A Shuttle Bus To Mordor?
Updated: Jan 1, 2019
Studies show you would burn close to 1,780,214,59 calories walking from Hobbiton to Mordor. If you're like me and want to opt for a less taxing option, look no further than the shuttle bus journey to Mordor.
My journey across New Zealand, to complete the quest of traveling from Hobbiton to Mordor, took about 3 months. In that time I traveled in many ways. I drove, took guided tours, trekked and of course, booked a shuttle bus. The amount of walking you do is only subject to how many mountains you climb and by how many walking tours you to take; may I suggest ALL OF THEM (links provided). Bare in mind the exact locations of all things middle earth are scattered across two luscious islands - the third is seldom mentioned - so hitting every spot will take some time.
That being said, my itenerary isn't perfect. Some locations don't exist, some are created in post production and I'm honestly more biased toward the elves; I spent more time searching for Lothlorien than Gondor, if you catch my drift.
Aotearoa - New Zealand - Middle Earth
I'm going to jump right into this journey. I have many sub articles and stories to tell about life in New Zealand, but I know the reason you're reading this now is because you share the same obsession of Lord of The Rings as I do, at least I hope you do.
First things first, there are a few things you'll need to make for a successful trip.
1) A ring. Depending on how much you want to spend will affect the quality of jewelry you get. If you're feeling fancy, head down to Nelson, New Zealand. The original movie prop jewelry was created there, by Jens Hansen. Unfortunately he has passed, but his sons' still run the Hansen shop. If you want a bit of a knock off, I suggest a knick-knack shop. I got mine off a cheap-shop on Cuba Street in Wellington.
2) A backpack filled with all backpacker essentials. You're welcome.
3) A first aid kit.
4) Hiking poles if you're 'that' person. You'll be climbing some mountains son.
5) High alcohol tolerance.
6) Spending money.
7) A step tracker. It took Frodo 1239 Miles to complete his journey.
8) A nice friend.
9) A journal.
10) Lastly, an APP to help guide the way - Campermate. The app is technically designed to help find designated camping spots throughout New Zealand but it is bank for finding LOTRs precise locations.
"In a hole in the ground.. there lived a hobbit.." LEGGO!
Hobbiton, The Shire, Bag End OR
Matamata, Nth Island, New Zealand.
How to get there: Fly to Auckland.
You can then drive to the isite in Matamata, from there, to Shire's Rest. I highly recomend a tour as it's comfortable, informative, and incredibly fun. I booked through www.hobbitontours.com, which is simple enough right? You can also book through any travel shop situated in Auckland; they are not hard to find. In fact there will probably be some English bloke summoning you over with his cheeky smile and quick wit convincing you to purchase the tour anyhow. If you're staying in a hostel or hotel ask reception. Easy.
Best time of year to come: September 22 (Hobbit Day). Book tickets in advanced for the massive feast that is held on the grounds in The Shire. The actress who plays 'Rose Gamgee' is rumoured to make a bartending cameo every year!
Hobbiton is really the only known full size 360 film set to remain erect. It was built on stunning farm land in the Matamata region of the North Island. Peter Jackson was granted permission by the Alexander Family - owners of the farm land - to build and film on their property. To this day the Alexander family still own the land and the get a small bundle to keep the tourism buses coming through. A bargain hard to say no to.
Our tour guide, Gyte, was incredible. He could see the fan-isms gushing out of me. We ran through the gardens yelling 'WE'RE GOING ON AN ADVENTURE"! There was no greater feeling than seeing Bag End slowly materialize.
Make sure to order the stout at the Green Dragon, most delicious beer I've ever tasted.
Road to Bree, Weta Caves OR
Mt Victoria, Wellington, Nth Island, New Zealand.
How to Get Here: Fly in to Wellington. Wellington is a very small harbour city. It's just small enough that it's easy to get yourself around, but still has a nice hustle city feel to it. It is surrounded by gorgeous mountainous landscape, but don't let the view fool you, I've been knocked to the ground by the harsh wind that takes over the city.
