Planning a trip to one of the world’s most beloved tourism, vacation and exploration spots?
Located in the south-western Pacific Ocean and marked by mountainous ranges, rolling valleys, wild rives, active volcanoes and – let’s not forget – vibrant metropolitan cities, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, with an endless array of sights, activities, attractions and natural wonders for people of all interests to enjoy.
Itinerary Quick Links:
- Food & Wine Lovers Itinerary
- Thrill Seekers Itinerary
- Lord of The Rings Itinerary
- Share your favorite places and things to do in New Zealand
Ask any intrepid backpacker, seasoned jet-setter or armchair traveller what New Zealand is most famous for, and it’s likely all of them will have the same three Kiwi exports spring to mind: world-class wine, adrenaline-pumping adventure, and – of course! – Hobbits and Middle-earth. These three iconic things are now as much a part of the New Zealand identity as fish ‘n chips and hokey pokey ice cream, so we’ve brought together three Ultimate New Zealand Vacation Itineraries – planned around food and wine, action and adventure, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film sagas.
Whether you’re an NZ local looking to explore more of your own backyard, or an international visitor ready to explore New Zealand’s vast and vivid landscapes and incredible attractions, we hope you have a fantastic time on your journey.
The Food & Wine Lovers Itinerary
Auckland – Rotorua – Hawke’s Bay – Wellington – Marlborough – Canterbury – Central Otago
Highlights: Wineries, Oysters, Hangi, Cheese, Waffles, Honey, Coffee, Local Produce, Ice Cream
New Zealand is known for great food and internationally-acclaimed wine – making it an ideal vacation destination for food and wine lovers with a taste for the finer things, with a side of scenic wonder. Since (around 700!) vineyards stretch virtually the entire length of New Zealand, touring wineries during your New Zealand vacation is simple, since you’re never really very far from a cellar door or tasting room.
Ready to plan your Food & Wine Lovers vacation? Here’s a breakdown of an ideal food and wine connoisseur’s itinerary in New Zealand, with popular destinations and hidden gems included along the way.
Day 1 – 2
Auckland is a fantastic destination to begin your Wine and Food Lovers Tour – offering a hip and vibrant café and restaurant scene, combined with spectacular landscapes and thriving boutique vineyards. You’ll want to spend at least 2 days exploring Auckland before heading to your next destination.
Boasting around 100 vineyards and wineries, including some of New Zealand’s oldest established vineyards, Auckland’s sub-tropical climate and shallow-clay soils make it the ideal region for producing the rich, Bordeaux style reds its so well-known for, as well as Cabernet Sauvignons and complex Chardonnays.
Upon arrival, spend a day exploring the sights and wide array of harbourside eateries of Downtown Auckland, then take a one-hour bus to Artisan Wines in New Lynn, or head norwest towards Kumeu to Soljans Estate Winery.
The following morning, take stroll through the city to the experience first-hand the hustle and bustle of the Auckland Fish Market, located right in the middle of bustling Wynyard Quarter, or take a 45 minute drive north to take a guided oyster tour and harvest, shuck and eat oysters right on the Mahurangi River.
In the afternoon, venture a little further afield and hop on a ferry to one of the boutique vineyards on stunning Waiheke Island – just over an hour from the CBD. There you’ll find a range of delightful artisan and family-run wineries, including Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, Jurassic Ridge, and Destiny Bay.
On Day 3 of your Wine and Food Lovers Itinerary, take a scenic two-hour drive via State Highway 27 to Rotorua – New Zealand’s best-loved geothermal hot spot and cultural destination. The drive takes just over three hours with stops at some of the great local cafes along the way. Cheese lovers should be sure to drop into Over the Moon on the drive through for a group tour, private course or cheese demonstration – where you’ll learn how to make mozzarella or haloumi, taste the delicious results and take a recipe home so you can make it yourself.
