Key location sites, movie-making hot spots and a series of international red carpet premières have turned Wellington - New Zealand’s capital city - into a set-jetting destination for film buffs and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy fans.
Whether it’s the freedom of letting someone else navigate and drive, entertaining insider stories from a local expert or the company of fellow fans, organised film tours have become a popular choice for visitors to Wellington.
Since the release of the first of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in 2001, tourists have been flocking to Wellington to experience a unique piece of movie magic. International visitor arrivals into Wellington increased 50% in the decade 2001 to 2010, and since 2005, throughout New Zealand, an average 47,000 visitors annually have visited a film location.
Several Wellington tour operators are working this to advantage, offering a choice of tours that take in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy filming locations in the city and surrounding region.
For die-hard ''Rings'' and ''Hobbit'' fans, there are even opportunities to relive Middle-earth fantasies by re-creating movie scenes - in real life locations - with the aid of props supplied by the tour guides.
Most guided tours centre around the same film locations - all within easy reach of the city - but tours vary around the length of time, group sizes, and added options such as a helicopter flight, dining and winery visits.
Wellington Movie Tours
Wellington Movie Tours’ Ted Guise claims to be the only operator to show movie clips whilst the tour is en route.
Guise shares behind the scenes stories and explanations of how many of the filming shots were achieved: "See the sights, go for bush and beach walks, have your picture taken at the ‘Legolas Tree’ and enjoy the audio-visual displays as we show you around our movie capital."
Wellington Movie Tours offer group tours for up to 29 people, full or half day tour options, visits to 15 The Lord of the Rings scenes, nature walks in ''Hobbiton Woods'', a trip to the Weta Cave and an optional Window into Workshop tour are available. Props are also available on tour to add authenticity to photos.
Flat Earth Tours
Flat Earth Tours is a premium luxury tour provider, showcasing the Wellington region’s unique sights, art, culture and natural beauty on half and full-day trips. They also offer The Lord Of The Rings and Middle-earth location tours - some include lunch and a Weta Cave visit.
The Flat Earth ‘Deluxe’ tour’ includes two helicopter flights, one of which takes in the amazing limestone formations of Dimholt Road (the army of the dead) and lunch at a winery in the Wairarapa wine region.
Wellington Rover Tours
Wellington Rover Tours - operated by Flat Earth - lays claim to the best seven locations north and south of Wellington.
Billed as ‘the little sightseeing tour company’, Wellington Rover runs small group tours for up to seven people, guided by Lord of the Rings specialists. The tours include a half-day ‘best of’ locations tour or a full day extended version that also stops at the Weta Cave, Windown in to Workshop and featuring an ‘orc-sized’ picnic lunch.
Window into Weta
One of the newest offerings in Wellington is the Window into Workshop at Weta Studios. Visitors are treated to a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of Weta Studios with a guided tour of the exhibition space.
Visitors can also catch an up-close look at various props and models created by Weta over the years and learn about some of the processes the ground-breaking staff used to create magic for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy.
''The Hobbit'' Trilogy
Wellington Film Destinations Map