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LORD OF THE COINS | A Hobbit's Guide to New Zealand

23rd September 2022


A Tolkien-inspired holiday.


Did you know that about 18% of people who visit New Zealand for a holiday are initially inspired by Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films? Well come along little hobbit, here’s an itinerary for your own adventures through Middle-earth.


No admittance except on party business. Lord of the Rings Hobbiton.

Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. - JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit.

Sweeping plains. Striking mountains. Lush meadows. Deep woodlands.

New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, which is precisely why Sir Peter Jackson chose this little island nation to bring Tolkien’s fantastical novels to life.
So, if something Tookish has awoken in you, let’s go on adventure together and say kia ora (hello), or in Elvish, elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo (a star shines upon our meeting), New Zealand!

Adventure like Bilbo Baggins

All the most important destinations in The Hobbit Trilogy



Bilbo Baggins is a comfort-loving, commonsense hobbit who gets swept on an adventure to help a rag-tag bunch of 13 dwarves recover their stolen treasure and take back their ancestral home from the dragon, Smaug.

This itinerary follows his journey there and back again: from his snug little hobbit hole; through all the destinations that grew his courage, inner cunning, and sense of adventure; before returning to the joyful pleasantness of a simple, peaceful life.

New Zealand's North Island


First stop: Hobbiton.


Bilbo delights in the simple comforts of life, and loves his well-furnished home in Bag End. This is, of course, where he serves high tea to 13 dwarves and one magnificent wizard – eager to please, as always – and where the journey begins.

Visit Hobbiton to stroll around the lush, rolling hills of the idyllic Shire, and be swept up in the magic of a hobbit’s life in Middle-earth. The tour ends at The Dragon Inn, where you can have yourself some breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.


When Sir Peter Jackson returned to NZ to film The Hobbit trilogy, he built permanent hobbit holes, which, because hobbits love all things that grow, have between 30 and 200 plants around each home. Also during filming in Hobbiton, the frogs in the pond were too noisy so Peter Jackson employed someone to move all the frogs to a different pond on the farm.

Film: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Where: Waikato district of the North Island.
Address: 501 Buckland Road, Matamata 3472, New Zealand
When: Peak season is summer, when all the plants are at their lushest.
How much: Tours cost $89NZD for adults, and $44NZD for youth (9-16 years). Children under 8 years have free entry (but with a full-paying adult supervision of course), and a family pass of two adults and two children is $225NZD.


Second stop: Trollshaw Forest (Mangaotaki Rocks and Piopio, Waitomo)


Trollshaws Forest was brought to life on Mangaotaki Valley farm, surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs and prehistoric forest. It’s here that Gandalf hands Bilbo his sword, Sting, which saves Bilbo on more than one occasion.

Take a guided tour with Hairy Feet Waitomo, who will talk you through all the intricate details of the many scenes shot here (from orc battles to the Wargs and more). There’s also an opportunity to take photos with some props!


Hairy Feet Waitomo is just a short drive from the famous Waitomo Caves, so make sure to see the otherworldly glow worm caves too! You can also stay in the small village of Piopio – make sure to try locally-made berry ice-cream at the Piopio orchard!

Film: All three Hobbit films (and some LOTR films)
Where: Piopio, Waitomo district of the North Island.
Address: Tour Office, 1411 Mangaotaki Road, Piopio 3971, New Zealand
When: October to May, when berries are in season.
How much: Tours cost $70NZD for adults, and $40NZD for children (0-14 years).

Third stop: Lonely Mountain (Tūroa, Mt Ruapehu).

The entrance to the Lonely Mountain was filmed on the rocky slopes and grassy tussock of Tūroa, Mt Ruapehu. The film crew only shot here for one day, and built scaffolding to access the site in order to protect the native flora and fauna on the mountain.
Key scenes shot in the Ruapehu region include Gollum’s Pool (Tawhai Falls) and various orc army scenes (Rangipo Desert).

Tongariro Crossing is said to be one of the most breathtaking day walks in the world.

Film: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
Where: Tūroa, Mt Ruapehu, North Island.
Address: Tour Office, 1411 Mangaotaki Road, Piopio 3971, New Zealand
When: Summer for hikes, Winter for skiing.
How much: You can take the Waka Gondola for sightseeing for $49NZD on weekdays and $59NZD on weekends.

New Zealand's South Island


First stop: Chetwood Forest, Dimrill Dale, Weatherhills (Nelson Tasman).

