Finding movie locations in New Zealand

No visit to New Zealand would be complete without exploring some of the locations featured in movies such as Lord of the Rings, The River Queen, and Whale Rider.

After all, who wouldn’t want to follow in the footsteps of Frodo, paddle along side the River Queen, and swim with the Whale Rider.

Many of the movies, however, were filmed in remote locations well of the tourist trail. Little, if anything, remains of the sets and props built for the movies.

But it’s well worth the effort to find them because the biggest star of these movies – the landscape – remains.

The Lord of the Rings

Director Peter Jackson covered the whole of New Zealand looking for ‘middle earth’ and ended up filming in 150 different locations.

Most of the villages and sets created for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were dismantled as soon as shooting stop.

But if you head a couple hours south from Auckland on State Highway 27, you’ll come across the remains of the original Hobbiton Village. Located on private farmland near the town of Matamata, access is only available by tour.

The River Queen and The Whale Rider

These two movies provided not only spectacular scenery but also introduced moviegoers to insights into Maori history and culture.

Visitors to New Zealand can get a glimpse of this by heading out to the Whanganui River and following the trail of the River Queen. This river that was used by Maori as a main transport route for centuries before Europeans arrived. Today, you can canoe, kayak, or jet boat down the river. Alternatively, you can hike along any of the numerous hiking trails that follow the river.

Those choosing the water route can arrange for an overnight stay at Tieke Marae, an old pa (fort) located on the river banks. This cultural experience features a traditional powhiri (welcome) and strives to provide a view of Maori life – past and present.

The small village atmosphere is also available at the beachside community of Whangara (population 30) where Whale Rider was set. Located near Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island, Whangara is the hometown of Witi Ihimaera, author of Whale Rider. This small Maori town (population 30) is the ancestral home of the Ngati Konohi tribe.

Base yourself at nearby Gisborne, known for it’s sunny weather and wineries, and take one of the tours to Whangara led by Hone Taumaunu, cultural consultant during the filming of Whale Rider. These tours depart from the Gisborne Visitors Information Center and offer a chance to visit the house where the filming was done and learn about the story that inspired the movie.

(image by lifacolor)


  1. Azeem October 18, 2011
  2. palmcourtrotorua December 17, 2012
  3. Miles with Vibes February 16, 2020

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