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Lord of the Rings


LORD of the RINGS
& the HOBBIT MOVIES

Many people only dream of walking on Middle-earth, now is your chance to experience Tolkien's imaginary world for yourself. New Zealand's awe-inspiring scenery encapsulates all the geographic features - the dramatic and diverse scenery was a compelling element in Peter Jackson successfully pitching his homeland as the location for the epic.

For many of you the idea of visiting this country was probably first planted by the Lord of the Rings trilogy and for a few of you the whole trip may be a pilgrimage. Whatever your level of obsession, whether you are a mere semi-fan or a full on fanatic, this itinerary was designed for you. It takes you along the length of New Zealand, visiting en route the scenically awesome locations chosen for the TRILOGY and HOBBIT movies.

Let me know if you would like a unique itinerary drafted to suit other individual interests - I will gladly assist you in planning that perfect vacation. For more details and maps we recommend you obtain a copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings location guide book’ by Ian Brodie.

  
 
 Self-Drive Holiday

Duration : 17 nights/18days
Activities include : Rafting the Arduin, walking in Mordor and Rivendell, visiting Edoras and Lothlorien.
Notes : North and South Island sample itinerary. See below for 24 day samples.


"New Zealand is such a primitive land it can take you back to a primitive time in history. It is so breathtakingly beautiful that you believe that even in the twilight of doom there might still be humour, honour, courage and compassion" - John Rhys-Davies, dwarf Gimli.

"New Zealand IS Middle-Earth. It has every geological formation and geographical landscape you can imagine....and some you can't" - Elijah Wood, Frodo Baggins.

"Tolkien's world was one of deep hidden valleys, barren wastelands, remote mystical mountains and lush, low valleys, and we found all these places throughout New Zealand" - Peter Jackson - Foreword in the Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, by Ian Brodie.

Please note that most Lord of the Rings set locations have long gone. In the few cases where they remain - access is often limited. You can, however, visit the stunning natural features that served as a backdrop for filming. Your imagination will come alive as you explore moss-shrouded forest glades surrounded by the peaks of the snowcapped Southern Alps - or fly above them with the same people that flew the film crews over the Misty Mountains. You may dare to go whitewater rafting between the Pillars of Argonath and unwind that evening in the same hotel as the stars stayed at, swapping tales with an onetime Orc extra or Rider of Rohan.


The highlights :-
·Stand beneath the Party Tree in Hobbiton.
·Clamber over volcanic rocks in Mordor.
·Visit the stunning site of Edoras.                                                                                    
·Raft or swim on the River Anduin.
·Visit the Pelennor battlefield.
·Soak up the atmosphere of Lothlorien.

   

Day 1 Arrive in Auckland


All travellers using Amazing New Zealand services are personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative. You will receive at the airport a comprehensive Deluxe Travel Pack. The pack contains the prepaid service vouchers, maps, discount vouchers and brochures to local attractions, plus a detailed daily explanation of driving routes, including suggested stops en route.

The representative will then take you to your accommodation in Auckland, stopping en route on the extinct volcano Mount Eden to point out the city's many geographical features and attractions. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, straddling two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. We recommend at least one day here to recover from your jet-lag.

Suggested activities :-
  • The Waterfront has many of Auckland’s attractions and is bustling with restaurants and cafés.
  • Wander up to the Sky Tower - Admire the view, climb the mast, bungee jump from the tower or just have dinner in the revolving restaurant.
  • Or, hire a bike from the Bike Central on Britomart Place (2 streets east of Queen Street) and peddle their along the waterfront bicycle path.
  • Enjoy a beer in Vulcan Lane or stroll through Cornwall Park
  • Kelly Tarlton invented the original Underwater World, where one walks through fiberglass tunnels to view the fish from below. The Antarctic and Penguin Encounters help make this a world attraction.
  •  
    Utilize the Hop on - Hop off Explorer Bus which stops at all of Auckland’s attractions including Victoria Park Market, Parnell, Kelly Tarlton’s, Auckland Museum, America’s Cup Village, Sky Tower...
     
  • The extremely informative Maritime Museum - begin with the Maori migration across the seas, step back in time on board a European immigrant's ship, then appreciate New Zealand's proud yachting history including the Whitbread Round the World race and of course the America's Cup. After all, Auckland is known as the City of Sails.
Day 2 Auckland

Aucklanders are the world leaders when it comes to owning the most recreational boats per capita, so it is only logical that today’s suggestions centre around the water. Your hire car can either be delivered today or tomorrow, depending on the activities you choose. It is also possible to have your very own Amazing New Zealand chauffeur to guide you to our favourite spots.

Suggested activities :-
  •  
    Auckland’s wild west coast is, well, wild. Lush bush, deserted beaches, countless waterfalls and a local guide await you only half an hour from downtown. The film set for The Piano was beautiful Karekare Beach.
  • Waiheke Island is only a 35 minute ferry ride away. The island is full of beaches, cafés and wineries just waiting to be discovered. On your return the ferry can drop you at the Devonport wharf, from here you can wander to the top of the (extinct) volcano before dining on the waterfront.
  • Alternatively you can ferry to the wildlife refuge of Tiri Tiri Matangi Island which is so full of native birds the sights and sounds will amaze you.
  • Or how about kayaking or ferrying to our youngest and most distinctive volcano Rangitoto Island. Wander up the track for mind blowing views, or the Rangitoto Explorer will pull you to the summit on a tractor-trailer.
  • The Gannet colony at Muriwai beach is a must see between the months of October and April when the fluffy, demanding, cute, white chicks and their expert flying parents can keep you mesmerized for hours.
  • You can sail, fish or try to spot dolphins on the Waitemata Harbour. New Zealand first won the coveted America’s Cup in 1995, so sailing in one of these specialist yachts is a once in a lifetime experience.
Day 3 Auckland - Rotorua 255kms

Follow SH1 south over the Bombay Hills. Change onto SH2 at 53 kilometres, direction Coromandel Peninsula and change again at 90 kilometres onto SH27, direction Rotorua.

