You can take a flight from the North to the South island of New Zealand. That might be a bit quicker but you will miss the experience of traveling by ferry; the rear-view of Wellington and the approaching views of Picton, the arrival point in South Island, are noteworthy. InterIslander’s “Aratere”, the ferry we took across, was extremely comfortable and well-stocked. We appreciated that our new-found obsession with ciders was supported on board.
Upper | Aratere Ferry
Lower | Wellington, rear-view
Above | North to South Island Views, and the world’s best Apple Cider
Above | Arriving in Picton
Organized tours where herds of people board a bus and listen to someone rattle on about sights has never been my thing. However, if you’re interested in seeing the Lord of the Rings filming locations and the studio where the FX props were designed, keep in mind these are spread out and occasionally difficult to find.
Wellington Rover did a good job with this tour, particularly our guide who was either a really good actor or a confirmed LOTR fanboy who had spent years digging into the minutiae of how, when and where LOTR was filmed; I’m leaning toward the latter. Our group was definitely LOTR savvy and fun, not missing an opportunity to wear fake Hobbit ears, don a cape or have a plastic sword fight.
Rivendell and the forest where Hobbitsus first encountered the Nazgul were the two big filming locations we explored. I have to say, post visit, this is a credit to Peter Jackson’s FX team since the sights are not at all recognizable. Touring Weta Workshop, where all of the FX characters were created, was truly enjoyable, particularly seeing and hearing about the process they used to create the characters, which you probably know, visually dominate LOTR.
UL | LOTR Fanboy Car
UR | Mt. Vic, LOTR filming location
Lower | Where Hobbits first encounter the Nazgul
Above | Weta Workshop characters
Above | Rivendell
Beauty is a sliding scale in the context of New Zealand. Arguably the South Island has more breathtaking views, however for the North Island, Wellington is one of the more scenic spots. This might have something to do with Peter Jackson’s decision to film parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy here.
A LOTR tour in Wellington is an excellent way to see the city from above. If you’re spending time here I’d also recommend hiking to the top of Mt Victoria. The top of Mt Vic was a LOTR filming location, however the peekaboo views of this coastal city as you ascend are spectacular. The Te Papa museum is completely amazing if you are looking for the history of New Zealand and the Maori. If you only have a few hours, squeeze in the cable car ride from Lambton Quay to Kelburn; the city views are striking and there’s a tunnel light show reminding me of the now-defunct I-Beam’s rave days (long-time San Francisco residents know what I mean).
Above: Views from various elevations while hiking up Mt. Vic
Below: Light show in the Wellington Cable Car
Below: Te Papa Museum