Once in Rotorua, spend an afternoon exploring the natural wonders of the town’s hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools, before feasting upon a traditional Maori hangi as part of Tamaki Maori Village’s evening experience. You’ll journey to an authentic Maori village nestled in a Rotorua forest, discover Maori art forms and traditions amidst crackling village fires, and enjoy a traditional feast, cooked beneath the ground on hot stones – an authentic experience that is not to be missed for any die-hard foodie.
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second wine largest region, located on the east coast of the North Island – known for producing chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs, and merlots thanks largely to the area’s high sunshine hours and variety of soil types.
The drive from Rotorua to Hawke’s Bay in the Bay of Plenty takes just under three-hours, so break up the journey with a stop at Huka Prawn Park just outside of Taupo – around half-way between your two destinations.
Located on the banks of the beautiful Waikato River, Huka Prawn Park offers acres of land dedicated to the production of New Zealand fresh water prawns. Take a guided tour of the hatchery and nursery before continuing on to Hawke’s Bay – where you’ll discover the cellar doors the region’s finest winery estates, including Te Mata Estate, Mission Estate Winery, Black Barn Vineyard, and Linden Estate Winery.
Day 5 and 6
Wellington and Martinborough
It’s a five-hour tiki-tour (as the locals call it) between Hawke’s Bay and the nation’s capital of Wellington, so you’ll definitely want to stop halfway for lunch in Dannevirke at the Barrelhouse Restaurant and Bar, before carrying on to Wellington and nearby Martinborough – located at the centre of the Wairarapa wine region.
Spend a night exploring the bright lights of New Zealand’s cultural capital city – and it’s vibrant fine dining scene – and the following morning, treat yourself to breakfast at the country’s cutest little hole-in-the-wall waffle shop (aptly named, The Little Waffle Shop), where you’ll enjoy your choice of cheeky chocolate waffles, to waffles topped with freshly made lemon curd and passion fruit.
From a hearty breakfast, take a short, one-hour excursion to Martinborough – set against a panoramic mountain backdrop – where you can take a vineyard tour or drop in at the cellar door at the likes of Brodie Estate and Loopline Vineyard.
Day 7 and 8
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest and most well-known wine region, located at the top of the South Island and producing more than half of the national crop – specialising in fine sauvignon blancs, as well as unique rieslings and pinot noirs. Offering over twenty thousand hectares of grapes grown in a climate that boasts plenty of sun, cool nights, low autumn rains and free draining soils, Marlborough has an international reputation for producing the best sauvignon blanc in the world – making it an ideal destination for wine connoisseurs.
From Wellington, catch the Interislander Ferry to Picton, enjoying the spectacular sights of the Marlborough Sounds on your journey. From there, find a base at one of the many great hostels, bed and breakfasts and hotels in the region – where you’ll have easy access to some of the finest wineries and vineyards in the country (and the world) including Allan Scott, Oyster Bay, Brancott Estate, and Mud House.
During your stay, be sure to take some time out from wine-quaffing to take a short detour into Blenheim to sample some of the award-winning, locally-produced artisan honey at Taylor Pass before making your way further south to Canterbury.
Day 9 and 10
Located on the east of the South Island, and dominated by the vast Canterbury plains and views of the magnificent Southern Alps, Canterbury is one the country’s newest wine regions – offering stand out rieslings and pinot noirs. Offering a climate that is hot and dry in summer, and clear and frosty in winter, Canterbury’s wine region is New Zealand’s fourth largest – making it an ideal stop for wine lovers venturing further south toward Central Otago.
Canterbury is a full day drive by car from Marlborough, so a welcome stop into Hanmer Springs on the way offers a great opportunity to stretch your legs, enjoy the local geothermal pools, and sample some more local wine at the cellar door of Marble Point vineyard. Stay a night at one of Hanmer’s luxury hotels, and continue on to Canterbury and Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city – being sure to stop in at Waipara Hills Winery on the way. Additional Canterbury vineyards including, Pegasus Bay, Rosendale, and Melton Estate, are all within a short drive of the Christchurch CBD.