Nelson Tasman, known as NZ’s sunniest region, is the backdrop to many scenes – in both The Hobbit trilogy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nelson is also the home of the jeweller, Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith, who created 40 replicas of the famed One Ring for the LOTR films.

It’s the setting for Chetwood Forests (Canaan Downs on Takaka Hill) where the hobbits flee from the Black Riders in LOTR; where the fellowship escape the Mines of Moria (Mount Owen) in LOTR; and the place of the destroyed farmhouse in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


While Weatherhills (in real life, Kaihoka Station) is based on private land, you can visit it on horseback with Cape Farewell Horse Treks to a soaring clifftop that overlooks dramatic coastal views over Golden Bay.

Films: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Where: Nelson Tasman, South Island. 102 Wharariki Road, Golden Bay, New Zealand.
When: Summer to do the gorgeous hikes!
How much: Cape Farewell Horse Trek experiences range between $110.00 - $250.00 NZD. If you visit the jeweller, you can also view the original rings as well as acquire your own precious replica.

Second stop: The Dwarve’s Floating Barrel Escape (Pelorus River).

One of the most memorable scenes is when the dwarves escaped by floating down a river on giant barrels. This scene was shot in Pelorus River, in the very north of the South Island.

You can float down the same route as the dwarves in the film (but maybe switch the barrels for a guided kayak tour).


There’s also a beautiful trek through the forest past gushing waterfalls and over a swing bridge.

Film: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Where: Pelorus River, Marlborough Region, South Island.
When: Summer to do the gorgeous hikes!
How much: The Hobbit Kayak Tour by Kayak New Zealand costs $185NZD.

Third stop: Lake-town and Lonely Mountain (Braemar Station, Lake Pukaki, Aoraki/Mt Cook).

Surrounded by staggering mountains with snow-capped pinnacles, Lake Pukaki’s glacial waters became the setting of Lake-town; the final resting place of the dragon Smaug. With breathtaking aquamarine hues and rugged scenery, this area became the backdrop for many of scenes in both the Hobbit as well as Lord of the Rings movies, and it’s easy to see why.

Lake Pukaki is the perfect spot to lose yourself in majestic scenery and adventure outdoors, with several glacier hikes in the area. For the most hobbity-views of all, check out the view from Braemar Station – this is the where they filmed the epic scenic shots for the Warg Chase and approach to Rivendell.


Lake Pukaki becomes a tapestry of colour in the summer, flowering with vibrant purple lupins. It’s also located in the Dark Sky Reserve, making it perfect for stargazing.

Films: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey & Desolation of Smaug
Where: Lake Pukaki, Makenzie/Cantebury District, South Island.
When: November to January, when lupins are flowering. Alternatively, go skiing in winter!
How much: Make sure to hire a car and drive down some of the most spectacular roads in the world. This can cost upwards of $30NZD per day.

Fourth stop: The Path From Rivendell (Earnshaw Burn).

Another spectacular destination used for filming the Hobbit is Earnslaw Burn; with cascading valley waterfalls, gushing glacial rivers, and spectacular views of Earnshaw Glacier.
This ruggedly beautiful landscape is the backdrop to the little hobbit’s journey after departing Rivendell and continuing his quest.


You can undertake a challenging hike to see breathtaking views overlooking the glacier-filled valley. This hike isn’t for the faint of hearts – be brave like Bilbo and prepare for an eight-to-twelve hour return journey.
Otherwise… you can take a scenic 60 minute helicopter ride to see places few people in the world ever get to experience.

Film: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Where: Earnslaw Burn, Mt Aspiring National Park, Otago, South Island. About an hour from Queenstown.
When: Summer to do the gorgeous hikes!
How much: Hiking is free… but you could always take a helicopter for $770+ NZD.

Fifth stop: Flight of the Eagles (Fiordland National Parks).


The Eagles are coming.” A symbol of hope, the proud and noble-hearted Eagles came to the aid of Bilbo and company when all seemed lost in the Battle of Five Armies.

See the epic sweeping grasslands of Te Anau Downs, where they filmed the chase scenes, and journey through the wildlands where Thorin lead the dwarves at Mararoa Saddle.


This stunning area is, of course, home to the striking fiords so synonymous with New Zealand. Take a boat cruise through Milford Sound and see thundering waterfalls and wild creatures. Or, like the Eagles, take flight with a helicopter tour to fully immerse yourself in the majesty of this spectacular landscape.

