If New Zealand's North Island is diverse... the South Island is Remarkable. All of the breathtaking scenery from any of the Middle-earth movies were filmed on the South Island. A short flight from Wellington we continued our journey in Christchurch, where after a couple hours drive we were off-roading in an all terrain jeep towards little Mt. Sunday. The entire set of Edoras was built on the top of the little mountain. One of the more impressive sets built, many people were trying to catch a glimpse during filming. Supposedly, when the land owner managed to take a photo of the set and released it to the media, the only thing that kept him from a lawsuit was the fact that he had done the studio a favour by using his helicopter to round up a bunch of horses that escaped during filming. Even though the set has been dismantled today, it is still an impressive view. One can easily imagine where the set once stood. The tour company treated us to a picnic lunch with champagne and gave us the opportunity to take pictures with props. Normally, you are allowed to climb to the top of the summit, however we were denied this due to poor weather. On a clear day, it would be worth the long trek out of Christchurch.
From Christchurch, we took an 11 hour transport bus ride towards Queenstown. It was a great experience, as it was stunning views the entire journey. The bus also made lots of stops and had free wifi. This would be the ideal time to have the LOTR filming locations guide by Ian Brodie handy. The transfer is not a Middle-earth tour, but you can follow the filming locations on your own with the book. Lunch was available at the base of Mt. Cook, which is NZ's highest peak. Together with Lake Pukaki, Mt. Cook is one of the filming locations for Laketown and the Lonely Mountain. It is a beautiful view.
Once in Queenstown, there are many different options for Middle-earth touring. The first one we did was with Nomad Safaris. Once again we boarded an all terrain jeep to travel to the forest of Lothlorien, Ithilien camp, Midgewater Marshes, Amon Hen, and various mountainous filming locations (Queenstown lies at the base of The Remarkables... the vast mountain range of NZ's South Island). Once again, million dollar views are around every bend; a good camera is a must! The second tour we did was of one from horseback. It was definitely a unique way to tour the area. You may be lucky to even ride on one of the horses used as an extra in the movies (my horse, Wilfred, arrived to the ranch after shooting finished. However, my husband's horse, Trevor, was in the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie). Some of the longer horse riding tours allow you to visit the site of Boromir's death scene, which would be an amazing experience.
Ultimately, both the North and South Island have unique locations that any Middle-earth fans would fall in love with. The person who enjoys more concrete locations with physical props would enjoy the North Island, whereas those who love nature and beautiful scenery in addition to the scenes from the movies might be more drawn to the South. Either way, if your fandom is bordering on obsession, a trip to New Zealand should be scheduled in your near future! I highly recommend it and would be more than happy to give advice to those planning on travelling.
Namarie, melon nin!
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