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Exploring New Zealand's Top Film Locations

New Zealand's ever-growing popularity as an international filmmaking destination means movie fans are most definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to locations to see when they visit the country. Key spots can be found the length and breadth of Aotearoa, but we’ve rounded up some of the most popular – and fun – places to stop and snap a photo at some of our most famous locales.

Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata
Mangaotaki Rocks, Piopio

The Hobbit

You can’t travel all the way to New Zealand and not visit at least one of The Hobbit filming locations. In fact, it would be rude not to! Unmissable is Hobbiton, which really does feel like the ultimate outdoors movie set. Located in Matamata, it has incredible detail still in place and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations for a reason.

Large chunks of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' were filmed in Piopio, near Waitomo. Hairy Feet Waitomo are the location tour specialists to talk to for an equally as exciting journey, minus being harassed by orcs and trolls!

Miramar Wharf, Wellington
Civic Theatre, Auckland

King Kong

The famed Peter Jackson, Kiwi director of 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit', also directed the 2005 remake of 'King Kong'. The city of Wellington and its surrounds were used to recreate the city of New York and the legendary Skull Island (Shelly Bay), while the famous Weta Workshop worked on special effects. The ship ‘Venture’ from the film was moored at Miramar wharf for 5 years - its remains can now be found on the harbour floor.

The historic Auckland Civic Centre, just a short walk from our Pullman Auckland played host to the legendary King Kong under the guise of a New York Theatre called the Alhambra for the remake. This eccentric building, completed in 1929 now has category-one New Zealand heritage status and is the largest surviving atmospheric cinema in Australasia.

Woodhill Forest, Auckland
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

The Chronicles of Narnia

The majority of the three Narnia movies were filmed in New Zealand at some of our most scenic locations. Two outstanding coastal sites in Mercury Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula served as key settings for the film. 

Cathedral Cove, located on the eastern shore of the peninsula is where the main characters discover the ruins of "Cair Paravel". A breathtaking spot characterised by a deep river chasm book-ended by cascading waterfalls.

The films also featured the serene Woodhill Forest, just northwest of Auckland, that were transformed into the dreaded camp of the White Witch of Narnia. The forest also houses a network of mountain biking trails and is a popular destination for riders of all levels.

Weta Workshop, Wellington


'Avatar' wasn’t shot in New Zealand as such but its special effect work, props, conceptual design and costume were the work of the incredible, award-winning Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. 
The actual workshop is located in Miramar, Wellington where you can go on a behind-the-scenes guided tour that does not disappoint. They also offer alternative tours for hardcore fans, and even a dining experience.
Mt. Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park
Mt. Sunday, Ashburton Lakes

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

'The Lord of the Rings' was filmed entirely in New Zealand, a fact many Kiwis are very proud of. The trilogy serves as an unofficial Tourism New Zealand campaign, awash with ruggedly beautiful locales and spectacular views. 
If you’re a stickler for detail, the exact filming locations such as Mt. Sunday, in the Canterbury region (the site of Edoras), are a bit of a trek to get to, whilst others like Mt. Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) can be seen whilst hiking the Tongariro Crossing near Taupo. 
There are also LOTR tours available, most of which offer transport from the nearest township or city to the locations, provide insider knowledge of the filming that took place, and even have costumes and swords to really get you in the mood!
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Falls
Karekare Falls

The Piano

Fellow Kiwi, Jane Campion’s extraordinary film 'The Piano' (1993), was filmed in Karekare - a popular surf beach just 40-minutes out of Auckland. 
This rugged west coast beach and its surrounding rainforest perfectly built tension in the film. Featuring an 11-year-old Anna Paquin and established Kiwi actor Sam Neill.

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