On this 10-day, family-friendly tour of the “Middle Earth” region of New Zealand, made famous by The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy, enjoy some of the best filming grounds, and plenty of adventure along the way. Discover Auckland and the landscapes of the beautiful Waitakere Ranges, and then head to Matamata for a visit to The Hobbit film site. Visit the Kiwi House and explore Waitomo’s glowworms, rivers, and caverns. Explore Tongariro National Park, home to LOTR’s Mt Doom, and enjoy a flight over Whakapapa Village. Visit more memorable filming locations out of Wellington, and cap off the trip by playing hobbit for a day at Weta Workshop.

Highlights

  • Visit notable LOTR film locations in Matamata, the real home of Middle Earth
  • Spot film landscapes on your discovery of scenic Whakapapa Village
  • Embark on a Middle Earth Film Locations Tour to memorable scene sites
  • Play hobbit for a day on a tour through Weta Workshop in Wellington

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Auckland & Self-Guided Tour Auckland
Day 2 Auckland - Coast & Rainforest Full-Day Tour Auckland
Day 3 Explore Matamata & Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Waitomo
Day 4 Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour Waitomo
Day 5 Drive to Whakapapa Village & Volcano Tour Whakapapa
Day 6 Whakapapa Flight Excursion & Scenic Walks Whakapapa
Day 7 Drive to Wellington Wellington
Day 8 Wellington - Middle Earth Film Locations Half-Day Tour Wellington
Day 9 Wellington - Self-Guided City Tour Wellington
Day 10 Departure From Wellington  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Auckland and self-guided tour

Welcome to Auckland!
Welcome to Auckland!

Welcome to New Zealand! A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your accommodation. At the hotel in Auckland, receive your tour packet, which contains everything you need for a successful and exciting adventure. 

Then, get out and explore the town. Auckland is New Zealand’s self-proclaimed "City of Sails," and is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests, and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure.

Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of more than 800 regional national parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls, and native forest.

Day 2: Auckland - Coast and rainforest full-day tour

Karekare Falls in the Waitakere Ranges
Karekare Falls in the Waitakere Ranges

Today, a full-day excursion takes you first to the Arataki Visitor Centre—the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges and a short drive from Auckland Central. Enjoy panoramic views, extending from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean, as you absorb the area's history and admire the traditional Maori carvings. Walk the regenerating rainforest where your experienced guide will detail local flora and fauna. Take in the giant tree ferns, bubbling streams, and cascading waterfalls, before venturing onto a wild, coastal beach.

Enjoy a picnic lunch before your eco-tour ends in an area of untamed, original rainforest. Here, mature, 1,000-year-old kauri trees have developed separately from the rest of the world for millions of years, and this part of the rainforest is particularly rich in birdlife, due to a successful program to eradicate pests.

Following the tour, return to Auckland and enjoy the night at your leisure.

Day 3: Explore Matamata and Hobbiton movie set tour

Matamata
Matamata

Collect your rental car today, and head southbound on SH1 through the lush farmland and dairy pastures of the Waikato region. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of the greater Auckland area, and it's here you turn inland toward Matamata.

This is the real Middle Earth, where many locations were used in the filming of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. Visit the actual set of Hobbiton, too. Located just outside of Matamata, in the heart the Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. Then, travel through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill, and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the production of the films.

Next, head toward the coast to arrive in Waitomo. Stop in historic Cambridge, home to a host of cafes, antique stores, and a large village green. Cambridge has the feel of a traditional English country town and noteworthy buildings include St. Andrew's church, the old water tower, and the original courthouse. Cambridge is also the center of New Zealand’s equine industry, and an impressive bronze horse sculpture pays tribute to its history.

Continue on to Otorohanga, which is renowned for its celebration of New Zealand's popular culture 'Kiwiana.' Stop for a visit to the Kiwi House, a native bird park owned and operated by the Otorohanga Zoological Society, Inc., and dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife. Within the park, find nocturnal kiwi houses, Tuataras and many native and endangered birds. From Otorohanga, it is only a short drive to the limestone hills that mark the Waitomo region and its famous cave complex.

Day 4: Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour

A glowworm cave in Waitomo
A glowworm cave in Waitomo

Today, embark on a 4-hour adventure: the Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour.