164kms –In Matamata continue straight at the roundabout and then when SH27 takes a sharp left to go over the railway tracks, you should continue straight and stay on Firth Street. Drive 10 kilometres and turn right onto Puketutu Road (just before the SH29 intersection) and follow the signs to Hobbiton on Bucklands Road.

180kms – Lunch at the Shire’s Rest is highly recommended with the stunning views across the farmland to the Kaimai Ranges in the distance. The Alexander family has lived on the 1250 acre (approx 500 hectares) property since 1978. The land supports a thriving sheep and beef cattle business. The Alexander farm runs 300 beef cattle and more than 13,000 of New Zealand’s famous sheep on the lush, rolling hills.

You could take the Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tour while you are here. You will be taken on a farm tour where you can visit the remnants of the original Hobbiton village set from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour.

Return along Bucklands and Puketutu Roads and at the end turn right then immediately left onto SH29. Drive east for 4 kilometres then turn right onto SH27 to Tirau.

200kms – Tirau - hard to miss with the giant corrugated iron sheepdog housing the tourist office and a giant sheep next door which houses the Big Sheep Wool Gallery. Other tourist shops worth at least a peek at are the Funky Gift Shop which has some, well, funky souvenirs, the Jade Factory next door specializes in Maori Koru necklaces. For something really unique try the Natures Touch Gallery. The town has a bit of a love affair with corrugated iron, there are quite a few other imaginative signs right the way along the main road. Change to SH5 two kilometres further. You will soon encounter the unusual terrain of the Mamaku District where mini volcanic cones dot the landscape, some showing their solidified lava core.

244kms - The Agrodome’s principle attraction here is the Sheep Show, a highly entertaining explanation of sheep and the farming of said sheep – the mainstay of New Zealand’s exports. Other attractions on site invented by enterprising New Zealanders include Zorbing (rolling down a hill in a giant plastic ball), Swooping (a glorified swing), bungee jumping (jump from a massive height with an elastic cord tied to your ankles), farm tour (on the back of a tractor) and jet-boating (the art of speeding in a tiny boat over very little water).

254kms – As you come into Rotorua, follow the city centre signs. The Kuirau Park will give you your first taste (or I should say smell) of the volcanic area around the city. The area is still very active with sulphur escaping from the earth’s crust (think rotten eggs). Don’t worry, you will get used to the smell. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present.The city lies on a beautiful lake, actually a flooded volcanic crater - the surrounding hills are the remains of the giant volcano.

Rotorua has become New Zealand’s second largest tourist centre – so there are no shortages of establishments willing to take some cash away from you but if you’d like to make the most of what Rotorua has to offer plus all that is thermal, then my stay would go something like this...

Suggested activities :- 
  • Kuirau Park has the largest display of steam and mud pools. An eruption took place here as recently as January 26th 2001 when mud, steam and debris were thrown 200m into the air. Springs regularly just appear, resulting in families being forced to move and the land having to be given back to nature.
  • Wander around the original Maori settlement at Ohinemutu. The church is worth a look at, as is the Marae (Maori meeting house) across the courtyard. Wander the tiny streets where everyone has their own private hot-water bore to fill their bath in the out-shed, just follow the steam and stay on the paths!
  • If you have time, soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a delightful but busy public pool. If you wait until tomorrow morning the spa is less crowded. It is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with stunning views across the lake.
  • The excitement junkies can take the Gondola up Mount Ngongotaha for awesome views, interspersed with hair raising rides on a luge (3 levels available, so suitable for children).
  • This evening don’t miss the excellent Tamaki Brothers cultural show followed by a traditional Hangi (earthen cooked meal). Pickups from your accommodation in a waka (war canoe) cleverly disguised as a bus, followed by a fun evening superbly hosted and entertained by local Maori.
Day 4 Rotorua - National Park 194kms

Head south on SH5 to Taupo. There are many more thermal attractions to be visited en route.

29kms – At the Wai-o-tapu Tavern turn left and 400m further left again to the thermal Mud Pools. Don’t forget to lock your car. The bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours! The Lady Knox Geyser is between the Mud Pools and Waiotapu and blows her top at 10:15am, so try to time it to arrive in time for this spectacle….a bit touristy but quite impressive none the less!
 
Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, the best thermal reserve in the area. It really is a wonderland of orange, green, yellow, blue, white and even black pools; the highlights being the exquisitely coloured Champagne Pool, Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath - you’ll be amazed how nature can conjure up such colours. There are 3 self guided walks, the short, the medium and the long – the latter takes about 2 hours which I recommend as it takes you all the way to the green lake of Ngakoro, with great views en route of the blue lake Whangi-o-terangi, which means "colour of the sky". The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes.  

Continue on the Loop Road to SH5 and turn left.

72kms – At the large roundabout where SH5 meets SH1, go straight and continue south past the Wairakei International Golf Course.
 
78kms – Turn left for the mighty Huka Falls, Volcanic Activity Centre andPrawn Park.
  • If you first go left, you will come to the freshwater Prawn Park, apparently the world’s only geothermal prawn farm. The informative tour leaves every 30 minutes, after which you are encouraged to munch out in the Riverside Restaurant.
  • The Activity Centre is well worth a stop. You are in the middle of one of the most active volcanic spots in the world, so it’s good to know what lies beneath your feet. There are hands on interpretive displays of local volcanoes, up to the second earthquake Richter scale readings, even a room where you can experience a simulated earthquake.
  • The Honey Hive also has interesting interpretive displays, a glass fronted live beehive and the Beez Kneez Café.
  • The Huka Falls are not very high, but are certainly spectacular. Here the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15 metre gap before roaring over a 7 metre drop. There is a lookout just past the Helistar Helicopters, but the falls are much more impressive from below, where there is a walkway across the river.

