Ok, so you must know that New Zealand was the filming location of JRR Tolkien epics The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But did you also know that a whole load of other films and TV shows have been filmed on its lush shores over the years?
If you fancy yourself a bit of a film buff (or you just want an excuse to see as much of this gorgeous nation as you can), setting out on a tour of New Zealand’s top film destinations couldn’t be easier! From fantasy epics and superhero blockbusters to historic dramas and hilarious comedies, you can really get behind the silver screen at the following locations across NZ’s North and South islands:
Cathedral Cove is for you if you’ve never given up hope that Narnia exists
Now you don’t need to step through the wardrobe to find yourself in Narnia! Anyone know if that really works anyway? But even if it doesn’t (fingers crossed it does) Cathedral Cove is the next best thing – it’s basically a real-life Narnia.
Yes there might not be any talking beavers, fawns or flying lions but there are untouched beaches (for 400km no less), and lush forests. So, what makes it so famous? It’s all about the huge cathedral-like archway. And what’s beyond the archway? We’re talking two secluded coves boasting butter-soft sand and fabulously clear waters. Nice.
So, what about Narnia? We’re getting to that bit. It was in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian as the backdrop of the ruined Cair Paravel castle. Check it out. We can’t guarantee old Aslan himself will be there though.
For a little more Narnia action head to Arthur’s Pass outside Canterbury. This was the setting of the battle scene between Aslan’s army and the forces of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Cathedral Cove, Waikato 3591
For a flashback to your backpacking days, visit Hunua Falls
Seen the 2004 film Without a Paddle! It’s pretty funny. You should check it out.
Need the short version? OK here goes. The movie follows a group of friends who set off on a camping trip in the Oregon wilderness to search for lost treasure. Interestingly, most of it was shot in New Zealand, including the iconic canoeing scene which was filmed at Hunua Falls just outside Auckland.
The 30m falls are pretty epic up close too.
Hunua Ranges Regional Park Falls Road, Hunua, Auckland 2583
So you fancy holidaying in paradise? Head over to, well, Paradise
Now this is pretty dreamy. It’s called Paradise – it has to dreamy. And the clue really is in the name with this one.
You’ll find Paradise in the heart of rural Otago on the South Island and it’s been used in not one, but two major films AND a popular TV show! Ok, so it really is all about Paradise.
So, where do you find this heaven on earth then? It’s nestled on the eastern shore of the Dart River and in the shadow of Mount Alfred. And what do you find when you get there? Well some idyllic countryside that’s what. And it’s well worth it.
Tel us about the movies then! Ok, so it was featured in both Wolverine and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In the Hobbit, Paradise served as the backdrop of grisly Beorn’s house which is visited by Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company of Thorin before they delve into the dangerous Mirkwood.
So, what about the TV show? We’re talking BBC crime drama Top of the Lake.
An easy way to visit Paradise is on a day trip from Queenstown, which is a very scenic one-hour drive away. Fun fact: Paradise may look picturesque and very deserving of its title, but it’s actually likely named after the paradise shelducks native to the region.
Paradise, 9372 Otago
Piha Beach will tickle your curiosity if you can’t get enough of period dramas
Fancy a bracing walk along the shore? The wild winds and black sand shores of Piha Beach just outside Auckland make it a pretty atmospheric spot.
And this rugged coastal gem has been a backdrop in several epic historical dramas too! It was actually first put on the tourist radar over 20 years ago after being used for the beach scenes in the award-winning 1993 flick The Piano.
More recently though, Piha Beach stood in as the South Island’s Hokitika beach in the BBC adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s epic novel The Luminaries.
Piha, Auckland 0772
Want to take a trip to Middle Earth? The Waikato region is the place to go
We just had to didn’t we? Our list really wouldn’t be complete without a bit of LOTR. And this really is the spot! Hobbiton in the dreamy Waikato region between Auckland and Hamilton is all about those tiny little guys with the big hairy feet and the even bigger hearts!
The Hobbiton movie set has been left completely untouched and now serves as a dedicated attraction for Lord of the Rings fans. It’s time to step into The Shire, the charming homeland of the Hobbits, and stroll around – and even inside! – the cosy homes of key characters like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Once you’re done exploring Hobbit Holes, don’t forget to try a pint of homemade cider, ale or ginger beer at The Green Dragon Inn pub (it really is the best in town). You’ll find the pub just like it is on screen and it even boasts a beer garden overlooking the magical little village! So, why not take a seat next to a hobbit?!
Hobbiton, 501 Buckland Road, Matamata 3472
And if you can’t get enough of that movie magic…
Keen to add even more destinations to your New Zealand film themed road trip? Why not set off from Wellington for Lyall Bay near the city’s airport to see where dinosaurs ran across the sand in King Kong: Skull Island? If you’re visiting Invercargill on the South Island, Oreti Beach a few kilometres away is where Burt Munro broke land speed records on his motorbike in the 2005 bio-flick The World’s Fastest Indian.