In Christchurch, foodies should venture to the city’s port-suburb to enjoy the talent of local musicians while shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, free-range eggs, bread, meat, fish, cheese, juices, herbs and plants at the Lyttelton Farmers Market. Christchurch offers a vibrant café and coffee scene in their revitalized Re-Start Mall and central business district, though the stunningly designed Ilex café in the heart of the stunning Christchurch Botanic Gardens offers a truly relaxed experience for those looking to sit outside for some coffee and cake while taking in the idyllic atmosphere.
Day 11 and 12
Perhaps New Zealand’s most picturesque wine region – with vineyards surrounded by staggering white-capped mountain ranges – Central Otago is also the world’s southernmost wine producing region, producing some of New Zealand’s very best pinot noirs.
Located near the country’s tourism capital, Queenstown, Central Otago is said to be New Zealand’s only true ‘continental’ region – with greater extremes of daily and seasonal temperatures (hot, dry summers and crisp, snowy winters) also resulting in fine chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling. Driving from Christchurch to Central Otago will take around five hours, so be sure to stop at beautiful Lake Tekapo on the way for lunch, or Patagonia Chocolates in Wanaka or Arrowtown to indulge your sweet-tooth with a taste of their famed, award-winning artisan ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt.
Once in Central Otago, you’ll be perfectly based to enjoy some of the country’s best pinot noir at Gibbston Valley Winery, Mt Difficulty, Peregrine Wines, and Wild Earth. Gibbston Valley is a must-stop for cheese lovers, with the Gibbston Valley Cheesery offering a delectable section of handcrafted artisan cheeses – complete with complimentary tastings.
Have time to stretch your Wine and Food Lovers itinerary an extra day or two? Kiwis LOVE food and wine festivals – so there are a number of fantastic local events happening throughout the year to work into your journey, depending on the timing of your tour.
Whether you love a taste of wild, adventurous cuisine, or you’d prefer to tempt your tastebuds with some of the locally caught seafood, check out the local events happening along your travel route. Popular annual food festivals include Hokitika Wildfoods Festival in March, Waiheke Wine & Food Festival in April, Bluff Oyster and Food Festival in May, Canterbury Truffle Festival in July, Kaikoura Seafest in October, and Hawke’s Bay Food and Wine Classic in November.
The Thrill Seeker’s Itinerary
Auckland – Kaitaia – Waitomo – Hamilton – Rotorua – Tongariro National Park – Wellington – Westport – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Omarama – Christchurch
Highlights: SkyWalk, Sand Boarding, Cage-Free Shark Dive, Black Water Rafting, White Water Rafting, Jet Boating, Quad Biking, Kayaking, Surfing, Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Luging
New Zealand is an outdoor enthusiast’s and adrenalin junkie’s dream – boasting incredible adventure activities at almost every city and town from the top of the North to the bottom of the South.
Pumped to plan your Thrill Seeker’s Itinerary? Use our handy guide to help you navigate your action-packed New Zealand vacation, with popular activities, guided tours, and hidden gems included along the way.
New Zealand’s most iconic city is the perfect place to begin your adventure – and what thrill seeking trip around ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ (Aotearoa) would be complete without a visit to the country’s highest skyscraper?
But forget simply admiring The Sky Tower when you can walk around it… 192 metres in the air. The SkyWalk is an exhilarating challenge you’ll never forget – offering you the chance to see the city from a truly unique panoramic perspective, inching along a narrow walkway without a handrail. Your guides will challenge you to undertake daredevil tricks – so you’ll be hanging over the edge in no time.
From your first gravity-defying experience, take some time to explore the city and enjoy the nightlife.
