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Loved Lord of the Rings? These 7 Films were shot across New Zealand’s diverse and dramatic landscapes

Recently updated on November 27th, 2023 at 04:56 pm

From the rolling hills of the North Island, to the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of the South Island, there’s nothing quite like New Zealand, or Aotearoa (meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’) in the Indigenous Maori language. 

New Zealand’s awe-inducing landscapes have been attracting visitors from all across the globe for years; however, the diverse and spectacular scenery has also provided the perfect backdrop for many films. While the success following the 2001 Lord of the Rings trilogy put New Zealand on the map as an ideal cinematic destination, it also worked wonders in boosting the country’s tourism. After all, there are few other forms of pop culture that have the ability to transport you to new locations quite like a good film can.

What may come as a surprise to many, is that there are many more films both before and after the highly acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy that were filmed in New Zealand. Here, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite films shot in New Zealand.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Starting with the obvious film choice, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was brought to life by Sir Peter Jackson, was entirely filmed in New Zealand. Showcasing a number of the country’s most beautiful scenic locations, there’s no shortage of ‘Middle Earth’ New Zealand filming locations that can be added to your travel itinerary. Some favourites include Kaitoke Regional Park, Mount Sunday and Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve to name a few.

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The Hobbit Trilogy

You can’t talk about the Lord of the Rings Trilogy without mentioning The Hobbit. Having created a whole new sub-industry within New Zealand tourism, there are several tours available that take you to many of the film locations featured in The Hobbit trilogy, including the famous Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.

Experience the rolling hills and green pastures of The Shire as you enjoy breakfast in the charming village of Hobbiton when you travel on the Contrasts of New Zealand tour with Trafalgar.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Based on the book ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’ by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a 2016 coming-of-age adventure film, directed by Taika Waititi. The film, which tells the story of a juvenile delinquent who is taken to live with a foster family in remote farmland, broke box office records as the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time, making a total of NZ$8.4million.

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Whale Rider

Showcasing some of the North Island’s most stunning coastline, Whale Rider is a wonderful movie that pulled at the heartstrings of viewers both at home in New Zealand and abroad. Directed by Niki Caro, the film (which was entirely filmed in the small coastal town of Whangara) was nominated for several awards, including an Academy Award nomination for the main character, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Enjoy stunning views of turquoise seas and golden beaches of New Zealand’s North Island when you travel with Trafalgar on the Jewels of the Bay tour.

Chronicles of Narnia

Providing the perfect backdrop for C.S. Lewis’ world of Narnia, the majority of both of the two Chronicles of Narnia films were shot in New Zealand. The most notable location used is at Cathedral Cove in Coromandel, where the natural arches gave the feeling of the tunnel that the children go into before being summoned back to Narnia. Additionally, you can also visit the set of the ruined Castle Cair Paravel which was built in the Hereherataura Peninsula.

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While James Cameron’s blockbuster hit Avatar wasn’t filmed in New Zealand, its special effects, props, conceptual design and costumes were all the creation of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital; a workshop based out of Wellington. When in Wellington, you can go on a behind-the-scenes guided tour and learn how they brought the fictional world of Pandora to life.


If ever there was an excuse to rewatch movies starring Hugh Jackman, the New Zealand filming location showcasing the beautiful Otago scenery of the South Island in the Wolverine films, seems like a pretty good excuse to us! The remote cabin of James (Logan) was built on the peak of Deer Park Heights (just south of Queenstown), while the mountains overlooking it are the beautiful Remarkables.

You can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Remarkables over an exclusive regional dinner when you travel with Trafalgar on the Contrasts of Australia and New Zealand tour.

Do you enjoy visiting the sites of your favourite films and television shows when travelling? Let us know in the comments! If a visit to some of New Zealand filming locations is something you’d like to experience in the future, be sure to visit our website to learn more about how you can travel to New Zealand with Trafalgar.

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