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- 13 nights accommodation
- 14 day mid-size car rental
- Inter-Island ferry crossing for passengers
Lord of The Rings Self Drive
New Zealand has become famous as the filming location for many movies in recent years, but none more so than The Lord of the Rings. This magical 14 day, self-drive quest takes you to all the country’s most breathtaking sights, along with many of the trilogy’s key locations.
Arrive early to enjoy cosmopolitan Auckland before visiting the rolling hills of Waikato, which shot to fame as ‘The Shire’. Though the furry-footed hobbits have wandered on, Hobbiton remains, along with a fascinating commentary about the filming. Then, drive on to meet two even bigger stars, spectacular Waitomo Caves (we can’t promise an encounter with the Balrog, but the adrenaline rush created by underground ‘black water’ rafting is pretty close) and bubbling Rotorua, which shows off geothermal New Zealand at its finest.
The volcanic landscapes of the North Island are beautiful, dramatic, and strangely eerie – in other words, the perfect real-world rendering of Tolkien’s world. Visit Lake Taupo and Tongariro, for scenery that’s as accessible as it is foreboding – you may wish to try skiing on the slopes of an active volcano, for instance. Spend a day exploring the charming capital of Wellington. Base camp for the entire Lord of the Rings production, it’s also home to many of New Zealand’s best museums, galleries and wine regions. Intrepid fans can even track down the sites of Minas Tirith, Helms Deep, Rivendell and Isengard.
After a free day in Wellington, cross Cook Strait to Nelson, the South Island’s oldest settled city and home to many of the artists who made props for Lord of the Rings. Shop for your own mementos or visit one of a multitude of national parks, including the vehicle-free Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Continue on to see natural wonders including the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki and Franz Josef Glacier before arriving in the adventure capital of Queenstown. Try bungee jumping, white water rafting, or ride the famous Shotover jetboat.
Back on the hobbits’ trail, wade into the Ford of Bruinen, and visit Fangorn Forest, right in the heart of the South Island’s breathtaking Fiordland. Then go on to the River Anduin, home to the Pillars of Argonath and Dimrill Dale. Consider an optional, guided 4WD tour off road, which covers all the key filming locations.
Day 1: Arrive Auckland
Welcome to Auckland. After collecting your rental car, drive into the city. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is situated between two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. It’s a place to enjoy marine adventures, wine trails, forest walks and urban sophistication.
You could go on a harbour cruise or sailing trip this afternoon (optional).
Duration 1 Night
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Day 2: Auckland Via Mata Mata to Rotorua
As you cruise down the highway, suburban scenery gradually gives way to the farmland of South Auckland. A couple of hours south of Auckland lies the lush farmland of the Waikato. Famous for dairying and fine thoroughbred horses, it’s easy to see why these green pastures and rolling hills were chosen to portray Hobbiton and The Shire. Although much of the set was deconstructed post filming, hobbit fans can still visit Hobbiton, wander among the hobbit holes and listen to the fascinating commentary about how it was all created. Got a taste for bigger caverns? Check out Waikato’s massive Waitomo Caves for dramatic stalactites, stalagmites and zillions of sparkling glow-worms. You can glide through on a barge, take a black water rafting trip, or even abseil (rappel) down into the abyss!
Next stop is Rotorua, which sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present. Explore the geothermal areas and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people.
This evening you could enjoy a traditional Maori concert and hangi at the Maori village of Te Tawa Ngahere Marae Pa (not included).
Duration 1 Night
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Day 3: Rotorua via Lake Taupo to Tongariro to Mt Ruapehu
Today travel down past Lake Taupo and onto the volcanic central plateau where your destination is the foot of Mt Ruapehu, the largest mountain in the North Island in the heart of the Tongariro National Park.
The road to Taupo will keep you entertained with its unusual, volcanic geography. You’ll also drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest. Lake Taupo is famous for its trout, year-round water sports and stunning views across the water towards those mystical Middle-earth volcanoes.
Take a side road to a geothermal park, where you’ll discover geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud.
From Lake Taupo, drive to National Park Village, which follows the edge of the Tongariro National Park. National Park Village is well positioned to explore the Tongariro National Park. The volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro can be seen from here. The park was gifted to the New Zealand people in 1887 by the Ngati Tuwaretoa tribe and is now a World Heritage area.
Duration 2 Nights
Chateau Tongariro Hotel Mount Ruapehu
Day 4: Tongariro Day at Leisure
The Tongariro World Heritage National Park in the central North Island’s Volcanic Plateau isn’t just legendary for its dramatic and eerie scenery. What makes the area especially unique is its accessibility – you can ski on an active volcano or take a one-day hike from alpine meadow to mountain summit, with stunning volcanic landscapes along the way. Thanks to a geologically turbulent past, the area provided The Lord of the Rings crew with the perfect raw materials to create vivid scenes of Mordor, Emyn Muil, Mount Doom and the Plains of Gorgoroth.