Kaitaia and Auckland
Rise and shine just before dawn and travel four hours from Auckland to New Zealand’s northernmost town. It may seem like a long way to go in the wrong direction, but it will be totally worth it when you discover the mammoth Te Paki Sand Dunes, which rise from the grass into huge mountains of golden sand and merge with the country’s famous Ninety Mile Beach. Beautiful to behold, they offer a unique and action-packed sand boarding experience for thrill seekers, where you can rent a specially designed toboggan or boogie board to slide down the slopes as high speed.
After spending a couple of hours in beautiful Kaitaia, head back towards Auckland’s city centre for an adrenaline-pumping experience that’s more surf than sand.
Ever wondered what it would be like to come face to face with one of the world’s most revered – and feared – ocean predators? Wonder no more, because you can do just that at Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland. Their Shark Dive Xtreme experience is unlike anything else – boasting a cage-free dive that will see you up close and personal with 20+ sharks, short-tailed stingrays, and fish from New Zealand’s coastal waters. Experienced scuba divers and those who have never scuba dived before are equally welcome, and all shark-bait wannabes (kidding) will be put through their paces with basic safety and scuba training before taking the plunge.
New Zealand is famous for its stunning landscapes – but one of the country’s most spectacular sights is actually underground. From Auckland, head 2.5 hours south to Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which offers leisurely boat ride tours where sightseers can witness the magic of thousands of larvae glimmering overhead. Though leisure is lovely, adventure seekers may be more suited to the Legendary Blackwater Rafting Company’s Abyss and Labyrinth tours, which involve a unique, high-octane mix of flying foxes, abseiling and climbing before riding along the black water rapids in rubber tyres.
Self-described as ‘the most fun you can have in the dark’, these tours are one of the few in the country that provide thrills inside a glowworm-studded subterranean wonderland.
At the end of your day in Waitomo, head east to Rotorua – New Zealand’s famed natural geothermal resort town.
Day 4 and 5
Get ready for an action-packed couple of days on the water! Rotorua offers tons to see and do, but adventure aficionados will want to ensure the town’s white water rafting and jet boating experiences are at the top of their wish lists.
On your first day in Rotorua, book in for a thrill with Kaitiaki Adventures – just a 15-minute drive from Rotorua’s centre, and offering an adrenaline pumping experience unlike any other. Set amid a wildly beautiful landscape, this white water rafting experience will see you conquer the 7-metre Tutea Falls – the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world!
You’ll want to dry off and explore, so stay a night and see the sights before experiencing 3G’s of force in one of NZ’s fastest jet boats on Day 5 of your journey.
Described by its creators as a Ferrari on water, and powered by a 450 Horse Power V8 Engine, Rotorua’s Agrojet is the world’s first full jet sprint experience – launching up to 100kph in the blink of an eye. Get your blood pumping on a high-octane sprint course, weaving around islands and finishing with a full 360-degree spin that will leave you breathless.
Tongariro National Park
It’s around a six-hour drive from Rotorua to Wellington, so break up your journey on Day 6 with a stop at Tongariro National Park. This glorious destination is the perfect ‘resting’ place for outdoor enthusiasts – offering skiing and snowboarding in winter, or mountain biking, river rafting, or a guided volcanic tour in summer. There is so much to see and do in this region, it’s worth spending a few hours or a day – even just to take a day hike and catch your breath.
New Zealand’s capital may be best known for its culture, but Wellington also offers adventure buffs plenty of opportunities to raise their heart rate. Want to see the great outdoors while feeding your need for speed? Take an exhilarating guided off-road quad bike expedition over one of New Zealand’s most rugged coastal environments, just 45 minutes from the central city.
To wind down, take a dusk kayak tour and watch the city’s lights stream out on to the harbour with Fergs Kayaks – an adventure operation launched by one of New Zealand’s most decorated athletes and four-time Olympic gold medal winner Ian Ferguson. Your guide will lead you along the waterfront and around Point Jerningham for an unforgettable view of Wellington.