Film: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Where: Fiordland National Park, South Island.
When: Summer to do the gorgeous hikes!
How much: Heli tours range from $250NZD up to $13,500+NZD depending on the package, with most operators offering packaged tours around Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound between the $1000-$2000NZD mark.


And that concludes your journey as Bilbo Baggins!

All that’s left to do is, of course, to go back again.

“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.

Journey like Frodo Baggins

All the most important destinations in The LOTR Trilogy.


Ahh little Frodo Baggins. So selfless. So virtuous. So unfailingly polite. The Lord of the Rings trilogy follows this reluctant-yet-determined hero on his quest to destroy the One Ring in Mordor.

This itinerary treks through all the major destinations Frodo (and the rest of the fellowship) journeyed through on their heroic quest.


New Zealand's North Island


First stop: Wētā Workshop for Movie Magic (Wellington).

We’ll skip Hobbiton here because we’ve already covered it, but of course visiting the Shire will be a vital part of your Frodo journey – it’d make the most sense (travel-wise) to leave it as the last bit of your North Island journey, or, it could be the first stop if you want to be more true to the narrative!


Affectionally known as Wellywood, Wētā Workshop is where all the movie magic of Middle-earth was brought to life. The mini museum at Wētā Cave and tours at Wētā Workshop are must-dos on your Lord of the Rings pilgrimage; a magical place to immerse yourself in the imagination of Sir Peter Jackson and his crew, and experience all the creativity that goes into our favourite films.


Wētā Workshop is a five-time Academy Award Winner, and more than 150,000 travellers visit each year.

Films: All LOTR Films and Hobbit Films.
Where: Wellington, North Island.
Address: Wētā Workshop - 21 Camperdown Rd, Wellington, Wellington, 6022, New Zealand. Wētā Cave - 1 Weka Street, Miramar, Wellington.
When: Year-round.
How much: Tours around Wētā Workshop cost $49NZD. Entry to Wētā Cave and mini museum is free. But don’t forget, you’ll probably want to take some money to buy some props, merch and collectibles too!

Second stop: Rivendell and Hobbiton Woods (Wellington).


Wellington is also home both the Hobbiton Woods and Rivendell. The forested slopes of Mount Victoria (which is walking distance of Wellington) was used as the backdrop where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin hid from the Black Riders.

Also nearby in Kaitoke Regional Park, is where Rivendell’s scenes were filmed – including where Frodo recovered from the knife attack (the exact location is signposted from the carpark).


There are heaps of half-day and full-day LOTR movie tours which will take you through the Hobbiton Woods, Rivendell, Wētā Workshop and more to really experience it all, complete with props and insights from your guides that you wouldn’t find on your own.

Film: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Where: Wellington, Auckland, New Zealand.
When: Summer season is ideal for hiking.
How much: Wellington Lord of the Rings Tours are priced at $90NZD for a half-day tour, and $145NZD for a full-day tour.

Third stop: Paths of the Dead (Putangirua Pinnacles).

While Frodo might have been AWOL (busy journeying through Shelob’s lair), Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn followed the Paths of the Dead through the White Mountain, where the ghosts of the Oathbreakers lingered.

This eery scene was filmed in the Putangirua Pinnacles, where you can follow in their footsteps through the haunting white spires.


The seven kilometre hike from Aorangi Forest Park takes about 2-4 hours and suitable for beginners, and there’s also a walk to some gorgeous views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke. Make sure to bring sturdy shoes too – you might not be walking on skulls, but the Path of the Dead can still be rocky under (hairy hobbit) foot.

Film: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Where: Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve, North Island.
When: Spring/summer season is ideal for hiking.
How much: Hiking is free, but you’ll need a hire car to get there.

Fourth stop: Lothlórien (Fernside Gardens).

The elven realm Lothlórien is described as having trees and flowers surpassing the beauty of any other growing thing. Here, the ethereal Queen Galadriel gave Frodo and the Fellowship refuge after the loss of Gandalf, as well as parting wisdom as they continued their quest.

This enchanting scene was filmed in the Fernside Gardens at the very north of the North Island. The Fernside Gardens are known to be one of the grandest and oldest gardens in New Zealand, and it was also the setting for Sméagol’s battle with his brother Déagol for the One Ring.


Unfortunately, over the pandemic, tours stopped. “Prior to the Covid pandemic, Fernside was regularly visited by LOTR fans, some wearing cloaks and elven ears, and we hope that this can resume in the future.” – Fernside Gardens.