Follow the river from the falls and this will bring you back to SH5/SH1 – just before the turnoff there is an excellent Lookout where you can view the huge Lake Taupo, actually the world’s largest volcanic crater, created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated all over the world - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome. You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones (great for cleaning off rough skin) which were spewed out in that eruption.

Just about everywhere you look in the Lake Taupo region, you'll see a volcano. Most accommodations have wonderful views of the mountains to the south of the lake, which are popular for skiing in the winter and walking in the summer.

Continue south on SH1 until Turangi (the trout fishing capital of the world if you have time!) Turn right onto SH41 and 3 kilometres later onto SH47A, direction National Park, your destination for this evening. Better still, stay at the Grand Chateau in Whakapapa where the Lord of the Rings cast and crew stayed for several weeks. The Tongariro National Park provided Peter Jackson with the perfect Middle Earth scenery, with Mount Ngauruhoe as Mt Doom, surrounded by the rocky grounds of Mordor.

Tongariro National Park was gifted to the New Zealand people in 1887 by the Ngati Tuwaretoa tribe and is now a listed World Heritage Area. Many visit the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in winter, a popular skiing location.

Day 5 National Park - Taihape 150kms

Return 9 kilometres back towards Lake Taupo and turn right onto SH48 towards the Whakapapa ski-field. After another 4 kilometres there is a 20 minute walk to the Tawhai Falls, where the tree-lined river tumbles over a ledge of lava into a rock pool reminiscent of Henneth Annûn. Continue up SH48 past the Chateau Tongariro to the Iwikau Alpine Village, from where you can wander (in summer) over the bad-lands of Mordor to your heart's content, imagining Orcs attacking Elves with Elrond watching on. Meads Wall beside Pinnacle Ridge is where they filmed Sam and Frodo capturing Gollum. Other outcrops depicted the rocky wastelands of Emyn Muil, as the Hobbits tried to find their way to Dagorland and the Black Gates beyond. The mountain also provided the backdrop as Mt Doom steaming away, the epicenter of Evil and home of Sauron. It doesn’t usually steam, but it did erupt as recently as 1995. Here was the battle of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age when the ring was cut from the hand of Sauron.

Return down the mountain to National Park Village and  Ohakune. In Ohakune the Powderhorn Chateau was home to the cast and crew for several more weeks. It is possible to take a scenic helicopter tour with Wanganui Aerowork to view some more of the less accessible filming sites, however there are even more awesome flight-seeing tours on offer in the South Island. You can drive up the Ohakune Mountain Rd to the Mangawhero Falls where you can see where Sméagol caught and ate a fish in Ithilien, much to his delight.

112kms – Continue east along SH49 to Waiouru, home of the QEll Army Memorial Museum. Turn right onto SH1. Just after Taihape turn left at Ohotu to your accommodation for this evening. We have chosen a farm/fishing lodge on the RangitikeiRiver, where this evening you can soak in a spa-bath with million dollar views. You can even have a candle lit dinner delivered to your door.

Day 6 Taihape - Martinborough 250kms

This morning you have many options - from incredible trout fishing on remote pools only accessible by raft to enjoying a full day rafting trip through the spectacular Mokai Gorge (departs 9am) on the Rangitikei River, which was one of four rivers used for filming the Hobbits on the River Anduin. From the parking for Mokai Gravity Canyon you can look down on the river flowing through the spectacular gorge below. There are opportunities to bungee jump (with an elastic band tied to your ankles) from the 80m bridge, a giant Swing swoops you through the canyon at 200kms per hour or an 800 metre Flying Fox can take you up the sheer cliff face. On your return to Ohotu, stop at the next one way bridge over the Moawhango River where you can look down into another fern lined gorge that was used in the Fellowship of the Ring film, park on the other side, not on the bridge please!

At the Ohotu junction with SH1, turn left direction Palmerston North, 10 kilometres later is the stunning Mangaweka Gorge. There is a lookout on top of the hill just after the village.

30kms - Change to the SH54 south to Fielding. Keen gardeners should take a break in Fielding, repeat winner of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Small Town Award. A horse and cart can take you around the numerous private and public gardens.

90kms – In Aorangi SH54 goes right, but follow the road along the railway tracks straight, direction Bunnythorpe and Ashhurst, where you will join SH3 through the impressive Manawatu Gorge. Rugby fans may want to make the slightly longer diversion to Palmerston North to visit the Rugby Museum, where many a fanatic has made the pilgrimage to pay homage to our All Black heroes, past and present.

123kms – In Woodville turn right onto SH2. On the banks of the Mangatainoka River 13 kilometres later you will see the Tui Brewery. Tui is fast becoming a New Zealand icon, with adverts claiming the beer to be brewed by women….gorgeous women! Yeah right. Beer enthusiasts may want to visit the Promo Shop for a sample or souvenir.

181kms – Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre is New Zealand’s best for viewing our unique native birds - the Kiwis, Kakas, Kokakos, etc. The DOC (Department of Conservation) is successfully breeding endangered species here. There is something special about sitting on the deck of the café sipping coffee and looking at some prehistoric Takehe or Tuataras (lizards from the time of the dinosaurs).
  • 1.30pm feeding of the huge 80 year old wild eels, who instinctively seem to know the time.
  • 3pm Kaka feeding, a cheeky and raucous native bush parrot, cousin to the more noious Kea that lives in the mountains. There is also a beautiful walk through ancient forest of Rimu, Rata and Kamahi, a living reminder of what existed before the colonization by man.
Carterton is home of the Paua Shell Factory. Paua is unique to New Zealand. The informative display and tour (free) explains how they are caught in deep water with snorkels and how the inner shell casing is ground down to reveal the beautifully patterned colours. OK agreed, some of the items on sale are painfully kitsch, but somebody must buy them otherwise they wouldn’t continue to make them. However many other items are unique and useful, not to mention stunningly beautiful, so will make a perfect souvenir.