On Day 8 of your adventure, take the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton, and then enjoy the incredible views during your scenic (four-hour) drive to Westport.
The South Island’s rugged West Coast offers spectacular unspoiled landscapes – and it’s also home to one of the country’s best surf spots. To surf on these beautiful beaches is a must-have, especially when to love to conquer the waves. While surfing the waves it is best not to overthink and only go with the flow here’s an article for your guide https://www.ombe.co/guides/the-back-foot-debate-and-how-overthinking-your-surfing-is-ruining-it.
Carters Beach and North Beach are the closest breaks to the town of Westport on your way further south, so stop to carve up the waves before seeing the sights at Punakaiki and along the coast.
After spending a lot of time in the car, you’ll be looking for a place to stretch your legs – and Franz Josef is the perfect destination to do just that. Head south along the West Coast for 3.5 hours to this stunning glacial region… and get ready to see New Zealand’s glorious countryside from a whole new perspective.
If a skydive is on your Kiwi adventure bucket list, you can’t get any more exhilarating than New Zealand’s highest skydive – a whopping 19,000 feet! – with Skydive Franz Josef Glacier. As the country’s highest jump, you’ll experience 75+ seconds of pure freefall. A definite must-do for those who have skydived before, as well as first-timers who want their first jump to be truly epic.
Day 10 and 11
Just 4.5 hours south of Franz Josef, you’ll find New Zealand’s premier adventure destination – surrounded by sparkling lakes and rugged mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. Queenstown is a favourite spot for thrill seekers, so you may want to tack a couple of extra days onto your itinerary here.
It’s pretty impossible to build a Kiwi adrenaline adventure without including at least one opportunity to throw yourself from a bridge, building or cliff face! After all – New Zealand is home to the world’s first commercial bungy jump. While it all started on the Kawarau Bridge, The Ledge Bungy and Nevis Bungy are two of the region’s most popular jumps. Located 400 metres up the side of a hill, The Ledge Bungy looks much higher than its 43 metres, and also offers the option to bungy by night. Suspended over a canyon, the Nevis Bungy is New Zealand’s biggest at 143 metres. If you’re a seasoned bungy aficionado, why not do both while you’re in town?
The following day, after throwing yourself from a ledge, why not hurtle yourself down 800 metres of steep banked corners, tunnels and dippers in a vehicle that – on first glance – looks to be little more than a makeshift sled on wheels? Skyline Luge offers gravity-fuelled, fast-paced thrills – with you in the drivers’ seat of a purpose-built Luge cart.
New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch, is a six-hour drive from Queenstown, so you’ll want to start your day early and take plenty of breaks along the way. Stopping at lakes Wanaka and Tekapo are highly recommend – whether you want to explore more of the natural landscape on a hike, or simply recharge your batteries with a stunning view before navigating your final adventure.
Spend a night relaxing at the peaceful and picturesque hot tubs in Omarama.
Just four hours from Omarama, Christchurch is your final stop on your ultimate thrill seeker’s tour – and last, but not least, how can you possibly go past an activity with Adrenaline promised within its very name?
Adrenaline Forest in Christchurch is an aerial obstacle course set amid natural surroundings, with obstacles starting at 1.5 metres above the ground through to climbing, jumping and swinging experiences at least 20 metres up in the air. Your nerves will be tested and your limits will be pushed – but you’ll also have a whole lot of fun.
The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Super Fan Itinerary
Auckland – Matamata – Waitomo – Central Plateau – Wellington – Nelson – Hanmer Springs/ Arthur’s Pass – Twizel – Glenorchy – Fiordland
Highlights: Hobbiton, Mordor, Mount Doom, Gollum’s Pool, Gardens of Isengard, River Anduin, Rivendell, Hobbiton Woods, Weta Workshop, Dimrill Dale, Chetwood Forest, Edoras, Pelennor Fields, Lothlórien, The Dead Marshes
For fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit sagas, New Zealand is Middle-earth. Not only because so much of the films were shot on location throughout the country’s panoramic landscapes – but because the sheer spectacular beauty and majesty of New Zealand’s lush rolling hills, grandiose mountains and dense forest scenery perfectly encapsulate J. R. R. Tolkien’s original vision.
