While intentionally visiting film locations is the realm of uber-geekdom that I typically try to avoid to some degree, it has led us to some beautiful locations throughout New Zealand that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Go figure: big name movies choose scenic areas as backdrops for expensive movies! In my previous post I covered our adventures at the Weta workshop.
We also went for a drive down to Cape Palliser and, along the way, stopped at most of the film spots that were used in the films. Some were less than impressive. Some were on private land without any parts used in filming visible from public property. Some were really fun and interesting to visit!
Putaringi Pinnacles Film Location
Created by a badlands style erosion of volcanic rock to create a different form of hoodos, the Putaringi Pinnacles forms the backdrop for the Dimholt road in “The Return of the King”. It is in the shadows of these rocky pillars that Legolas recounts the story of the dead king’s treachery.
Andrew and I did a hike through the area and it certainly had a bit of a spooky, otherworldly feel. Mazes of rock pillars surround a stream bed, creating an interesting picnic spot. There is also a campsite nearby that was a very scenic spot to enjoy a night.
Kaitoke Regional Park Film Location
Situated just east of Wellington in the Upper Hutt, the kaitoke regional park is home to Rivendell. The park is massive and makes a great overnight stop for those wanting to explore the area more. Andrew and I enjoyed a scenic walk through Rivendell, which is one of very few film locations that is actually well sign-posted.
Although the sets that were constructed here have been disassembled, there are signs with pictures showing where they stood within the natural backdrops. It is the area where the hobbits are first introduced to the other members of the fellowship and where Frodo recovers from his knife wound.
The park itself is a classic example of a sub-tropical rainforest, with many huge and interesting trees. Grassy fields are great for a game of football or rugby, and the camping area is extensive and beautiful.
Across the street from the theatre is a large film camera tripod steampunk sculpture that was created by Weta workshops and is worth a visit.
The Embassy theatre was at one point a theatre for stage productions that has since been converted for the movie industry. Digital 7.1 surround sound, huge screens, and modern technology are contrasted by art deco pillars, crystal chandeliers, and fancy decorations.
It is a truly unique experience. The standard seats are also exceptionally comfortable. Of course, paying for the upgrade to take advantage of the super squishy leather recliners will make any movie experience extravagant.
Mount Victoria Film Location
Mount Victoria is a huge green space in Wellington that offers excellent views of the Cooke strait and the Wellington city centre. it is a great place to see the city and harbour. On windy days, the wind here is extreme!
Following the walking paths from the bottom leads to many of the film locations used in the first Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring while the hobbits are leaving the Shire and being chased by the Nazgul. “A shortcut to mushrooms”, “Get off the Road”, and the “Rohirrim arrive” were all filmed on Mount Victoria.
Harcourt Park Film Location
Harcourt Park was used as the filming location of Isengard gardens. It is where Gandalf and Saruman first meet after Gandalf discovers the ring in the Shire. The lawn of the gardens was partially removed for filming, replaced with a gravel road and fence that we see Gandalf riding up. Upon completion of filming, the road was removed and the lawn replanted. There is now no evidence of a movie ever having been created in the area.
It is also the location where the orcs are seen cutting down trees for Saruman’s lair. Two great trees were cut down in a different area and transported, roots and all, to Harcourt Park. They were then re-assembled with a hinge at the bottom so that they could be repeatedly cut down and stood up for filming. Since the trees lost many of their leaves in the process, the film crew spent nearly 2 weeks re-attaching plastic leaves by hand.
The gardens as they stand today are beautiful to walk through. Home to a large and exceptionally fun playground that also includes a zipline and spray park, the gardens are great for families. Andrew and I were surprised to see maple trees, particularly noticeable for their red colour in the autumn. We also enjoyed checking out the disc golf course that runs through the park and is available to everyone.
Hutt River Film Location
The Hutt river serves as both the River Anduin and Rohan River in the films. When we visited there were quite a few people there fishing. Walking along the river’s edge was absolutely beautiful, especially with the trees turning colour for autumn.
The portion of the river that was used for the filming of the Elven boats leaving Galadriel’s kingdom is particularly spectacular and is easily reached from the parking lot.
The part of the river where they filmed Aragorn washing up on shore after the Warg attack is a little bit more difficult to reach. It involves walking along a mountain bike track between a bunch of houses and the river.
The difficult part is making it past the attack alpacas! Seriously, there was one alpaca that took great exception to us walking along the path, hissing, growling, and jumping against the fence at us. The ponies in the next paddock were much cuter and friendlier.