230kms – Turn left, direction Martinborough, a unique wine village and your destination for this evening. There are 20+ boutique wineries specializing in Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc wines, many within staggering distance of the Village Square. The Wine Centre on the square is the best place to start your sampling, followed by a memorable meal at any one of the excellent cafés.

Day 7 Martinborough - Featherston 156kms

Today I’m taking you to the very edges of earth on the wild southern coast of the North Island, visiting Cape Palliser’s candy striped lighthouse, the sea-lion colony, the baby bulldozers at Ngawi and the Putangirua Pinnacles where Legolas told the chilling story of the Army of the Dead while riding up the Dimholt Road. There are no shops or restaurants, so you need to take some food and refreshments with you! The highlight in my eyes is definitely the walk to the Pinnacles, an unusual valley of scree that has been compacted and lifted out of the sea, rising to a height of 200 metres. The erosion of the land over the millennia has left fingers of gravel spires and turrets topped with a harder stone which provide some, let’s say, interesting views. From below you feel the full force of what nature can inflict on this earth, from above you get a fuller picture of the valley – and it’s awesome. The walk is a bit of a scramble to say the least over river boulders, debris and fossils, but the adventure is more than worth the small effort. We met some 70+ year olds the day we made the walk and they were bubbling with enthusiasm. So I have decided to recommend this to all, because if they can do it then I’m sure you can too!

Departing from the Village Square, head south along Jellicoe Street towards Lake Ferry.

32kms – Turn left, direction Cape Palliser. The Putangirua Pinnacles Reserve car-park is on the left 14 kilometres later. The walk will take you about 3 hours if you walk to the base of the Pinnacles via the streambed, then up to the lookout and back down the bush track.
You need to follow the bed of the stream for 35 – 45 minutes, until the 1st streambed branching off to the left. When we did it, most of the track was washed away and we had to make several adventurous crossings of the stream. After visiting the base of the Pinnacles, return down the smaller streambed to the orange marker 100m before the bottom – this leads to the steep track that will take you up to the lookout….strenuous, but wow, what a view. Continue on the bush walk back to the car-park. Admittedly it’s a bit of an adventure getting there, but as my husband declared it’s a world wonder! Departing from the car-park, turn left.

65kms – Ngawi is home to the baby bulldozers with imaginative names such as “Tinky Winky” and “Babe”. Their owners are crayfishermen and fishermen, the only source of income in the area.
72kms – Cape Palliser. The rocks and beach between Mangatoetoe and the lighthouse are home to thousands of sea-lions, a seemingly harmless blob of blubber. You can easily approach within metres, but be sure not to stand between the animal and their escape route to the sea. Return along the coast and follow the signs to Featherston.

154kms – Featherston has the first opportunity for a café stop! For great coffees try the Lady Featherston on Fitzherbert Street. The town housed New Zealand’s largest army training base during WW1, with about 35,000 troops passing through the camp before they walked the Rimutaka Hill to Wellington to be shipped overseas. Quite a formidable feat you’ll realize once you’ve negotiated the tortuous “hill” yourself tomorrow. Messines in Belgium is twinned with this little town in recognition of the New Zealand troops who recaptured it from the Germans in June 1917.

The world's only remaining Fell Engine locomotive is on display on the corner of Fitzherbert and Lyon Streets. It has horizontal grip wheels which held it onto the steep and winding track. It serviced the Wairarapa farming community from 1878 to 1955.

If you can afford a little luxury this evening, then you could stay at one of New Zealand’s finest historical homes at Fernside, whose gardens were chosen to portray Lothlorien, the beautiful home of the high Elven Queen Galadriel for thousands of years. The lake was also used for scenes of Sméagol and Déagol fishing and then fighting over the Ring. For those who are less fortunate, there are several options available in Greytown 13 kilometres to the north.

Day 8 Featherston - Wellington 75kms

Our starting point today is the Featherston/Martinborough intersection. The steep Rimutaka Hill lies in front of you.

11kms – The summit car-park is on the right – pass over the median strip with care! There is a great view of Lake Wairarapa and the coast to the east. To the west is the Rimutaka Incline where the specially built Fell Engine train climbed the steep 265m slope. From here it’s all downhill, literally, to Wellington.

18kms – Turn right to Rivendell which is situated in the Kaitoke Regional Park. Drive down Waterworks Road to the car-park. The location of Rivendell is well sign posted, where there is an interpretive display explaining it all on the site. Peter Jackson built a large set here, including the bedroom where Frodo recovered from his knife wound. The Pakuratahi River is ideal for swimming in summer. Return to SH2.

35kms - The Gardens of Isengard are at Harcourt Park onAkatarawa Road next door to the Harcourt Holiday Park. Here Gandalf and Saruman met to discuss the re-emergence of the Ring - a gravel road bordered by a chain-linked fence was laid as the entrance into Isengard. The park saw several trees being cut down by Orcs to provide fuel for Saruman’s furnaces. Actually, the trees were transplanted here for the scene, which required them to be `uprooted’ time and again for retakes. While here, you may wish to visit the Wellington Fault Line, where you can see where a large earthquake has lifted the ground. Return to SH2.

As you descend down to Wellington, you will be following the Hutt River. The river supplied many more of the River Anduin scenes. If you walk the Hutt River Trail south from Totara Park you may recognize where Aragorn was nudged by his horse in the river after the attacks by the Wargs in Rohan.

74kms – Wellington is not only home to Peter Jackson, but also Weta Workshop, the heart of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are several places you could visit this afternoon.

Suggested activities :- 
  • Mt Victoria is where the Hobbits fearfully hid from the Nazgûl. Drive up Alexandra Road to the summit for sweeping views of the city, then walk down the track.
  • The quarry at the end of Ellice Street on the other side of Mt Victoria was used as a Rohirrim camp in Dunharrow.
  • The old army base in the suburb of Seatoun became the township of Bree. The only way to see this location is to view it from the beach at the end of Burnham Street. The suburb was also home to many of the cast while not required to be away on location.
  • Have dinner nearby at the Chocolate Fish Café a favourite haunt of the cast.
Stay in Wellington an extra day if you can, to visit all the other non LOTR attractions!