Film: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers
Where: Fernside Gardens Postal Address: 1407 State Highway 2, RD1 Featherston, 5771, New Zealand
When: You’ll have to ask Fernside Gardens via their website.
How much: TBD. Visit for more information.

Last stop: Mount Doom (Tongariro National Park).

The wild volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park set the scene for the nightmarish realm of Mordor, with Mt Doom depicted by the perfectly circular cone of Mount Ngauruhoe.

Like Frodo, you can embark on an arduous journey to Mount Doom by hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing – one of New Zealand’s Nine Great Walks (and NZ’s first UNESCO World Heritage site). Tongariro is home to particularly challenging treks, and on your quest you’ll journey past several volcanos and the Emerald Lakes.


Mount Ngauruhoe, and specifically its peak, is sacred to the local Maori hapū, Ngāti Hikairo Ki Tongariro. Make sure to be respectful when travelling in the area.

Film: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Where: Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park, Ruapehu District, Manawatu-Whanganui Region, New Zealand
When: Spring and Autumn are the most temperate seasons, but still expect temperamental weather on the mountain.
How much: You will either need to hire a car, shuttle there (about $35NZD return fare), plus accommodation if you choose to do the multi-day Tongariro Northern Circuit. You can join various guided expeditions over multiple days, or a less demanding half-day LOTR guided walk for $175NZD. 

New Zealand's South Island

First stop: Mines of Moria, Pillars of Argonath, Ford of Bruinen, and Gardens of Isengard (Queenstown Region and Southern Lakes).

The Queenstown region is the backdrop to numerous scenes throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Take Skippers Canyon – where Arwen fought off the Black Riders with a gushing river. Or Lake Alta, which sets the scene for Dimrill Dale, where the Fellowship escapes from the Mines of Moria. Paradise (Glenorchy) becomes the Gardens of Isengard, and Kawarau Gorge is where the Fellowship sails between the Pillars of Argonath.

You can take a 4WD tour to reach some of the destinations more off the beaten path, or alternatively, to see where the Fellowship hid from Saruman’s black crows, you’ll need to take a helicopter flight over Mount Olympus and Mount Owen (ask the pilot to point out the LOTR locations!). You’d also get a bird’s eye perspective of Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks.


While you’re in Queenstown, make sure to follow your adventurous streak! The Kawarau Gorge is the world’s first bungy jump site, and you can also ride on horseback through Isengard (Paradise).

Film: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers
Where: Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.
When: Summer, the usual peak season to visit NZ for long, sunny, adventure-filled days.
How much: LOTR Helicopter Tours by Heliworks Queenstown range from $560NZD to $7125NZD. Isengard Lord of the Rings Horse Trek by High Country Horses is priced at $195NZD. Kawarau Bridge Bungy costs $205NZD.

Second stop: Dead Marshes, Fangorn Forest, and River Anduin (Te Anau, Fiordland National Park).

From the Dead Marshes (Kepler Mire), where Frodo falls into the ghostly waters and is saved by Gollum; to Fangorn Forest (Takaro Road), where Merry and Pippin meet the Ents; to the Anduin River (Waiau River), where the fellowship bids farewell to the elves of Lothlorien and paddled onwards on their journey; the majesty and beauty of Fiordland National Park sets the ethereal scene.

To relive the Hobbit’s journey, hike the multi-day Milford Track through misty mountains, primordial rainforests, glacier-carved valleys and thundering waterfalls. There are also day-walks for hobbits seeking a milder expedition!


New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site! Make sure to visit the famous Milford Sound (and surrounding sounds too!).

Film: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Where: Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand
When: Only hike this trek through October until April. From May to late October it’s more dangerous with ice, snow and short daylight hours and should only be undertaken with alpine, river crossing and navigation skills.
How much: The hike is free, you’ll just need a car and supplies! In the area are also some helicopter tours and boat tours if you want some more adventures.

Third stop: Edoras and Misty Mountains (Mount Sunday, Southern Alps).

The spectacular Southern Alps are the scene of many of the fellowship’s adventures. Mt Potts High Country Station on the sheer hill of Mount Sunday is where Sir Peter Jackson brought Tolkien’s vision of Edoras to life.

This is where Eowyn left the Golden Hall of King Theoden with Merry, disguised as a man, to join the fight at Pelennor fields. While the Golden Hall set (which took nine months to build!) has been dismantled to preserve the natural scenery, the 360 degree views are breathtaking.


