Media Fact File: Lake-town - Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook

Lake Pukaki's shimmering turquoise waters and soaring white-coated Aoraki/Mt Cook made the perfect backdrop for Lake-town in 'The Hobbit' Trilogy.

Lake Pukaki is on the edge of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park at the base of the Southern Alps - the mountain chain that extends the length of New Zealand’s South Island. The nearest main township is Twizel, the nearest major city and international airport is Christchurch.

Filming facts

  • Lake Town was created at Tasman Downs Station on Lake Pukaki, chosen for its distinctive light, turquoise blue water, and alpine backdrop dominated by New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki Mount Cook.
  • Filming at this location was one of the largest operational periods in the shooting schedule with almost 700 people on set during the time here, mainly due to the additional performers required as ‘Lake-town Refugees’. Scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were also filmed close by, which required 10 helicopters to lift cast and crew to a plateau overlooking the lake.
  • Filming here was the first time that both the Main Unit and 2nd Unit stayed in the same region at the same time, occupying 800 beds, in a region of only 4,050 people!
  • Director Sir Peter Jackson has used the Mackenzie region three times to backdrop major location scenes in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies -for Pelennor fields, the Misty Mountains, and where Gandalf and the Company escape the chasing Wargs through the hidden entrance to Rivendell.

Cast favourite

  •  Cast member James Nesbitt (Bofur) was impressed by the immense natural beauty and colours of the Mount Cook region: "Very, very beautiful, huge open spaces, lovely wild flowers. I remember - going along all the roads - just all the kinds of colours." Tourism New Zealand featurette on DVD.

Did you know?

  • Lake Pukaki (178sqkm) is the largest of three lakes (with Tekapo and Ohau) occupying ancient glacial valleys in the Mackenzie Basin. The lake’s distinctive deep blue tones are from finely ground minerals carried in the glacier-fed waters.
  • Aoraki Mt Cook National Park - New Zealand's greatest alpine park - extends across 70,696 hectares encompassing New Zealand’s highest mountains (19 peaks over 3000 metres) and largest glaciers (covering 40 per cent of the area).
  • The region is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations with a variety of outdoor activities - walking and trekking, mountaineering and ice climbing, magnificent scenic flights and landings on snow and ice, cycling and stargazing.
  • The region was recognised in June 2012 as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. The 4300sqkm gold-rated dark sky reserve has almost light-pollution-free skies making for exceptional night sky viewing.
  • Celebrated New Zealand mountaineer and favourite son, Sir Edmund Hillary trained on Aoraki Mt Cook for his successful May 1953 ascent of Everest.

What the cast and crew said about Pukaki, Mt Cook:

James Nesbitt (Bofur): "Very, very beautiful, huge open spaces, lovely wild flowers. I remember - going along all the roads - just all the kinds of colours." TNZ featurette on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey DVD

Sir Peter Jackson (Director of The Hobbit Trilogy): "Behind us here is Mt Cook - New Zealand’s highest mountain - that’s where Sir Edmund Hilary trained to climb Mount Everest, it’s a little less than half the height of Everest so he basically had to climb Mt Cook twice as he practised for Everest." TNZ featurette on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey DVD

Andy Serkis (Gollum & Second Unit Director): "We hit at this time of year where there was incredible variety of shades of purple lupins springing up everywhere. Nearly everyone on the crew said it was like doing a recce for an amazing road trip they are going to do in the future." TNZ featurette on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey DVD

Martin Freeman (Bilbo): "Well you know I love filming in Wellington to be honest. But visually you know the Southern Alps takes a beating you know we spent a lot of time down there, it is just beautiful, breath-taking." TNZ Red Carpet Interview World Première The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 28 November 2012.