  


Day 9 Wellington - Kaiteriteri 65kms...internal flight


Today you fly to the South Island. Leave your rental car at the airport and collect a new one on your arrival. The flight to Nelson could be classified as a scenic flight as the views of the Marlborough Sounds and the Southern Alps are awesome! On arrival consider taking the Lord of the Rings Scenic Flight with Nelson Helicopters over the Chetwood Forest and remote Mt Olympus and Mt Owen – 3 remote locations used for such scenes as when the Fellowship hid from the Crebian (black crows) south of Rivendell, and where the now depleted Fellowship mourned the loss of Gandalf on Dimrill Dell after escaping the Mines of Moria.

Nelson
is famous for its cuisine, arts and crafts, the World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars near the airport, golden beaches and the climate - and is the gateway to the nearby national parks. It is also home to Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmiths on Trafalgar Square, the designer of the One Ring, where you can purchase your own copy for a souvenir.

This evening drive on to Kaiteriteri on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park so you can have a full day in this spectacular World Heritage site tomorrow. Stop at the Harrington Brewery in Richmond for a drop of stout specially produced for Hobbiton and the Prancing Pony. Due to the number of retakes required to perfect a scene, the original brew had only a 1.1% alcohol content, however the brew available today has an added 5% alcohol by volume.
After passing through Richmond turn right onto SH60, direction Motueka and Collingwood. In Mapua, I recommend a diversion down to the waterfront to the award winning Smokehouse Restaurant for dinner.
Continue on to Motueka, cross over the Motueka River and 7 kilometres later (just after Riwaka) turn right to Kaiteriteri.

Day 10 Abel Tasman National Park

If you missed the helicopter flight yesterday, you may want to start your day with a visit to Chetwood Forest. Return to SH60 and drive up the Takaka Hill, just after the Ngarua Caves turn right onto the unpaved Canaan Road and drive 8 kilometres, past ancient marble outcrops. Soon after the cattle-stop you can see where Aragorn led the Hobbits into the forest after leaving Bree, as well as a scene of the Hobbits leaving the Shire. If you continue to the Takaka Hill summit, you will be rewarded with expansive views of Golden Bay, all the way to Farewell Spit.

The Coastal Walkway in the Abel Tasman National Park is popular and can get rather crowded I’m afraid. My recommendation is to take the scenic cruise to Onetahuti then walk the most picturesque stretch via Bark Bay and the Swing Bridge back to Torrent Bay where they will pick you up again at 5pm (the earlier water-taxi does not allow enough time to swim or relax on the golden beaches). Alternatively you can be dropped at Torrent Bay by an ordinary water-taxi (this should be timed for low tide) and then walk 3 ½ hours back to Marahau via Anchorage Bay, Watering Cove, Stillwell Bay, Apple Tree Bay and Tinline Bay, followed by a seafood fettuccine and a beer at the Park Café. However the bush is only regenerating bush having originally been cleared and the views are far less awesome on this stretch. It is also possible to join a multi-day trip combining the walk and water-taxi with kayaking the azure-coloured clear waters. In a word, paradise!

Day 11 Kaiteriteri - Hanmer Springs 363kms

Return 15 kilometres to Motueka and turn right after the shops onto SH61. It follows the Motueka River, a fertile valley full of hops, kiwifruit and apple orchards. At 41 kilometres there are 2 one-way bridges on blind-bends! You have the right of way, however be careful! At the Kohatu Hotel SH61 joins SH6. Turn right and follow this road and at 84 kilometres, just after Korere turn left, direction Saint Arnaud.

118kms – Turn right to the alpine village of Saint Arnaud, gateway to the trout infested Nelson Lakes National Park and starting point to numerous alpine walks ranging from 20 minutes to 7 days – take your pick, or just enjoy the scenery (continue through the village to the park entrance, the walks start from the parking on the left down by the lakefront). The 45 minute Honey Dew walk through the virgin Beech Forest is particularly lovely. The level walking track takes you along the lake then deep into the ancient forest where the canopy is full of Bellbirds and Tuis competing in birdsong and where the forest floor is a refuge for our native Kiwi – unfortunately they are nocturnal and avid sleepers so you are not likely to see one! After your walk I recommend Elaine’s Alpine Café back in the village for lunch.

Continue west along SH63.

150kms – Turn left onto SH6. As you follow the beautiful Buller River, glance at the mountains to your right – the tallest is Mt Owen where they filmed the Fellowship escaping Moria and afterwards when emotions overwhelmed them all on Dimrill Dale. The mountain itself is deeply crevassed amongst the massive glaciated marble rocks. Murchison is next, famous for almost being wiped out in the 1929 earthquake. You should fill up with petrol here as there is not another service station for 100 kilometres! Continue on SH6.

197kms – It is possible to make a small side trip here if you have time (otherwise continue straight on SH65 to Lewis Pass.) SH6 turns right over O’Sullivan’s Bridge - 3 kilometres later you will come to the longest Swing-bridge in New Zealand. There is a short walk across the swing-bridge to the Ariki Falls, not spectacular but the pink granite rocks are unique. Beware of the man-eating sand-flies! They also hire out pans if you would like to try your luck at panning for gold in the Buller Gorge. Return to O'Sullivans Bridge and turn right, direction Lewis Pass. The Maruia Falls 8 kilometres later are worth a quick look at – dramatic evidence of the 1929 earthquake.

272kms - Turn left onto SH7 which will take you over the 864 metre high Lewis Pass. In pre-European times the Maori used this route to the West Coast in search of Greenstone (jade), on their return they are said to have slaughtered their slaves in the valley to the right followed by a feast on their remains - hence it is known as Cannibal Gorge. As you descend you may want to peruse the naming of the mountains surrounding you – there is Mt Skidaddle, The Grand Duchess, Niggerhead, Spider Web and Mons Sex Millia to mention just a few….I’m sorry I can’t enlighten you with a story behind these names.