Ready to plan your Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Super Fan Itinerary? Follow our guide for the ultimate Middle-earth vacation, with popular filming destinations, guided tours, and hidden gems included along the way.
No Lord of the Rings adventure would be complete without a trip to Hobbiton – which makes Matamata the best place to begin your journey. Driving just two hours southeast from the bright lights and big city of Auckland will see you arrive in the lush dairy farming landscape used to portray the peaceful Shire region of Middle‑earth.
When you reach Hobbiton, take a group or private tour, finishing with an ale at The Green Dragon Inn.
Once you’ve had your fill of the incredible detail of the Shire, head southwest for just over an hour to Waitomo and explore the incredible natural glowworm caves by guided boat tour. These caves are a fascinating labyrinth of underground tunnels and rivers beneath rolling green farmland – and although they were not featured visually in the LOTR films, director Peter Jackson loved the acoustic quality of the caves so much he chose them as a location to record sound for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Stay overnight at Waitomo Homestead or one of the many farmstays in the area to rest before your next day of exploration and adventure,
Just an hour from Waitomo, you’ll find the stunning Mangaotaki Valley, where Peter Jackson filmed the most location screen time for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Featuring the towering limestone cliffs, massive rock formations and a primeval native forest, take a Hairy Feet guided tour through this striking part of Middle-earth and explore the exact place where the Troll Camp Fire scenes were filmed and have your photo taken standing in the exact spot that Bilbo received his magical sword, Sting, from Gandalf.
From there, journey two hours south to Tongariro National Park – an area renowned for mountainous, desolate beauty, which was used as the location for some of the filming of Mordor and Mount Doom (depicted by both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe) in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The rugged plateaus, jagged rocks and volcanoes of this district created the perfect eerie backdrop for Mordor, which can be explored by foot on a number of scenic and short walks. Experienced hikers can even climb Mt Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe) itself.
You can also check out Tawhai Falls – now commonly known Gollum’s Pool – where Gollum is seen catching a fish while Faramir and his rangers aim their arrows at him. The waterfall and pool below are both beautiful spots to take photos and stop for a packed lunch.
Day 3 and 4
Leave the Tongariro National Park region early on Day 3, because you’ll be travelling just under four hours southwest to New Zealand’s vibrant cultural capital city – Wellington – which is surrounded by filming locations, attractions, and points of interest.
On the way, stop at the Hutt Valley to explore Harcourt Park, which was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard, the Hutt River (between Moonshine and Totara Park), which featured as the River Anduin, or Kaitoke Regional Park – which is easily recognisable to movie lovers as Rivendell, where Frodo recovered from the knife attack.
Once you reach Wellington’s central city, take a walk to Mount Victoria and explore the forested areas used to depict Hobbiton Woods – where the hobbits hid from the black riders and Frodo shouted “get off the road!” – before resting up for the night.
The following morning, take a scenic drive 1.5 hours east over the hills to the eerie Putangirua Pinnacles, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli sought the Paths of the Dead, and then return to Wellington to take a studio tour of the famed Weta Workshop – who created the visual effects for the LOTR and Hobbit films – then wander Weta Workshop to snap a selfie with life-sized sculptures, explore the mini museum, and pick up an artefact or two from your favourite film.
Leave the capital and catch the Interislander Ferry to Picton and then drive two hours west to sunny Nelson and the studio of Jens Hansen – the local goldsmith responsible for creating the rings used in production. You can view one of the original precious rings from the LOTR films on display, and purchase your very own reproduction to take home with you.
