In 1995, director Peter Jackson conceived an ambitious project to bring JRR Tolkien's epic fantasy "The Lord of the Rings" to the big screen. Fans of the book, and of illustrator Alan Lee's beautiful renderings of Middle Earth, were at first dubious that Jackson could bring that world to life, but the Kiwi director knew he had the perfect backdrop for the fantastic stories right in his own backyard. From the pastoral serenity of Hobbiton, to the snow-capped Mountains of Moria, to the harsh volcanic landscape of Mordor - New Zealand had it all.
In 2012, movie-goers were able to return to Middle Earth once again with the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". Fans of both film series will be delighted to learn that, although New Zealand may lack actual stone trolls and magical forests, it's still a magical place in its own right. Here are our recommendations for those seeking a real-life Rivendell:
1. Matamata, North Island in the Waikato region
Recognise this landscape? It's where Peter Jackson envisaged The Shire - home of the Hobbits with beautiful rolling green hills and gentle slopes. If you're a movie fan you can even tour the film set and have an ale at The Green Dragon Inn! Afterward we recommend the Waitomo Caves - Peter Jackson never filmed here, but the twinkling lights of the glow-worms are as eerie and magical as anything you'd find in the depths of Moria.
2. Kaitoke National Park, North Island just north of Wellington
Every bit as magical as Rivendell, Kaitoke National Park doubled for the Elvish realm and the Fords of Isen in "The Fellowship of The Ring" and "The Hobbit". Sitting at the confluence of the Hutt and Pakuratahi Rivers, this stunning area of natural forest is open to picnickers, kayakers, hunters and even those just looking for a good walk!
3. Speargrass Flats & Wanaka, South Island just north of Queenstown and in the heart of Southland
These locations doubled for The Lonelands, east of Bree in "The Hobbit". Wanaka is a gem of a town, situated next to Lake Wanaka. It's a perfect location for fishing, hiking, canyoning and snowboarding in the winter. And when you're tired of all that activity, there's shopping and great restaurants in nearby Queenstown, Cromwell and Alexandra. Or take a drive to Speargrass Flats and check out the scenery. Fans of the movies will be delighted to find there are even Hobbit-themed hotels, for those of you who like your ceilings low and your doors circular.
4. Mount Sunday, South Island and in the heart of Southland
Is it really Mount Sunday? Or is it the realm of the Riders of Rohan? Or the Kingdom of Thorin Oakenshield of Edoras? Actually, it's all three! Visitors to the Mount can take in the sights, the clean mountain air, the beautiful lakes and imagine themselves a Horsemaster in the Service of King Theoden! Be off with thee, Grima Wormtongue!
5. Glenorchy, South Island and in the heart of Southland
Dare you enter the lair of Saruman the White? A scenic drive from the town of Glenorchy on the South Island will deliver the scenery used by Peter Jackson to recreate the location of The Tower of Orthanc, the setting for the battle between the Ents and the Uruk-hai in "The Two Towers". It was also used for the Elvish retreat of Lothlorien, so be on the lookout for Galadriel.
6. The Remarkables & Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
For the epic journeys in his two Tolkien trilogies, Peter Jackson has drawn heavily on these two Kiwi heritage sites, and whilst there are some really amazing scenic shots of this region for the movies, The Remarkables are a great place to ski and snowboard. Wow, this snowboard is getting REALLY heavy...
That's just a quick summary for all you Hobbit-huggers out there. If you're interested in learning more, our friendly Head Medical NZ team will be happy to chat with you about these locations and the jobs we have for Consultants, Registrars and GPs close to these sites - think of our team as a giant Eye that sees and knows all...precious.