Travel into a spectacular world of prehistoric forestry, glowworms, rivers, flowstone formations, and massive caverns. Explore the depths, before ascending a gigantic ladder through the craggy, upper levels of the Spider Hole

Following the tour, enjoy the rest of your day and evening in Waitomo at your leisure.

Day 5: Drive to Whakapapa Village and volcano tour

Views of Tongariro National Park
Views of Tongariro National Park

Today, travel south into the heart of the Central Volcanic Plateau, Tongariro National Park. Leaving the limestone hills of Waitomo, follow the road through lush King Country pastures, named after the Maori King Tawhiao who lived here in exile during the mid-1800s. Continue on to arrive at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to three active volcanoes—Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe—as well as many walking tracks, adventure activities, and the renowned Tongariro Crossing.

Spend the night enjoying Whakapapa Village on your own.

Day 6: Whakapapa flight excursion and scenic walks

Whakapapa Village
Whakapapa Village

Take a scenic flight over New Zealand's oldest national park today for a spectacular view of this unique trio of volcanic landscapes, as well as the iconic Emerald Lakes, the Blue Lake, and the Tama Lake. Climb to 10,000 feet and view the active Mount Ruapehu crater lake. Then, be sure to spot some of the landscapes used in the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

There are plenty of walks in and around Whakapapa Village and Tongariro National Park. From short, 15-minute hikes to longer, 5-hour treks, there is something for every level of fitness. All established tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and before heading out on a walk, it is best to check the track conditions and suitability at the local DOC information office in the center of the village. The best walks to consider include the below:

  • Whakapapa Nature Walk: 15-minute loop track
  • Mounds Walk: 20 minutes, one way 
  • Tawhai Falls: 20 minutes, one way 
  • Ridge Track: 40-minute return
  • Taranaki Falls: 2-hour return
  • Whakapapanui Walk: 2-hour return
  • Tupapakurua Falls Track: 5-hour return

Day 7: Drive to Wellington

Wellington
Wellington

Your drive today takes you from the North Island Volcanic Plateau to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Leaving Whakapapa Village, make your way through the Rangipo Desert, skirting the edges of Tongariro National Park.

Catch a glimpse of the volcanically active Mt Ruapehu, and if you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings, enjoy seeing the symmetrical Mt Ngauruhoe—better known as Mt Doom. A little further is the military town of Waiouru, home to the New Zealand Army Museum, with a unique collection of military history.

Continue south to the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka, and Bulls before arriving on the spectacular Kapiti Coast. Take a short detour to the quaint, seaside town of Paraparaumu before arriving into Wellington.

Stay on Lambton Quay, where some of the best shopping, tourist attractions, and cultural landmarks are all within easy walking distance.

Day 8: Wellington - Middle Earth film locations half-day tour

Middle Earth landscapes
Middle Earth landscapes

Join a small, group tour and head out to the valley to explore the filming locations for many of The  Lord of the Rings films. Bookmark the below sites:

  • Rivendell, where Frodo recovered from his knife attack
  • The River Anduin, where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen
  • The Gardens of Isengard, where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs filling the trees
  • The quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor

Then, head back to Wellington to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest, where you can take a "shortcut to mushrooms", and "get off the road" to hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way.

Day 9: Wellington - Self-guided city tour

Take a cable car ride through Wellington
Take a cable car ride through Wellington

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s center of government, has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘Mini-Melbourne’, this (self-described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food, and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner-city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle brings a cheerful holiday feel.

Take a turn on the boardwalk en-route to Te Papa National Museum, or catch a historic cable car from Lambton Quay and soak up the city sights. Wander the boutiques on Cuba St and check out the aptly-named Beehive, just off the Parliament House.

Play hobbit for day and book a tour through Weta Workshop, the Oscar-winning design studio for Lord of the Rings.

If eating is your thing, drive an hour out of town to Martinborough and experience some of the region's best food and wine. For those interested in New Zealand's native species, a trip to Zealandia is a must—the world's first fully-fenced eco-sanctuary.

Then, enjoy a nice final dinner in town, before heading home tomorrow. 

Day 10: Departure from Wellington

Goodbye, Wellington!
Goodbye, Wellington!

If you'd like, you can explore more of Wellington's sights before dropping your rental car at the airport depot. Then, it's time to catch your flight for your onward flight home. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of New Zealand: 'Middle Earth' Family Tour of the North Island - 10 Days
Map of New Zealand: 'Middle Earth' Family Tour of the North Island - 10 Days