The last time Spot Cool Stuff flew into the international airport in Christchurch, New Zealand there was a big sign in the customs area that read WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.
That was in 2003. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was selling out in theaters worldwide. Word had spread that the filming location of Middle Earth in the three Rings movies — all the outdoor scenes from the volcanic landscape around Mordor to the lush green elven forest — were filmed somewhere in New Zealand. In fact, even the rings used as props in the movies were made in New Zealand†. And suddenly, New Zealand, on the fringe of the planet’s populated masses, became the center of travel for fantasy fiction lovers everywhere.
Then the hype around the movies faded into shadow (as they say). But its power is about to reemerge.
This November, The Hobbit, the prequel story to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is slated to hit movie screens. And Tourism New Zealand is gearing up, releasing this web video beckoning JRR Tolkien fans to come visit:
The video emphasizes the lakes, streams, glaciers and other natural wonders of New Zealand. But there are plenty of man-made Hobbit attractions in New Zealand too. Among them:
Hobbiton — The shire’s filming location for Lord of the Rings was rebuilt for The Hobbit. Today, travelers can take a guided tour of the Green Dragon Pub, Bilbo’s home and 42 other hobbit dwellings. You’ll find Hobbiton near the town of Matamata, a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland.
The Weta Cave — Weta Workshops, the special effects and prop company that worked on Lord of the Rings and dozens of other movies including Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia, has opened a section of its studio to the public. You’ll find the Weta Cave, including its theaterette and museum, in downtown Wellington.
Woodlyn Park — Long-time Spot Cool Stuff readers might remember our review of this hobbit-like hotel where you can stay in a room with porthole-style windows built into the side of a hill. Guests at Woodlyn Park can also sleep inside an airplane and old railway car. You’ll find this unusual hotel in the scenic Waitomo region on the North Island.
Several companies run Lord of the Rings tours, though New Zealand is a very easy place to travel independently. It’s probably the best sign-posted country Spot Cool Stuff has been to. More importantly, the people are friendly, the prices are reasonable and the scenery is gorgeous.
So venture forth, chosen explorer, and check it out for yourself. Middle Earth awaits you. Again.
This post is sponsored by Tourism New Zealand
† Goldsmith Jens Hansen made 40 different rings used during the Lord of the Rings productions and still makes reproductions of the ring in his studio in Nelsen, New Zealand.
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