357kms - Turn left to Hanmer Springs, your destination for this evening. Here you can enjoy a wealth of activities – their specialty mountain-biking, or bungee jumping, rafting, skiing or horse riding, followed by a well earned soak in the award winning Thermal Resort. The town is particularly beautiful in autumn when the tree-lined streets and forests are splattered with golden hues.

Day 12 Hanmer Springs - Methven 234kms

After your morning activities, return to SH7 and turn left towards Culverden. The road takes you via the beautiful Weta Pass full of limestone formations and the Waipara Valley, a sunny and well drained valley fast becoming the new vine growing region. Those with an extra day should consider turning left at 30 kilometres onto the scenic Alpine Pacific Triangle to Kaikoura, to view the whales or to swim with the dolphins!

79kms – Turn right onto SH1. I can recommend a stop at the family-owned Pegasus Bay winery for lunch, turn left 4 ½ kilometres later. Try their generous platter loaded with cheeses and locally caught salmon and duck accompanied with some excellent award-winning wines on the lawn.

88kms – In Amberly turn right onto the Inland Scenic Route. The route follows SH72, first right, then left and at 93 kilometres left again. At 113 kilometres turn right to Ashley Gorge and 6 kilometres later left to Oxford. There aren’t any recommended stops, however this way takes you along the elevated river terraces to the foothills of the Southern Alps rewarding you with expansive views across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch lying nestled under Banks Peninsula in the distance. The volcanic peninsula was originally detached from the mainland but sediment washed down from the forever eroding mountains eventually bridged the gap creating the plain. You will cross several of these alluvial mountain rivers on your journey south.

155kms – Turn right onto SH72. Oxford has little to hold you, other than a quick coffee. As you cross over the dramatic Waimakariri Gorge glance to your right. It is in these foothills that you would find Narnia, if only it actually existed. Filming took place at Flock Hill Station near the Cave River Reserve. At the intersection with SH73, turn left and immediately right to Mount Hutt and then after 9 kilometres right again onto SH77.

218kms - The road crosses the alluvial Rakaia River next. For excellent views of the gorge you should park by the first bridge and cross over the road to the little walkway. Walk as little or as far as you like but the views are best at the beginning. It is also possible to drive onto the riverbed.

223kms – Mt Hutt Station (ranch) on your right is one of the largest deer farms in the world. Turn left to Methven - a bustling ski resort by winter servicing Mount Hutt and a quiet country town in the summer.

Day 13 Methven - Twizel 320kms

Today I am taking you to the very centre of Middle-Earth, hidden deep in the Southern Alps. Be sure to pack a picnic today and fill up with petrol! Take the road next to the tourist office, direction Mt Somers and 10 kilometres later turn left onto SH72.

30kms – In Mount Somers turn right towards the high country sheep stations of Mount Potts and Erewhon (an anagram of "nowhere"!) You really do feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere as you travel through the tussocked and exposed land. Be aware that you are now in the alpine region, where weather and temperatures can change dramatically within hours. The 50 kilometre unsealed road will take you deep into the mountains to the head of the Rangitata River.

65kms – Turn right onto Mt Pocession Street for an awesome view of the Alps across the trout infested Lake Clearwater – the holiday settlement is full of tiny basic holiday homes that we call a "bach". The lake is popular for bird watching, kayaking, wind-surfing and trout fishing. The scenery changes dramatically after this as the road meanders through the huge high country farms to reveal your first breath-taking view of the massive glacial valley with Mt Sunday lying straight ahead. It is not really a mountain but a small rocky knoll in the middle of the valley that escaped the destruction of the advancing glaciers. The elaborate set of the Golden Hall of Edoras was purposely built on Mt Sunday. One of my favourite scenes was of Éowyn gazing across the valley in deep thought and my absolute favourite scene was of Aragorn returning by horse to Helms Deep after his disappearance over the cliff during the attack of the Wargs, which was filmed further up the Rangitata Valley. My ultimate dream would be to ride myself up that grassy knoll, with awesome views of the valley below framed by the massive Southern Alps... I’ll keep you informed.
 
81kms - Follow the road past Mt Potts Station and park just after the cattle-stop (judderbars that animals can not walk over) – the road continues for another 4 kilometres to Erewhon Station. It is permissible to walk to Mt Sunday but it does involve getting your feet wet several times. We failed in our attempt on the fourth crossing of the glacial river, however it was an adventurous and humbling experience trekking as tiny insignificant specks through morass and icy cold streams surrounded in a theatre of massive snow-capped mountains. We retreated and found the most perfect picnic spot on a grassy bluff 200 metres up the hill from our car – in fact the best picnic spot I have ever found in the world, it even bet the picnic we had dangling our legs over the edge on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town! You may even feel spiritually uplifted (as I was) after your visit - it may have something to do with the source of the river being fed by the Garden of Allah Glacier and the Garden of Eden Ice Plateau! Return to Mt Somers and turn right, direction Geraldine.
 
182kms - Geraldine is worth more than a drive through. You can choose from :-
  • A larger than fair smattering of arts and crafts galleries.
  • The Vintage Car Club and Machinery Museum has a sizable collection of cars and tractors.
  • The Giant Jersey has, you guessed it, the largest jersey in the world, plus lots of woolly stuff on sale. It is also home to the incredible Medieval Mosaic, a perfect recreation of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
  • Kiwi Country is purpose built for the tourist buses and is full of the usual souvenirs. However it does have excellent coffees and toilet facilities.
  • Try the Swiss-style florentines at Chocolate Brown - the prices ensure they are sold fresh.
Turn right at the tourist office to Fairlie, where you will join SH8 to LakeTekapo. The scenery dramatically changes as you cross over the Burkes Pass. You are now entering the Mackenzie Basin, home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki (or Mt Cook as it is known in English) and sparkling turquoise glacial lakes below the rolling foothills of the Southern Alps... and it bears little resemblance to anywhere else in New Zealand.

