Wellington was the main filming and production location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and a visit to New Zealand’s capital isn’t complete without getting involved in a tour.
I joined an afternoon trip with Adventure Safari to see some of the sites where famous scenes were filmed and to visit Weta Cave in Miramar, where hand-crafted sculptures by the films’ artwork creators are on display.
Our tour began with a drive up to Mount Victoria, which has fantastic views of the city and harbour. Our guide Ted took us for a stroll through the woods where the first day of filming was completed in October 1999 and showed us numerous spots where Frodo and his hobbit friends experienced the beginning of their adventures outside of the Shire.
Ted bought along his laptop so that we could watch clips from the movies as we stood on location and afterwards, we were given the chance to have our photos taken re-enacting specific scenes.
First up was the scene where Frodo was resting in a tree while Sam cooked a fry up. Ted even provided props including pipes and a frying pan with fake bacon!
Next, we visited the spot where the four hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin come tumbling down the hillside after escaping an angry Farmer Maggot. Unfortunately, we couldn’t convince anyone else on the tour to lie on the muddy path with us, so we’re two ‘hobbits’ down in this shot…
If I had any small degree of self respect remaining after lying on the ground with my legs resting on my new friend Sean’s back, I definitely lost it trying to mimic Frodo’s questionable facial expression from the moment he almost succumbed to the ring’s power as the hobbits hid from the black rider…
–And with that in the bag, there was no reason not to go all out and pretend to be a horse’s head.
This is the practice run through.–
Not bad, eh?!
Ted then drove us to Miramar, the location of Weta Cave, where we had the option of watching a behind-the-scenes video containing interviews with Peter Jackson and the production company’s other cofounders. While this movie gives some insight into the process of designing small-scale sets, weapons and armour, mythical creatures and just about anything else under the sun, nothing beats seeing it in person on a ‘Window into Workshop’ tour.
Window into Workshop is an additional $20, but you get to see models for movies that haven’t even finished production yet. Your guide will be one of the many talented artists and most of them are passionate about film making, so who knows if you might be shown around by a future famous director!
Whichever you pick, you’ll still have time to look around the Cave and, if you’re a big fan of one of the movies, perhaps even purchase a limited edition sculpture or some jewellery or other souvenir.
TIPS ON VISITING WETA CAVE
• Adventure Safari will collect you from central accommodation so there’s no need to worry about finding their office. The Wellington Tour runs daily between 2:30 and 6:30 pm.
• They also offer a morning ‘Valley Tour’, which includes settings around the Hutt Valley for other famous Lord of the Rings scenes including Helms Deep, Minas Tirith, Rivendel and the Gardens of Isengard, or you can combine the two in the ‘Ultimate Movie Tour’.
• Wear your hiking clothes so you can muck in with the photos and trek easily through the woods.
• Don’t forget your camera or your sense of humour!
• If feet freak you out, don’t spend too long looking at the detail in these hobbit foot prosthetics.
If you’re a big fan of Lord of the Rings, you’ll love this post by Agata from Null ‘N’ Full. Not only did she visit Mt Sunday, otherwise known as Edoras, but she managed to get hold of some exclusive images from the world premiere of the second Hobbit movie!
GETTING TO WELLINGTON
Intercity Buses provide services to Wellington from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Taupo (6 hours); Hamilton (9 hours); Auckland (11 hours). Further transfers are available from these locations. For travel to the south island, you can book the InterIslander Ferry (3.5 hours). Use the tool below to search for specific bus journeys, or click through to the Intercity homepage for more information on their bus passes and tours.
WHERE TO STAY
There are plenty of backpacker hostels in Wellington, mainly centred around Courtenay Place. I spent a few nights in X Base. The dorm room was warm and comfortable and the hostel provided pay-as-you-go internet, washing powder for the laundry room and plenty of recommendations and local travel advice. They also booked me a transfer bus to the InterIslander Ferry the day I left.
I was a guest of Adventure Safari. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.