Some Possible Itineraries
How do I see them all, and in what order? Our Top Ten is spread across the two major islands, and there is much more to where they came from! Plus your budget for time and assets may be different. So what about a few options?
The “Just Fly Through” Plan (or “I Only Have Three Days)
Truth be told, you’re tempted to call it “Why Rep Bother?” Travel plans. But maybe you’re heading to or from Australia, or Fiji, and think you’re going to add a “quick” side trip. With this short window, you have to choose your island. There’s a strong case to go south, but we’ll let Hobbiton and Weta stick together. This is it:
The first day:
- Fly to Auckland
- Drive to Matamata (2-2.5 hours)
- Check out Hobbiton (ideally at night when the Green Dragon serves dinner)
The second day:
- Drive to the Mount Ruapehu area (2.5-3 hours)
- See Mordor, Emyn Muil, stream of Gollum, Mount Doom
- Maybe a partial drive to Wellington
The third day:
- Drive to Wellington (4.5 hours)
- Visit the Weta / Weta Caves, and as many as you want in Wellington
- Ideally, hike up Mount Victoria to see the first Hobbit / Nazgûl encounter, Rohan’s devotion, etc.
Depart from Wellington
But seriously – why bother? If you can stretch it into a whole week, we still recommend sticking to one island rather than slathering yourself like butter on too much bread. Consider adding:
- The Piopio / Hairy Feet Tour, and enter the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
- Ride a raft on the Rangitikei / Anduin River
- Several sites around Wellington, such as Isengard in Harcourt Park, Rivendell at Kaitoke Regional Park, and / or the spot Sméagol/ DEagle inconvenience at Fernside Estate (if you can take a tour)
- Much more Wellington! (Te Papa Museum, Embassy Theater, Miramar, Seatoun and Brown Fish, etc.)
“I Want Both Islands!” Plan (or You’ve Talked Me Into Two Weeks)
So we bring you to Wellington. Keep all the splendor of your one week plan, and now head out to the South Island! Of course, you can always reverse the order of your two week itinerary and begin your search for South Island and Christchurch.
- Take the ferry from Wellington to Picton
- Day Eight: Picton / Nelson Area – rafting on the Pelorus River (barrel escape)
- Day Ninth: Coastal Drive to Christchurch (5.5 hours); take a look at the Botanic Gardens at least
- Day Ten: Mount Sunday / Edoras, then to Twizel (Pelennor Fields)
- Day Eleven: Twizel to Poolburn (Rohan Village, “They took the Hobbits to Isengard!”)
- Day Twelve: Poolburn to Queenstown (take a multi-location tour, experience one of the few places in NZ with nightlife, consider a bungee jump)
- Day Thirteenth: Lake Queenstown / Malvora / Paradise / Deer Park Heights
(multiple combinations of Nen Hithoel, Parth Galen, White Mountains (Remarkables), Fords of Bruinen, Fangorn, “Aragorn’s Cliff”, Paths of the Dead exit, flight to Helm’s Deep, and more)
- Day Fourteenth: Drive back to Christchurch (6 hours) to fly; maybe check out the Antarctic Center if there’s time
The “Fill the Corner” Plan (Three Week Plus Extravaganza)
Look, New Zealand will take root in your soul. You will leave wanting more. So why not linger? I’ve been there twice, gathering six weeks across the Land of Long White Clouds, and I have absolutely no run out of things to see, or places to revisit. If you have flexibility, why not:
- Take a day trip to the Pinnacles, ideally in a Paths of the Dead cosplay (from Wellington)
- Stop at Stansborough Mill and pick up an elf robe or nine (Wellington)
- Take a helicopter tour of Mt. Olympus for some bout bout, and Mt. Owen quit Moria (Nelson)
- Visit Jens Hansen Jewelry to get (see) the real Original (Nelson) Ring
- Stay at the Tasman Downs to see the Lake City Refugee camp (Lake Pukaki)
- Head to the Twelve Mile Delta (near Queenstown – and hop on some conies and taters)
- Drive the Lindis Pass, and find a spot featuring Race to the Ford of Bruinen (near Tarras)
- Hear your travel agent about the coolest things to see that aren’t necessarily Middle-earth connected, like hiking the Tongariro Crossing, or seeing the Maori Hangi, or jet boating to Huka Falls, or enjoying rustic New Zealand wine in Marlborough and / or Central Otago, or fishing around Rotorua, or taking a boating tour in Milford Sound, or, or, or…
Several Resources to Help You
Without question, the must-buy book for all Middle-earth enthusiasts heading to New Zealand is a location guide published by Ian Brodie. They come complete with descriptions, beautiful pictures, directions, and for the LotR book, some precise GPS coordinates to help guide your way when all the other lights are off.
Both titles are available, among others, at Amazon.com.
Because of this, many printed roadmaps available (yes, in formats other than stone tablets) mark Middle-earth film sites live, often using small gold rings.
You may also want to connect with a tour agency who can give you access to private land, and help facilitate viewing areas with multiple filming spots with much greater efficiency. Many have finished their homework, and know how to point you to the exact place you need that selfie to recreate your favorite scene. Some of the most experienced include Red Carpet Tour, Pure Glenorchy, New Zealand Flat Earth Experience, and Black Sheep Tour Company.
Some of us at TORn still look forward to partnering with our friends on Red carpet and forming a group to celebrate 20 FotRth Next December!
A Word About COVID: May We Come Back, Madame President?
New Zealand is still closed. Although the country has done an excellent job of keeping its population virus-free, it has resulted in a strict shutdown for international travel. The big question, obviously, is how quickly we can expect borders to reopen, ideally without us having to budget a 14-day quarantine into our itinerary. While we may have a point of view here at TORn in the Amazon series, we’re not really epidemiologists. Many North American travel agencies, like our own Garfeimao, focus their NZ bookings on dates after October 1, 2021. So save that palantyrs polished, and be a good wish! (Well, here’s a smooth t-shirt plug: you can go here for more open-ended opportunities https://teespring.com/be-of-good-hope.)
Here is the official link you can use to find out New Zealand’s COVID posture, as well as the types of visa requirements and fees you can estimate.
Start planning your adventure now,
Editor’s Note: Throughout the month, and as part of us The Tolkien Adventist Calendar Celebration, we feature news and resources for fans of JRR Tolkien, the world and his work. Today’s official arrival calendar is below!
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