The South Island was the ideal place for many of the scenes of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Filming of all three movies took place between October 1999 and December 2000. They were released in 2001 (The Fellowship of the Ring), 2002 (The Two Towers) and 2003 (The Return of the Ring). It was one of the largest film projects ever undertaken.
The Hobbit, the first in a new trilogy on the same theme, was released in December 2012.
The best way to appreciate the beauty of the locations where the filming took place is on a guided tour. Here are some of the best in the South Island.
LOTR Scenes: Dimrill Dale, Erigion Hills
Details: Dimrill Dale and Erigion Hills are located in the Kahurangi National Park and are only accessible by helicopter. Chetwood Forest is at Takaka Hill on the edge of the National Park and can be reached by road.
- Nelson Helicopter Tour: A flight to one or both of Dimrill Dale and Erigion Hills, for a maximum of two hours.
LOTR Scenes: Edoras, Meduseld, Plains of Rohan
Details: Situated about 2.5 hours' drive from Christchurch, the sets constructed here were some of the most elaborate of the entire project. The setting makes the most of two of the South Island's most contrasting features, the vast and flat Canterbury Plains and the majestic mountains of the Southern Alps.
- Christchurch to Edoras Tour: A four-wheel-drive adventure to Edoras from Christchurch. The tour is a full day and includes lunch.
LOTR Scenes: Pelennor Field, Plains of Rohan
Details: This is close to the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and New Zealand's highest mountain. It is the setting for the opening scenes of "The Two Towers." Although on private land, the locations are accessible by guided tour.
- Lord of the Rings Tour Twizel: With a maximum of only nine people per trip, these tours are of one or two hours in length.
Queenstown and Wanaka
LOTR Scenes: Dimrill Dale, Golden Plain, Lothlorien, Pillars of the Argonath, River Anduin, Rohan and many others
Details: One of the most picturesque areas in New Zealand, this was an obvious choice for many Lord of the Rings locations. It is little wonder that this was one of the favorite areas for the cast and crew.
- Nomad Safaris Queenstown Tours: These are small, personalized tours that will show you the variety and beauty of the Lord of the Rings locations in the area. Both full and half day, conducted in four-wheel-drive vehicles.
- Helicopter Tours: The ultimate Lord of the Rings tours, with the very company used for aerial filming in the movies themselves.
Fiordland: Milford Sound and Te Anau
LOTR Scenes: The Dead Marshes, Fangorn Forest, Nen Hithoel, River Anduin, Silverlode River and others.
Details: This was another rich area for Lord of the Rings scenes. The ancient beech forests of the Fiordland National Park near Milford Sound was the perfect setting for Fangorn Forest. Lake Te Anau is one of the South Island's largest lakes and provided scenes for Nen Hithoel, Silverlode River, and Fangorn Forest. Due to the remoteness of the region, the only way to see Lord of the Rings locations here is by helicopter.
- Helicopter Flight from Queenstown: This is a 1.5-hour flight departing from Queenstown and landing in Milford Sound.