270kms – The village at Lake Tekapo is small - their claim to fame being that it has the cleanest and clearest air in New Zealand….the skies above will soon become the world’s first ever Night Sky Reserve. There is not much to hold you here beyond taking a snapshot of the much-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog. The gorgeous turquoise-blue lake derives its colour from fine glacial particles suspended in the water. You can (should) drive up to the summit of Mount John by day (turnoff just south of the village) to Astro Café and enjoy spectacular 360° views.

285kms – Turn off the highway (sign posted ‘Salmon Farm’) and take the scenic route to Twizel along the huge man-made Tekapo Canal constructed for the Upper Waitake hydroelectric scheme, a significant source of our country’s electricity. En route you can buy fresh fish or sashimi from the Salmon Farm, or stop for spectacular photos of Mt Aoraki across the opaque waters of Lake Pukaki.

315kms – Turn right onto SH80. The main reason to visit this region is of course to view the site of the massive Battle of the Pelennor Fields on the grassy fields to the left of this road. Tonight’s accommodation on Lake Pukaki is hosted by some truly awesome Kiwis.

Day 14 Twizel - Wanaka 160kms

This morning you have several choices, however it really would be sacrilege not to make the additional 55 kilometre scenic drive to Mount Cook Village at the base of Aoraki and the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers. The drive encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this World Heritage cathedral known as the Mount Cook National Park.

Suggested activities:-  
·        Several different alpine walks with wonderful views.
·         Scenic flights either by ski-plane or helicopter over Aoraki, with views of the West Coast and Franz Josef Glacier and the White Mountains used for communication between Gondor and Rohan, whereby seven peaks had firewood stored forthe lighting of the Beacons.
·         Glacier Explorer Trips involve walking to Tasman Lake and then taking an informative boat ride to the face of the advancing glacier.
·         Eat, drink and just relax in the Hermitage while enjoying the incredible views that lie before you.
·         If you have an extra day, you could make the overnight tramp to Muller Hut on Mt Oliver, with massive views of Aoraki and the White Mountains at sunset and sunrise. Alternatively it is possible to tramp there and back in a day – the best day-walk I have ever done!
·        Join the Pelennor Fields tour on a private high-country farm, with the added bonus of interesting insights into farming in such a harsh environment.
·         Hang out in Twizel talking to the locals who probably were Rohirrim or Gondorian in the largest battle scene.
·         Heli-bike is the specialty in Twizel with trips that combine the excitement of a helicopter flight with the adventure of a mountain bike ride down high-country farm tracks.
·         Try your hand at Golfcross,an entertaining game invented by Kiwis that combines golf with rugby where the aim is to hit oval shaped golf sized balls around the sheep farm and then through the upright posts, with spectacular scenery as your backdrop.

Departing from Twizel tourist office, head south on SH8 via the scenic Lindis Pass. Consider stopping at Omarama for petrol as there is not another fuel station for 80 kilometres! The pass was first used by the Maori walking to Lake Wanaka for summer fishing.

116kms – After Tarras, continue towards Cromwell for another 6 kilometres, then turn right onto the unsealed Maori Point Road. Two kilometers further along you are in the pine forests where they filmed the flight to the Ford of Bruinen by Arwen and Frodo on horseback along the Great East Road. Continue along this road, following the Clutha River. It is the largest river in New Zealand – its volume is almost twice that of the slightly longer Waikato in the North Island. The beautiful views across the river are to the section of the Southern Alps used as the Misty Mountains surrounding Rivendell.
At the end turn left to Wanaka, one of my favourite places in New Zealand and your destination this evening.

Day 15 Wanaka - Glenorchy 130kms

There are several options you should consider this morning, or ideally you should stay an extra day here!

Suggested activities :-  
  • One of the best short walks in this country is to the Rob Roy Glacier. The walk will take you up through beautiful rain forest to a hidden valley, right up to the face of the ancient glacier. 
  • Wanaka is also the best place to try tandem sky-diving!
  • Or how about a 4x4 quad bike tour on a sheep farm with great views.
  • The local ski field at Cardrona has a chair lift open in summer - take a leisurely walk on the mountain, or take the fast route down on a mountain bike.
  • Trout fishing and skiing are the locals other favourites.
  • At the northern reaches of Lake Wanaka in a little place called Makaroa you can try the Siberia Experience of 3 thrills in as many hours – fly into the Mt Aspiring National Park (the Misty Mountains), hike/tramp over the hill to the river, then jet-boat back out. Wow!
I recommend the scenic Crown Range Route via the old gold mining towns of Cardrona and Arrowtown. It is hard to believe that this sleepy region was the most populous in New Zealand during the chaotic gold boom years of the late 19th century. Before you drive up over the 1120m high pass, you should visit the old Cardrona Hotel - you will be forgiven if you think it was used as the Prancing Pony in Bree in the trilogy, but it wasn’t.

The views from the top of the pass are stunning. Take your time coming down the zigzagging road! At the bottom, turn right to the pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown. Wander amongst the historic cottages, visit the reconstructed Chinese Settlement (the Chinese were subjected to many prejudices so had their own settlement) and wander along the path by the river to view where Isildur lost his life when attacked by the Orcs in the Gladden Fields.

Return to SH6, where you go left to the Kawarau Gorge. The bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you get to tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river, if you dare - or just have fun watching the others. Just after the bridge turn right to Chard Farm Winery and drive just a short distance up this road to see the location of the Pillars of the Kings on the River Anduin. A few more kilometres along the gorge road you will find the excellent winery and restaurant at Gibbston Valley Wines.

