The most romantic Lord of the Rings tour of New Zealand you'll see today

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Travelers: Edwina and Matt
Budget: Spendy ($5000-$10,000)
Where did you go? We went to New Zealand (both North and South Island).

We decided to go to New Zealand, partially as this was Matt's first trip overseas (and New Zealand is one of Australia's closest neighbours), partially due to The Lord of the Rings. And finally we chose New Zealand because we wanted to try to keep the costs down, while having as much luxury as we could afford.

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What did you do? We arrived in Auckland, and the next day, we drove down to Matamata for the Hobbiton Set Tour, which was wonderful and such a beautiful way to start the LoTR portion of our trip. We had been able to time it right, and they had completed filming for the Hobbit so the set was all pristine and wonderful for visiting!

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The party tree with Bag End overlooking.
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Sam's place.
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Frodo's Hobbit hole!

After that we drove down to Rotorua and the next day we drove to Wellington. In Wellington, we went on another set tour, which included a visit to a private house, where some of the Rivendell set was filmed (which again was beautiful).

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In Lothlorien (near Wellington).

The next day, we flew to Christchurch (sadly devastated by the earthquakes — I had loved that town the last time I visited and was very cut-up to see it so greatly changed). We were then taken on another tour to Edoras (otherwise known as Mount Sunday), which was glorious — and like the rest of New Zealand, ridiculously photogenic!

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Edoras (and now the South Island) — it's the tiny little hillock in the middle.

After that, we drove down to Mount Cook and stayed at the Hermitage. On the trip down we had our first and only bout of rain, which we greatly appreciated, as it meant that we woke to snowfall and it made the previously picturesque, absolutely magical! I know, too many superlatives, but I had been hoping to have snow and it finally came!

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After staying overnight, we drove to Twizel, where we went on the Pelennor Fields tour. This was a small tour, but it has loads of costumes if that is your thing (it was totally our thing). After the tour ended, we drove to Lake Wanaka to stay the night before driving to Queenstown.

snowy new zealand

In Queenstown, we went on a helicopter, which was fun, and set down in some snow on a random mountain, which was slightly less fun, as we had stupidly only taken converse shoes to wear. Also, I have a husband who thinks its hilarious to put a handful of snow down my top.

We also had out last tour in Queenstown, with our favourite guide — he was even more of a geek about LoTR than we were and made the trip so much fun, discussing the ins and outs of LoTR. After that, we drove back to Christchurch and flew home.

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Going to Pelenor Fields tour, in Twizel — I think Gandalf rode over this

What would you have done differently? Well, we probably would have sorted out our phones beforehand. It had been decided that Matt's phone would be set to roaming, but he forgot to do it beforehand. Then we had issues with our first car (as we'd never seen nor heard of pedal hand breaks) and we couldn't ring anyone to ask why our car was beeping like mad… as we were driving at 100kms/hour on a freeway… with the hand break on. It all got sorted, but having a working phone when you arrive in a country is something which is extremely useful!

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Driving to Wanaka.

What's your best travel advice? If I can suggest, the inland route from Christchurch to Lake Wanaka is one of the most beautiful areas I experienced during our trip and I could barely put my camera down during the drive!

More dress-ups in Queenstown.
More dress-ups in Queenstown.

I thought that all the tours offered wonderful experiences (both for people who love LoTR and those who aren't that fussed), partially as the whole of New Zealand is so picturesque (if you are into that type of thing). Also, while the cities are small, they are clean and have loads of interesting shops and places to go (for instance, Weta Cave in Wellington!)

  1. Sounds like a wonderful vacation! I hope to travel to New Zealand (and Australia) someday, but as I'm in the US it a much longer and more expensive trip. If I go, I'd hope to make a very long trip of it and see both countries.

    My parents went to New Zealand, but did not do any of the Lord of the Rings related tours, because that isn't their kind of thing. They told me it was beautiful. They brought me back the most wonderful pair of gloves make of a mix of Merano wool and possum fur. (Different animal than what we call a possum in the US, its full name is the Australian brush tailed possum.) Apparently possums are quite a nuance in New Zealand, harming native wildlife, so they've decided to do something useful with their fur once they get rid of them. Anyway, it is really fun to show people who know different types of yarn these gloves and have them try to guess what type of fiber these are made of.