There are specially designed tours for Lord of the Rings Fans departing from Christchurch or Methven, complete with a replica Rohan flag, Aragorn’s Sword, King Theoden’s sword, Gimli’s axe, and Gandalf’s staff to relive the magic.

Film: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Where: Mount Sunday, Canterbury, New Zealand.
When: Anywhere between Spring until Autumn for longer sunnier days.
How much: The LOTR Edoras Day tour with Hassle-Free Tours New Zealand is priced at $299NZD per person for a full-day tour. The tour also takes you to where the Misty Mountain and Helms Deep scenes were filmed.


Last stop: Pelennor Fields (Twizel).


The Battle of Pelennor Fields is the crescendo of the Lord of the Rings series – the largest battle in the series where the Orcs attempted to siege Gondor. When all seemed lost, the Rohirrim arrived on horseback and swept through the Orc army. On the cusp of the Orc’s defeat, the Men of the East arrived with their legion of Oliphaunts and joined alliances with the Orc army. In the final hour, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas arrived with the Undead Warriors, and Eowyn defeats the Witch King, with the famous line, “I am no man.” (Or, if you’re a fan of the books, “But no living man am I”).

Technically, Frodo isn’t in this scene, nor in the previous location Edoras. But these scenes were so pivotal to the series that they had to be included in this LOTR itinerary. The battle, as well as the Wargs chase, was filmed in a remote, privately-owned field in Twizel (you can arrange a tour in the town of Twizel).


Twizel is also home to a charming little alpine town surrounded by vivid-blue lakes, lavender fields, and snowy mountains. Stay in Twizel and visit the nearby Lake Pukaki and Mount Aoraki (also known as Mt Cook) as part of Bilbo Baggins’s journey too!

Films: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Where: Twizel, Mackenzie Country, New Zealand
When: Year-round! There are some groups offering LOTR Twizel Tours, however none are currently operating. Keep your eyes peeled!.
How much: However much it costs your for a hire car and accommodation, and if you’re lucky enough to time it right, a tour!


And that concludes your journey as Frodo Baggins.

From here, it’s another journey yet to the eternal peace of the Undying Lands… but that’s a trip for another time.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo to Frodo, Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

Tour Option: For the die-hard Tolkienites


You also have the opportunity to absorb the spectacular Middle-earth scenery in full costume as part of a tour!

Red Carpet Tours specialise in Lord of the Rings tours offering 6-day, 10-day, 12-day and 14-day tours through all the major locations with exclusive access to filming locations, props, and a special movie guest (in winter months). The guided tour also includes accommodation, thirteen breakfasts, entry fees to private sites, Department of Conservation fees, Inter-Island ferry, entrance and lunch at Hobbiton, and a special presentation.

How much: The tours can cost up to $7650NZD for the two-week tour.
Find out more here:

Travel Money You’ll Need For Your Hobbity Adventures



And that’s a wrap on the two adventures led by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!
For your own hobbit’s journey through New Zealand, you’ll want to take a blend of cash and card in New Zealand Dollars ($NZD).


You’ll want to take cash with you, especially if travelling to rural areas where the wifi might be spotty. Cash is accepted pretty much everywhere, and is good to have on hand just-in-case.


New Zealand is one of the most card-friendly countries in the world. It’s pretty similar to Australia, and you’ll find it easy travelling with a prepaid travel card (like our Travel Money Oz Currency Pass)!

However, surprisingly, tap-and-go isn’t really used there – in fact, fees are passed on to the customer. So remember to always insert your card when paying.
Learn more about budgeting for your New Zealand adventures in our Destination Currency Guide.

More LOTR Adventures...

If you want more hobbit-inspired content, read the other two articles in our Lord of the Coins blog trilogy: Everything Money in Middle Earth, and Where to Travel Based on Your LOTR Archetype.


DISCLAIMER: Firstly, a shout-out to our wonderful friend and boss Dan who is moving right near Hobbiton soon! It's a magical place, and we're sure you're going to create an amazing life in New Zealand. On a more serious note: This blog is provided for information only and does not take into consideration your objectives, financial situation or needs. Prices were sourced August - September 2022. Prices may vary from time to time, and in different places within New Zealand. You should consider whether the information and suggestions contained in any blog entry are appropriate for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.  While we take reasonable care in providing the blog, we give no warranties or representations that it is complete or accurate, or is appropriate for you.  We are not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information and/or suggestions contained in this blog.

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