Return the way you came and continue on to Queenstown. However our destination this evening is further along, at the far end of Lake Wakatipu where you'll find a little place called Paradise (yes, it does exist). Follow the lake road for 8 kilometres and stop by the lakeshore after descending to Closeburn Bay. The peninsula off to the left was where Amon Hen was built amongst the pine trees. The glacial lake has an unusual rhythmic rise and fall of 12cm in its water level, every five minutes - a Maori myth says it is the beating of a monster's heart lying in the depths of the lake!

Drive a further 4 kilometres and park in the camping area of Twelve Mile Delta. Walk down to the river towards the lake and you may recognize the bank to your right as the hiding place of Frodo, Sam and Sméagol as they watched the approach of the oliphants in Ithilien, just behind is where Sam and Sméagol discussed the cooking of ‘coneys with taters’. The walk will take you along to the next plateau, from where Faramir gazed out across the lake and Ithilien. Better still, make this walk tomorrow on your return to Queenstown when you will have more time.

Continue on to Glenorchy, home of the most scenic jet-boat ride in the world (another New Zealand invention). You can take a thrilling ride up the Dart River tomorrow into the very heart of the Mt Aspiring National Park - there is an option to raft back down....amazing! There are plenty of Trilogy stops and stories along the way as you pass Isengard, Llothlórien and where Merry and Pippin were captured by Orcs near Amon Hen. Horse-trekking through the Forests of Lothlorian is also recommended.

Day 16 Glenorchy - Queenstown 45kms

After your morning thrill up the Dart River, head back to Queenstown – the centre it would seem of Middle-Earth and the Adventure Capital of the World! This beautiful resort was originally named as "fit for a Queen". The sheer breadth of tourist activities available here is impossible to list - in winter the resort fills up with skiers.

One of the most spectacular and affordable scenic flights in the world is the 2 ½ hour Trilogy Trail, with plenty of commentary and behind the scenes "anecdotes" along the way and comes highly recommended as a climax to your Middle-Earth tour. You would need many more days if you drove to most of these places. They will include Dimrell Dale and Celebrant high above the Remarkables; Fangorn Forest and the Silverlode/Anduin Rivers junction at Lake Mavora where the fellowship broke up; Lothlórien and the Misty Mountains on the way back via the Great River.

This evening ride the Skyline Gondolato take in the awesome views - best viewed at sunset when the Remarkables Range on the other side of Lake Wakatipu glow in golden light. In winter the view is even better with the mountains covered in snow!

Day 17 Queenstown

Today you have time to enjoy more of what Queenstown has to offer.

Suggested activities:-  
  • Drive half way up the Remarkables Ski-field Road to the Remarkables Lookout for  the best view of Queenstown. If you continue to the top (the road is quite narrow, rough and scary though) then you can walk from behind the ski-field car park further south along the ridge to Lake Alta where Aragorn led the fellowship down the steep slopes of Dimrell Dell.
  • Just past the airport and the Kawarau River you can take the road on the right to Kelvin Heights and 5 kilometres later right again to Deer Park Heights. Scenes from all three films were filmed here, including where Gimli was thrown from his horse, where the Wargs and Riders of Rohan clashed and Aragorn was dragged over a cliff, where Legolas acrobatically jumped onto his horse and where the Rohirrim refugees fled around the lake on a pristine clear winter’s morning etc.
  • Join a 4x4 tour of Rohan from Poolburn, an impressive 40 minute drive north of Alexander. This was where the remote Rohirrim Village was attacked by the Orcs and where Morwen sent her children off to Edoras by horseback.
  • Stay an extra day if you can in Poolburn in an old gold miner’s hut, then cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail next day.
  • Take the Trilogy Trail scenic flight with Glenorchy Air or join the Heliworks helicopter tour with landings in remote and beautiful locations.
  • Take the plunge and try a bungee jump, or just have fun watching others do it.
  • Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the old steamer TSS Earnslaw. Visit Walter Peak Station on the other side of the lake for an insight into high-country sheep farming.
  • Learn to fly-fish in the trout infested lakes and rivers.
  • Play golf on one of the most magically located courses in the world.
  • Visit Skippers Canyon and the remote Macetown goldfields on a 4x4 tour.
  • Visit a vineyard and try their wines, of course. Try the bistro at Amisfield Winery at Lake Haye’s, or Mount Edward on SH6 in the Gibbston Valley. The Gibbston Valley Winery in the Kawarau Gorge has excellent wines as well as food!
  • Etc, etc, etc....

Day 18 Queenstown...domestic or international flight

If your flight back to Auckland or Australia is in the afternoon or this evening then you will have time to enjoy a few more of Queenstown’s many attractions. Additional days are recommended here, as the Milford Sound is New Zealand's jewel in the crown - the eighth wonder of the world and lies just over the mountain range!

Add-ons

If you are lucky enough to have longer in New Zealand, then I recommend the following :-
  • Day 17 Queenstown - Milford Sound
  • Day 18 Milford Sound - Te Anau
  • Day 19 Te Anau (Doubtful Sound day-trip)
  • Day 20 Te Anau to Curio Bay (Catlins National Park)
  • Day 21 Curio Bay to Dunedin
  • Day 22 Dunedin (Otago Peninsula)
  • Day 23 Dunedin to Christchurch
  • Day 24 Fly out
or head north to Christchurch via the rugged West Coast :-
  • Day 14 Twizel - Cromwell
  • Day 15 Cromwell - Glenorchy
  • Day 16 Glenorchy - Queenstown
  • Day 17 Queenstown
  • Day 18 Queenstown - Milford Sound
  • Day 19 Milford Sound - Te Anau
  • Day 20 Te Anau - Wanaka (via Cardrona and Crown Range Route)
  • Day 21 Wanaka - Fox Glacier or Franz Joseph (the glaciers)
  • Day 22 Fox Glacier - Greymouth
  • Day 23 Greymouth - Christchurch
  • Day 24 Fly out


  


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