From Nelson, take a helicopter tour to see Dimrill Dale (Mount Owen), South of Rivendell (Mount Olympus) and Chetwood Forest (Canaan Downs), to see where the ranger, Strider, led the hobbits into the rough country east of Bree to escape the Black Riders, and where the fellowship hid from Saruman’s black crows.
Hanmer Springs/ Arthur’s Pass
Though you’ll need to travel more than seven hours from Nelson to explore New Zealand’s southern-most LOTR filming locations, the scenic drive and iconic destinations are well worth the trip!
Head south from Nelson towards Canterbury – stopping around halfway at either Hanmer Springs thermal resort (for a soak in their hot springs) on the east coast of the South Island, or scenic Arthur’s Pass for lunch and some roadside photography on the West Coast. Make your way through to spend a night in New Zealand’s garden city Christchurch, before continuing south to Middle-earth’s Pelennor Fields and Lothlorien.
Mount Sunday and Twizel
From Christchurch, head west to Mount Sunday near Ashburton Lakes. This stunning location is instantly recognizable as the backdrop for Edoras, the capital of Rohan. From here, journey further south to the Mackenzie Country near Twizel – whose grassy fields stretching to the foothills of the mountains were chosen as the location for the epic battle of the Pelennor Fields, where thousands of Sauron’s orcs clashed with the men of Gondor and Rohan. This filming location is on private land, however you can arrange a two-hour tour to see the location for this and other standout scenes.
Three hours from Twizel, on your way through to New Zealand’s stunning Fiordland region and near New Zealand’s tourism capital of Queenstown, rests the beautiful rustic settlement of Glenorchy. Nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy is the gateway to the South Island’s most memorable Middle‑earth locations – including the stunning northwestern slopes of Mount Earnslaw, which featured in the opening sequence of The Two Towers.
When passing through, stop by at Mount Cardrona for a panoramic view of Middle‑earth. From Glenorchy, take a short journey to Paradise Forest, where the beech trees create an ethereal feel that made it a perfect setting for Lothlorien, as well as Paradise Valley, which was used as the location for Beorn’s house in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Scenic Lord of the Rings tours are available in this area (departing from Queenstown) for those who prefer a guided experience, with locals who can bring the landscape to life. Spend the night in bustling Queenstown nearby Arrowtown, where you can walk to the Ford of Bruinen on the Arrow River; or to Wilcox Green where the Gladden Fields scenes were filmed.
On the final day of your Middle-earth adventure, take a picturesque four-hour drive from Queenstown or Arrowtown through to Fiordland National Park – known for its spectacular glacier-carved fiords, craggy mountain ranges, mirror-surfaced lakes, beech forest trails, and sandy shores.
Snowdon Forest in Fiordland National Park was used as the location of Fangorn Forest, where Gandalf whistled for his majestic horse, and where Aragorn tracked the hobbits’ trail. You can also see the River Anduin, where the Fellowship paddled south from Lothlórien, on the Waiau River between Te Anau and Manapouri, and visit Kepler Mire – better known to fans as the Dead Marshes that Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through.
There you have it, folks! Three incredible New Zealand vacation itineraries, outlining some of the very best things to see and experience in Aotearoa for those with a thirst for great wine and food, action and adventure, or Middle-earth exploration.
For those of you who would love to sample a little of everything, our New Zealand vacation itineraries are designed to be mixed and matched – ensuring an avid Hobbit fan who loves a good drop of Pinot Noir after a hard day of mountain biking can get the best of all three worlds.
Regardless of what you’re visiting New Zealand to experience, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals during your adventure, and ask for pointers and recommendations on sights and activities off-the-beaten track. Kiwis are a friendly bunch, and they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction of a great hiking trail, quaint country vineyard, or a spot they once witnessed Gandalf himself enjoying a pint with his cast mates.
PS – Do you think we’ve missed anything? Have a favorite spot you wish we had included? Please share your favs in the comments below…