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    • I got myself a hood that has the possum fur on it too – not very useful in Australia but very cute none the less!

  2. Seriously, this is my freaking DREAM TRIP. One day I promise myself that I will take a freaking LOTR tour of New Zealand. It shall happen.

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  3. My partner and I toyed with this for our honeymoon, but as mentioned above, it's a long and expensive trip from the US. One day!

  4. Omg, this is awesome! My hubby & I did a NZ LotR trip back in 2004 (my write up & pix here) — Twizel was prob. my favorite place too! So gorgeous. Altho' I loved Deer Park Heights right outside of Queenstown — a bunch of different, slightly unrelated movie scenes were filmed there, right next to each other. Fun to piece them together. Plus cool animal sightings.

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    • I also loved visiting Deer Park Heights (I went the year after you with my brother and a friend) but we couldn't go in 2012 as the owner closed it down to tourists (I heard something about him having Altzeimers and owning a gun and it not being safe to go there, which was very upsetting both re his illness and also I'd wanted to take Matt there!)

  5. Yeeeeeeeessssss! I'm going to New Zealand in November and definately plan on taking a LoTR tour (or two), as well as enjoying the beautiful scenery.

  6. Its a gorgeous trip – I've been in early spring and mid autumn and both times of year are jaw-droppingly beautiful. If you can afford it, definitely try it!!

  7. Mah home!!!! Seriously, everyone needs to come here. It's such a beautiful country that for our honeymoon, we didn't go anywhere else! I've lived in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland and they're all such great cities. For our honeymoon we spent 2 weeks in a campervan around the South Island and it was just fantastic. Also, any Homies coming to NZ should totally let us Kiwis know as we're all pretty proud tour guides!!

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    • We are totally doing the same thing for our honeymoon! Except we are coming from Canada, so it's a bit longer of a trip. We've got the camper all rented and are trying to narrow down the list of all of the places we want to visit.

  8. Awesome pictures! I hope to get a chance to visit New Zealand. I've wanted to for quite a while as the scenery is so incredible– but it is soooo far from the middle of th US!

  9. "… the inland route from Christchurch to Lake Wanaka is one of the most beautiful areas I experienced during our trip and I could barely put my camera down during the drive!"
    Argh. I *just* got back from our trip to New Zealand and we did this drive, but we had to do it at night (flight scheduling trouble…) and now I am bummed that we couldn't see anything!
    For the adventurous Homies: there is a great day hike that takes you right past Mount Doom. It's a bit challenging, though, if you're as out of shape as I am!

    • I assume that you're talking about the Tongariro Crossing there! Fantastic day trip, and I know plenty of out of shape people that have done it, so it's a good one! It's also a stunning part of the country there if you simply drive down the Desert Rd, you get great views of Mt Doom! (Mount Tongariro in actuality)

      • Mt Doom is actually Mt Ngauruhoe 🙂 (Tongariro is the one sporting the flat top.)

        You should ALL come and visit! Do yourselves a favour if you do a north-south drive and take State Highway 3 rather than the more usual SH1 – the scenery around the King Country (south of the Waikato, where Matamata is) is absolutely stunning. I've lived in the Waikato most of my life and am still awestruck by how gorgeous SH3 is. It beats the crap out of SH1, which is mostly just roads and trucks. Only thing is, you have to be okay with windy one-lane-each-way roads. Highways in New Zealand are NOTHING like in America.

        • Yes! Google Maps' driving time estimates are a LIE! Especially on the South Island, where you *may* drive 100 but would very quickly end up at the bottom of a very steep ravine (or in the Tasman Sea).

  10. *sigh* New Zealand… It feels partly home as I studied in Christchurch as an exchange student in 2006 and can't wait to go back! I can't believe I spent one year and there are still so many things I have yet to see (never went to Hobbiton nor Wanaka, for instance)! Great pictures and I love the idea of a LOTR-themed trip!

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