New Zealand’s landscapes will again be in the spotlight with the worldwide release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Tourism New Zealand has unveiled four new filming locations from the film for visitors looking to experience the reality of Middle Earth. In the North Island, the mountains of Turoa are in the spotlight as ‘Hidden Bay, whilst the South Island was used for three new filming locations – the Pelorus River in Marlborough as ‘Forest River’; Lake Pukaki in the surrounds of Mount Cook as ‘Lake Town’ and Paradise near Queenstown for ‘Beorns House’.
REALITY: Pelorus River, Marlborough, South Island FANTASY: Forest River
Pelorus River, half way between Blenheim and Nelson in the north of the South Island, is the setting for ‘Forest River’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Sir Peter Jackson chose the setting for the ‘dwarves escaping in barrels scene’, with its solid rock shoreline surrounded by forest with a sandy beach for the barrels to come ashore.
What the stars say: The four-day shoot at Pelorus River was a highlight for Stephen Hunter (Bombur): “My favourite day on set – unquestionably – was floating down the Pelorus River in barrels … way cool, and if they ever make it a ride… life time pass please.”
Experience the Reality? Visitors can swap barrels for kayaks on a guided kayak tour down the river, which includes stops at waterfalls, streams and the filming location itself, with the opportunity to camp overnight in the lush native forest just 100 metres from where the filming took place.
Activity Idea: Pelorus Eco Adventures offers river canoe trips through the filming locations in inflatable tandem canoes.
REALITY - Turoa, Ohakune, North Island – FANTASY – Hidden Bay, Lonely Mountain
Turoa – a popular ski area high on the flanks of the active volcano Mount Ruhapehu is embedded in a Dual World Heritage Site in the North Island’s great Central Plateau. Sir Peter Jackson chose this rugged terrain to depict Hidden Bay – the entrance to The Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the watchful eyes of the giant craggy bust of Thror.
What the stars say: Martin Freeman (Bilbo in The Hobbit Trilogy) described the central North Island region as his favourite location: “It is beautiful. There is a mountain, there is a waterfall, there’s a beautiful view across the valley there. It’s one of the sort of archetypal Kiwi places that you thankgod New Zealand has such amazing landscapes.”
Experience the Reality: The North Island’s main driving route passes directly through this region and Tongariro National Park is a year-round tourist destination. Take in the scenery on the spectacular 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, or choose two wheels and hit two of the great rides in the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network – Nga Haerenga including the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, which uses a combination of local mountain biking trails, public roads and a jetboat to take riders the 317km from the central volcanic plateau to the sea in Whanganui.
Activity idea: Mt Ruapehu offers Scenic Chairlift Rides, riding over Mt Ruapehu’s volcanic terrain to an altitiude of 2020 metres above sea level. Once there visitors can take in the views of the Tongariro National Park, Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.
REALITY: Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook, South Island FANTASY: Lake-Town
Lake Pukaki is a shimmering blue jewel set into the South Island’s grand alpine playground. New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki Mt Cook draws serious alpinists and mountaineers from around the world, and the surrounding region is a popular destination for star-gazing, winter snow sports, cycling and summer hiking and walking. Sir Peter Jackson chose this part of the Southern Alps as the setting for ‘Lake-town’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. One of the most extensive outdoor sets built for The Hobbit Trilogy – was created at Tasman Downs Station on the shores of Lake Pukaki. The whimsical lakeside village set sits over water incorporating clusters of two-storey wooden dwellings arranged around connecting walkways, waterways and wharves.
What the stars say: James Nesbitt (Bofur) was impressed by the immense natural beauty and colours of the Aoraki Mount Cook region which he described as “very, very beautiful, huge open spaces, lovely wild flowers. I remember - going along all the roads - just all the kinds of colours.”
Experience the reality: One of the best ways to experience the majestic landscape is on a scenic flight. There are also options for landings on glaciers and snow, or cross country tours by 4WD and Argo, and glacier exploring by boat. The iconic Alps to Ocean cycle trail starts in Aoraki and travels 300km to the coastal town of Oamaru. Along with shorter walks, the southern edge of Lake Pukaki forms one section of Te Araroa - The Long Pathway, a walking trail that travels the length of New Zealand.
Activity Idea: Take a scenic heli flight over the region for the ultimate aerial views. Departing Twizel, the Alpine Express 25 minute heli flight will land you amongst the jewels of the Southern Alps with spectacular views over Lake Pukaki and the Mackenzie Basin.
REALITY: Paradise, Queenstown, South Island FANTASY: Beorn’s House
The epic landscapes of New Zealand’s vast Southern Lakes region are the epitome of Middle-earth. Arcadia Station – a working high country farm in Paradise Valley near Queenstown – was chosen as the setting for Beorn’s House in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Originally designed in England, the homestead at Arcadia Station – which sits beside Diamond Lake - was built in 1906. Jackson’s team spent six weeks building Beorn’s House at Arcadia Station with the film crew on set for four days.
What the stars say: Andy Serkis, who played Gollum and worked as Second Unit Director on The Hobbit Trilogy, is among those impressed by the Queenstown region: “I was in a very fortunate position directing the second unit on this so I got to fly round in a helicopter over Queenstown and look at all the extraordinary places down there and shoot the most incredible places…it’s endless really.”
Experience the reality: Glenorchy’s proximity to the adventure capital of New Zealand Queenstown, means there is a wealth of activities on offer. Next to Arcadia Station, popular Dart Stables runs horse treks through locations including where Boromir met his doom at Amon Hen in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Several horses from Dart Stables were also used in the Trilogy. Alternatively head to the skies for a scenic tour of the landscapes from above with Glenorchy Air.