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  • Writer's pictureAmazing New Zealand

Exploring Famous Film Locations in New Zealand: A Journey Through Middle-earth and Beyond

Updated: Jun 8

Explore Famous Film Locations in New Zealand: From The Lord of the Rings to Avatar

New Zealand's dramatic landscapes have long captivated filmmakers and audiences alike, making it a top destination for movie buffs and adventure seekers. From the epic realms of Middle-earth in "The Lord of the Rings" to other cinematic gems, New Zealand offers a rich tapestry of film locations that transport visitors into their favourite movies. Join us as we explore some of the most iconic film sites across this breathtaking country.

Middle-earth Magic: "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit"

  • Hobbiton, Matamata No visit to New Zealand is complete without a pilgrimage to Hobbiton. Located in Matamata on the North Island, this picturesque film set brings J.R.R. Tolkien's Shire to life. Wander among the charming hobbit holes, visit the Green Dragon Inn, and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the rolling hills that Frodo and Bilbo called home.

  • Tongariro National Park This UNESCO World Heritage site doubled as Mordor in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The stark, volcanic landscapes of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) and the rugged terrain surrounding Tongariro National Park create an otherworldly experience. Adventurous souls can hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s most famous trails, and relive the epic journey of Frodo and Sam.

  • Fiordland National Park Fiordland’s stunning fjords and pristine wilderness served as the backdrop for numerous scenes in "The Lord of the Rings." The breathtaking scenery of Doubtful Sound and the majestic Milford Sound transport visitors to the mystical lands of Middle-earth. Cruise through the fjords, hike the lush trails, and marvel at the landscapes that set the stage for iconic moments in the films.

  • Wellington The heart of New Zealand’s film industry, Wellington, also known as “Wellywood,” is where much of the post-production work for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" took place. Visit the Weta Workshop to see behind-the-scenes magic, from props to special effects, and take a tour of the studios where the epic tales were brought to life.

Queenstown and Fiordland

  • Race for the Yankee Zepher: Filmed around Queenstown and Fiordland, this movie showcases the breathtaking beauty of these regions.

  • The Vertical Limit: Mt Cook, portrayed as the Himalayas, offers stunning views and thrilling adventures.

  • The Piano: Filmed on Kare Kare Beach, Auckland, this movie features dramatic coastal scenery.

  • Yogi Bear: Shot around parts of Auckland and Taupo, providing fun for the whole family.


  • King Kong: Peter Jackson's epic film was shot on a purpose-built set in Wellington.

  • The Lovely Bones and Avatar: Both had principal photography done in Wellington at Weta Workshop.


  • Whale Rider: This heartwarming film was shot north of Gisborne, offering a glimpse into Maori culture.


  • The Last Samurai: Starring Tom Cruise, this film was set in the beautiful landscapes of Taranaki.


  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Scenes from The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe were filmed on private land near Flock Hill.

Beyond Middle-earth: Other Famous Film Locations

  • Lyttleton (The Frighteners): Michael J. Fox starred in this movie filmed near Christchurch.

  • Whanganui River (River Queen): Samantha Morton and Kiefer Sutherland starred in this film set on the scenic Whanganui River.

  • West Coast (Perfect Strangers): Sam Neill and Rachael Blake starred in this movie filmed on the rugged West Coast.

  • Central North Island (Without a Paddle): Burt Reynolds starred in this adventure-thriller shot on rivers north of Wellington.

  • Muriwai Beach (The World's Fastest Indian): Anthony Hopkins starred as Burt Munro, with scenes filmed along Muriwai Beach.

  • Selwyn and Hokianga (Lawrence of Arabia): Plate shots resembling Northern Turkey were made near Selwyn, with additional scenes shot near Hokianga.

  • Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula Featured in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," Cathedral Cove is a stunning coastal location on the North Island. The dramatic limestone archway and pristine beach provide a perfect setting for a magical adventure. Kayak or hike to this secluded spot and experience the enchantment that captivated audiences around the world.

  • Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park Mount Taranaki stood in for Japan’s Mount Fuji in the film "The Last Samurai," starring Tom Cruise. The symmetrical, snow-capped peaks and lush surrounding forests create a stunning and versatile backdrop. Explore the walking trails and enjoy the serene beauty of this iconic location.

  • Piha Beach, Auckland Piha Beach, with its rugged coastline and powerful surf, featured prominently in the classic Kiwi film "The Piano." The dramatic scenery, including the striking Lion Rock, offers a glimpse into the wild beauty of New Zealand’s west coast. Surfers and nature lovers alike will find Piha Beach a captivating destination.

  • Glenorchy, Queenstown Known for its breathtaking scenery, Glenorchy and the surrounding areas were used for multiple scenes in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The stunning landscapes of Paradise and the Dart River Valley were transformed into Lothlorien and Isengard. Just a short drive from Queenstown, Glenorchy offers visitors a chance to step into the epic landscapes of Middle-earth. New Zealand’s diverse landscapes have brought some of the most beloved films to life. Whether you’re a fan of epic fantasy, historical drama, or magical adventures, exploring these famous film locations offers a unique way to experience the beauty and wonder of this incredible country. So pack your bags, bring your camera, and set off on a cinematic adventure through the breathtaking film locations of New Zealand.

Bollywood and More

  • Bollywood Movies: Numerous Bollywood films have been shot throughout New Zealand.

  • Xena, Walking with Dinosaurs, Once Were Warriors, Babe, Pig in the City: Various other famous productions have utilized New Zealand's diverse landscapes.

Exploring these film locations can add an extra layer of excitement to your New Zealand trip. Whether you're a movie buff or simply love beautiful scenery, these sites are sure to impress. Contact us to help incorporate these iconic locations into your tailor-made itinerary.


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