The Tongariro Crossing is regarded as one of the best one-day walks in the world.
Day 5: Mt Ruapehu via Ohakune to Wellington
Just a short drive from Mt Ruapehu is Ohakune, home to Ithilien camp, which was filmed in the nearby bush; continue on towards Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and film base for Lord of the Rings.
Travel along the Kapiti coast where you can visit Waitarere Forest, the location for Trollshaw Forest and Osgiliath Wood. Home to Peter Jackson, Wellington provided lots of scope for locations. Bree was built on an old army base, and only minutes away are Minas Tirith, the fortifications of Helms Deep and Isengard. On your way over to the wine district of Martinborough you’ll pass the Hutt River (where the hobbits launched their boats numerous times) and Kaitoke Regional Park, home to scenes from Rivendale and the Fords of Isen.
Duration 2 Nights
Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay
Day 6: Wellington
A day to relax in Wellington, although there is plenty to do. You could visit the Parliament Buildings, Te Papa – New Zealand’s new national museum or a ride up the cable car for great views over Wellington.
Day 7: Wellington to Nelson
Drop off your vehicle at the Wellington Ferry Terminal this morning. Board your ferry bound for the South Island and Picton. The passage across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. The fast ferry makes the trip in just over 2 hours; the cruise-style ferry takes 3 hours. Both types of vessel can transport vehicles. Highlights along the way include the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, Cook’s Lookout and the beautiful coves of the sounds.
The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. Museums and interesting walks will keep you entertained while you’re here.
Collect your new vehicle in Picton and drive to Nelson which takes you through the town of Havelock, which is known as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World. Nearby Canvastown is a place to explore old gold mining fields, thousands tried to get rich here in the 1860s. At Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve you can enjoy a bush walk or a swim, depending on the time of the year. And if you’d like a glimpse of local life in 1890, Rai Valley has a beautifully preserved cottage museum.
The city of Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, bush and art lovers. From here you can organise yourself an eco-adventure or become immersed in the local creative culture. Every year the city hosts the Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards, where art comes off the wall and onto the body.
Duration 2 Nights
Accommodation: Rutherford Hotel Nelson
Day 8: Nelson
With three National Parks, a fascinating arts and crafts community and renowned high sunshine hours, you’ll be sure to have loads of fun exploring around Nelson and Motueka.
Start with the art and craft trail where the characters are as colourful as their vibrant works. ‘The One Ring’ was made by a Nelson jeweller and many local artisans worked on props for The Lord of the Rings movies. Drive over Takaka Hill (Chetwood Forest) for stunning views of Golden Bay and access to the famous Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Take a helicopter tour for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the remote site where the Fellowship hid from Saruman’s black crows, and Dimrill Dale (Mount Olympus and Mount Owen in Kahurangi National Park). At the end of the day, pop into Harrington’s brewery in Richmond, makers of the stout served over the bar in The Prancing Pony!
Day 9: Nelson via Nelson Lakes to Punakaiki
From Nelson journey through scenic reserves to Westport. Westport is a historic coal-mining settlement; the coal town museum has historical exhibitions and photographic displays. Visit the seal colony before continuing on to Punakaiki.
Duration 1 Night
Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort
Day 10: Punakaki to Franz Josef
Make your way to the South Island’s West Coast. Why not stop at the Punakaiki pancake rocks before heading down to Franz Josef and the mighty Franz Josef Glacier which descends from the Southern Alps into temperate rainforest. There is the option of a scenic flight or for the more adventurous a Heli-Hike.
Duration 1 Night
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Day 11 Franz Josef to Queenstown
Travel through the scenic wilderness of Haast pass, stopping along the way to take advantage of many short nature walks and picnic spots before continuing to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Take your pick from a selection, jet-boating, white water rafting, bungee jumping or scenic helicopter flights.
Duration 3 Nights
Accommodation: Heritage Queenstown
Day 12 Queenstown at leisure
Today you can get really close to the Hobbits’ journey. We suggest pre-booking a special 4WD half or full day tour which will take you off road and into the filming locations for Lord of the Rings, your expert guide will share his stories with you.
Duration 2 Days
Day 13 Day at Leisure
Today is totally free and at leisure. You can take advantage of any optional activities available or simply relax.
Day 14 Depart Queenstown
Today is at leisure until you make your way to the airport for your departure. Please drop off your rental car.
Pricing & Departures
Daily departures from $2,323
Additional departure dates available, ask a Travel Team Agent for details.
Or, call 1.800.788.0829 to speak with one of our travel experts.
- Land only package, ask a travel team agent to add airfare
- Prices are per person based on double occupancy
- Prices are subject to availability
- Prices in US dollars unless otherwise noted
- We have limited space on this package and it is subject to availability and prior sale
- All package prices are per person based on double occupancy unless otherwise noted
- Prices reflect cash discount
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