There are many locations throughout Wellington that hold importance to the creation of LOTR. Most importantly though, it is home to the king himself - Peter Jackson. You'll find his office and Weta Cave production studio in the heart of Miramar which is a suburb in Wellington. It's easily accessible by bus or car. Make sure to do some exploring through the streets and the mountains as it's easy to stumble on a few goodies. I was out for an evening jog on Mount Victoria, adjacent to Oriental Bay and the Hataitai suburb, when I found this spot.
Once you've taken your tour of the Weta Caves and sought out the filming locations around town, get yourself over to Scorching Bay. This is the area that Peter Jackson lives in and frequents the café near by, Scorch-O-Rama. In the summertime make sure to get yourself a nice tan on the beach, but be weary of the water as it's prime time for jellyfish to start making their way in; I've never swum so fast in my life.
Arwens River Or
Skippers Canyon, Queenstown, Sth Island, New Zealand
How To Get Here: Fly into Queenstown and then I recomend renting a car. I'm going to be honest the south island is quite tricky to travel without a vehicle. Small, winding roads with vast country side and small mountain valley towns, no buses or trains down here.
"If you want him come and claim him!" chills. Literal chills.
A quick trip to the south island of New Zealand we'll find Arwen's River just outside Queenstown, New Zealand. I recommend using the APP I suggested to find this spot, as it is very tricky and the roads are quite dangerous. Or better yet, book a spot on the Skippers Canyon Jet Boat, bringing you closer to the action.
After you've succeeded in your re-enactments - if you're like me - you can grab a drink in town where Liv Tyler used to frequent.
Kaitoke Regional Park, Upper Hutt, New Zealand
How To Get Here: Back to the top. Fly back to Wellington, then drive. It's about an hour outisde Wellington towards Johnsonville and Upper Hutt. It's an easy drive to follow on google maps.
Best Time To Visit: Summer time (November-January). Plan a camping trip in the national park and sleep under the stars like the elves do. Do elves sleep?
Rivendell is survived only by an archway set-piece that was left by the crew. Fans alike use this prop to re-enact the infamous scene of the newly acquainted Fellowship leaving for Mordor.
"Mordor Gandalf, is left or right?"
If you're having trouble imagining the bridges and the gazebo based on looking at the park, there is a giant map that actually pin points where the entire set used to stand. We trekked for an hour to find what might've been the bridge where Arwen and Aragon confessed their love - It's a log now - But this park is GORGEOUS and I highly recomend spending some time here.
The Misty Mountains OR
Mount Aspiring National Parks, Wanaka, Sth Island New Zealand
How To Get Here: Back to the South! Land in Queenstown. From there you can drive to Mount Aspiring National Park to see the mountain range that makes up The Misty Mountains. I swear there was no filter used on film. The mountains are majestic, intimidating and absolutely rewarding to climb.
Mines of Moria OR
The Southern Alps, Queenstown, Sth Island New Zealand.
I recomend taking advantage of the incredible hiking treks and hiking guides in this region of the world. I took about a month and climbed as many mountains as I could muster. From leaving at midnight to catch the sunrise at the top of Roy's Peak, to breaking a quick sweat on my lunch break on Queenstown Hill, I became addicted. Queenstown is about a 45 minute drive from Wanaka and the Southern Alps are connected to Mount Aspiring National Park, so just follow the ridge. The Southern Alps are probably the most recognizable mark of the South Island and I had the view right outside my bedroom window. My heart.
How To Get There: From Queenstown you can drive towards Frankton on the main highway to Coronet Peak. Make sure you have a four wheel drive because the drive up toward the Ski Field is STEAP; we had to restart the car about three times. It was all worth it in the end.
Of course, the mines themselves were all studio created.. Good luck digging your way out of this one.
