Filming Hobbits and Narnians: Film Sets in New Zealand

Here at, we’re not just film critics, we’re also fans. And what do film fans do on their vacations? They go visit movie sets! So, we traveled halfway around the world to visit some of the sets and a studio where The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were filmed. Before we get into pictures, though, here are some observations:

  1. New Zealand is even more beautiful than the movies make it look. No kidding, Norway, Austria, and Alaska are gorgeous, but New Zealand might be the most beautiful place on earth.
  2. While The Lord of the Rings is beautifully shot, tracking down the sets lets you know that it was much more of a ‘backyard shoot’ than you might think. For instance, the awesome scene where the four hobbits hide from a Nazgul under a massive tree root? It was filmed in a little city park on the top of Mount Victoria about 15 minutes away from WETA Worship. The epic location for the Battle of Helm’s Deep? A little stone quarry just off the main highway outside of Wellington (see pics below).
  3. While we weren’t huge fans of the Chronicles of Narnia movies released in 2005, 2008, and 2010 (mainly because we love the books so much and didn’t feel like they represented the books well enough), some of the places where they filmed were definitely worth visiting.
  4. It is a shame that they didn’t keep more of the sets of The Lord of the Rings. Hobbiton is the obvious exception, although we learned that they destroyed the Shire after the first trilogy (that’s actually the film set being burned in the Shire-burning scene in Return of the King) and then they rebuilt the whole thing again for the 2nd trilogy. The 2nd time they left Hobbiton intact on the Alexander farm on the North island, and the tour is definitely worth doing.
  5. Visiting all of these places, and particularly the WETA Workshop (where they do a lot of the special effects as well as costumes and miniatures), is really a celebration of the craftsmanship and passion of the people who make these movies (thousands of people, not just Peter Jackson). Seeing and reading about the process adds to the enjoyment of the films and is a gratifying experience for anyone interested in the art of film.

Here are our pictures with corresponding film stills (note for future travelers: all locations are on the North Island except Castle Hill, which is on the South Island):

Cathedral Cove in Coromandel/ Prince Caspian

IMG_6065prince caspian


Bag End in Hobbiton/ The Fellowship of the Ring

IMG_6089bag end

The Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton/ The Fellowship of the Ring

IMG_6097green dragon inn

Mount Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) in Tongariro National Park/ Return of the King

IMG_6111mount doom

Mangawhero Falls in Tongariro National Park/ The Two Towers


WETA Worship in Wellington/ The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia…

IMG_6138rock monster

Rock Quarry outside Wellington/ The Two Towers (gotta use your imagination here)

IMG_6160Helm's Deep

Rivendell in Kaitoke Park outside Wellington/ The Fellowship of the Ring


Castle Hill near Arthur’s Pass/ The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe

IMG_6228Castle Hill

-Madeleine D and Jonathan D


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