If seeing Bilbo and friends on the big screen isn’t enough, head to ‘Middle-earth’, writes Hannah Stephenson.
The release of the new Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies, is once again expected to boost tourism in New Zealand. The country was used as the sole filming location for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, in more than 250 points across both the North and South Islands – from the rivers of Marlborough to the mountains of Mount Cook and the back country of Queenstown and Paradise.
Thanks to Bilbo Baggins and friends, New Zealand has been dubbed the “real Middle-earth”, with 13 per cent of tourists saying The Hobbit trilogy movies were a factor in influencing their decision to visit between July 2013 and June 2014.
“Set-jetting” – holidaying in countries and locations where films are shot – is not a new phenomenon. Jaws inspired a generation of movie fans to visit Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in 1975 and even Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen a flood of visitors since Breaking Bad hit TV screens around the world.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says: “While it is clear that improving economies and increased airline capacity are supporting tourism growth, the Hobbit factor has raised the profile of New Zealand exponentially around the world.”
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, the real-life film set used in the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit films, has welcomed around 800,000 people since first opening. The set was rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit trilogy – this time in permanent materials, complete with Hobbit holes, gardens bridge and mill.
There’s a range of new packages for visitors to experience the film locations – from new evening dinner tours of Hobbiton to kayaking trips down the Pelorus River where the dwarves in the barrels scene was filmed.
Nomad Safaris (www.nomadsafaris.co.nz) also runs a combination of off-road adventure with Middle-earth magic in the stunning alpine setting of the Queenstown region, as well as the “Earnslaw Burn-Heli Hobbit” experience, travelling with a guide by helicopter over the pass of “Cardharas” into the “Misty Mountains” to land on a dramatic ridge line beside the Earnslaw Glacier.
Other attractions include guided tours through Mangaotaki Valley, exploring the place where the Troll Camp Fire scenes were filmed in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and seeing the base of towering limestone cliffs.
For more information on Middle-earth adventures in New Zealand visit: www.newzealand.com