share stories of the fiord’s history and are happy to answer your questions.
Relax and explore Te Anau for the afternoon.
Driving time Te Anau to Queenstown 171 km / 106 miles, 2.5 hours
Continue on to Queenstown, New Zealand’s stunning alpine resort and adventure capital.
Relax and explore Queenstown, with the option to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park, the Underwater Observatory, or the Ivan Clarke Gallery; ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin; or simply enjoy a lakefront stroll or a bit of boutique shopping.
You also have the option to add on a famous Lord of the Rings Helicopter Flight!
Enjoy a meal this evening at one of the many prestigious restaurants that Queenstown has to offer.
Stay 3 nights in Queenstown.
Today, join Nomad Safaris for their Safari of The Scenes – Wakatipu Basin. Explore the magical side of New Zealand and understand why this beautiful country was chosen to portray Middle-Earth. The Queenstown area featured prominently in the filming of the Lord of the Rings films, and the Safari of the Scenes – Wakatipu combines a true 4WD tour with film locations from the LOTR trilogy.
The Wakatipu Basin tour takes you to The Remarkables, which were used as various mountains throughout the trilogy including the Misty Mountains. Travelling partway up this beautiful mountain range, you get a bird’s-eye view onto the former Deer Park Heights, which was used for two scenes—the Refugees of Rohan and the Battle of the Wargs. Travelling from The Remarkables, you then head to the Kawarau Gorge, where the filming took place for the Argonath, or Pillars of the Kings.
Leaving the Kawarau Gorge, the trip heads to Arrowtown, where the loss of the One Ring at Gladden Fields was filmed. Near Arrowtown you will experience some true off-road adventures. Following a historic gold mining road up the Arrow River, you will cross the river to get to the Ford of Bruinen. At this point you can indulge in morning tea and try your hand at a spot of gold panning. From Arrowtown you will travel to the entrance of Skippers Canyon, where you will be offered spectacular panoramic views of the Wakatipu Basin and over Skippers Canyon.
Today, enjoy the Dart River Jet Wilderness Safari! Your Wilderness Safari is an exhilarating and spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, with the only jet boat operator allowed on the Dart River. The sheer diversity of what’s on offer means you experience a unique combination of breathtaking scenery matched with exciting jet boating on braided, glacier-fed rivers. Highly informative guides add the personal touch, talking about the area’s history, the Greenstone trail and Maori legends. Walk amongst ancient beech forest unchanged for 80 million years and view the scenic backgrounds for many Middle-Earth movie scenes, including Isengard and Lothlorien.
Enjoy your last evening in Queenstown and raise a glass to a fantastic New Zealand holiday!
Drop your rental car off at Queenstown Airport and depart Queenstown.
We offer numerous resources to help plan your Lord of the Rings self-drive holiday. As you begin researching, you may wish to read the following:
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser to begin planning your Middle Earth holiday today.
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