Film locations in New Zealand

Film locations in New Zealand

New Zealand's popularity as an international film making destination means movie buffs are spoiled for choice when it comes to film locations to visit.

It's New Zealand's breath-taking landscapes and scenery that are the silent stars of the films, not only attracting film makers from around the world, but truly bringing the films to life. Here are just some of the must-visit filming locations in New Zealand.

“Even I never dreamed of Magic like this!” 

Loved by children of all ages, the world of Narnia was brought to the big screen by New Zealand director Andrew Adamson with his 2005 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which became the 41st highest-grossing film of all time!).

Cathedral Cove served as the settings for scenes in which the Pevensie children took their first steps back into Narnia, and is a must-visit for any movie fan. Sat on the eastern shore of the peninsula, this majestic bluff rising several hundred feet above the ocean was where the siblings first discovered the ruins of Cair Paravel, defined by a deep river chasm and cascading waterfalls that plunge 200 feet into the glassy waters. Actress Anna Popplewell, who played Susan Pevensie, said "the water shimmered so clearly audiences won’t believe it’s real water.” High in the Southern Alps of the South Island is an area of tortured rocks and dramatic valleys known as Flock Hill; it was here that director Adamson created the scenes for the great battle in The Chronicles of Narnia. Visit and experience the magic for yourself!

"There’s magic in the woods, if you know where to look for it..."

The forest scenes for Disney's Pete’s Dragon were shot in Redwoods Forest in Rotorua; home to soaring Californian Redwoods, which made it the perfect double for America. Redwoods Forest is usually a popular destination for hikers; the track winds through the lush native forest and has spectacular views over the lakes and thermal wonders of Rotorua, making this a uniquely ‘Kiwi’ experience. For a dragons-eye-view of the forest floor below, the new Redwoods Treewalk takes you high above ground to stroll amongst giants. The walk is the first of its kind in New Zealand, and consists of a series of 23 suspension bridges traversing the gaps between 22 majestic 110-year-old redwood trees, 40ft high above the ground.  The small South Island town of Tapanui (population: 900), located in the Otago region of the lower South Island, was also transformed into Millhaven, a small logging town in America’s Pacific Northwest, for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.

"We're going on an adventure!"

In 1998, Sir Peter Jackson’s team of location scouts were searching for the iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures of Hobbiton™. An aerial search led them to the Alexander farm, a stunning farm in the heart of the Waikato. They noted the area’s striking similarity to The Shire™, as described by JRR Tolkien, and quickly realised that the Hobbits™ had found a home. The surrounding areas were untouched; no power lines, no buildings and no roads in sight. This meant that Sir Peter Jackson could leave the 20th century behind, and fully submerge himself in the fantasy world of Middle-earth™.

In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit trilogy, and he left behind the beautiful movie set you’ll see today; 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes, in the same fantastic detail seen in the movies. In 2012 The Green Dragon™ Inn was opened as the finale to the journey. Guests can now finish their Hobbiton Movie Set experience with a refreshing beverage from the Hobbit™ Southfarthing™ Range. There’s an abundance of movie magic nestled inside this fully operational farm!

"White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise"

The lush dairy farming landscape of Glenorchy was used to portray the peaceful Shire region of Middle-earth in the Lord of the Rings. It has made its name through being so picturesque that it can look like a whole different planet. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the dramatic dark drama, Top of the Lake were also filmed nearby. It's no surprise really that this area has been chosen so many times to be the backdrop of such epic film scenes, especially when you consider the true scale of its beauty! Many of the sites in Glenorchy have also famously starred in popular TV shows - this town is paradise for any film-lover!

"We are deep in the mountains..."

And for another touch of movie magic, make sure to visit Taranaki near New Plymouth. Most of the filming of The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, took place there. A Japanese village was even constructed for filming on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley, with Mount Taranaki standing in for ‘Mount Fuji‘.

There are so many iconic and beautiful filming locations to be seen in New Zealand, so why not book your holiday now? You may even spot a movie star or two!

For more holiday inspiration, check out our website here.

By Ella Dunham. Updated 03 July 2017

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