Lothlorien, Battle of the Uruk-Hai, Isengard OR
Glenorchy, Paradise, Sth Island, New Zealand
We've REALLY hit our luck in mileage, as Glenorchy is now just an hour south of Queenstown. The drive to paradise is stunning. There really are no words. You'll be stopping every 5 minutes to take a new picture of the breathtaking view, of the mountains' reflection in the crystal blue lake. Please be aware that people are behind you though. You'll be amazed to find that people just STOP in the middle of the highway to take a picture. Tourists.
How To Get There: Guided Tour. Seriously. I highly recomend getting a tour for this duration of the trip. I booked through Nomads in Queenstown which is located on Shotover street in town. We learned to sword fight in the Lothlorien Forest (OMG), and the guides had countless stories about the locations and about filming that I completely would've missed had I done it on my own. Including this rugged spot called the 12 mile delta.
This forest is also where the battle of the Uruk-hai took place, writing Sean Bean right out of the script. Sorry Bo.
So at this point in our journey the fellowship has split up, and it's tough to keep in the loop on all locations at once. So here are some fun facts to let some time pass..
1) The Mirror of Glandaloril - This impromptu scene was actually filmed in a parking lot behind the Weta Caves in Wellington.
2) Destroying Isengard - Treebeard was actually inspired by the trees that grow outside of Peter Jacksons' office in Miramar. The bark was pulled from the trees, to which a mold was then created as inspiration for the 'life-like' character.
3) Elijah Woods got in to major shit for peeing in the fountain on Cuba street on a night out. Not a filming secret but I thought that was absolute gold. I once dropped a pizza on the ground beside that same fountain and picked it up and ate it.. alcohol is so bad folks.
Edoras, Capital of Rohan, OR
Cantebury, Mount Sunday, Sth Island, New Zealand
How To Get here: I flew into Christchurch, initally, and drove from Christchurch toward Franz Joseph Glacier through Arthurs Pass. Seriously make this trip. It seems natural to drive a large circle around the South Island but you will miss some incredible scenery. There is only one road that leads towards Arthurs Pass and as you head north you will start to notice the landscape becoming much more spectacular. Cantebury is not far outside Christchurch so keep your eyes peeled for this area.
Dead Marshes OR
Te Anau, Fiordland, New Zealand
Buckle your seatbelts for the most incredible site you'll ever see. Fiordland and the Milford Sound will make you feel unmistakable feels. It's stupidly beautiful.
How to Get There: You can hike or drive but I highly recomend ..wait for it.. a guided tour. For a budget option a bus and boat tour through the Milford sound. If you're feeling fancy take a helicopter.
One does not simply walk into Mordor... But one can SHUTTLE BUS
Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park Crossing, Nth Island, New Zealand
If you feel like you've got your Lord Of The Rings fix of the south island it's time to head back up.
How To Get Here: Fly to Taupo, New Zealand. If you're driving you can head north through the glaciers towards Nelson and catch the ferry over to the north island. From Wellington you can drive towards Upper Hutt in the direction of Taupo. Takes about 5 hours from Wellington.
Now figuring out the trek into the national park is quite tricky. I mean, that was expected, it's Mordor. Basically, you need to decide how you will get to the beginning of the trail and how to get back in to town. If you're in a group with multiple cars you know the drill, park one car at the beginning and the end. The trail itself takes about 9 hours. To take any and all stress away I booked a shuttle (this was the surprise!). The shuttle picked us up right from our hostel and drove us to the beginning of the National Park. The driver gave us a few pick up times (8 -12 plus hours) in which they would be waiting on the other end. It was only about $70.
Good Rule of Thumb: If you want to hike Mordor on New Years Day, don't.
Although it was the greatest day of my life, Taupo was INSANE on New Years Eve.
"No drinking tonight! We'll have a countdown and then we'll go to bed for our 5am shuttle". Bullshit. People have dance battles in the street and there are clubs going off everywhere. A couple beers in and we were battling half the town in the form of a boogie.
Anyways, the big finale..
Walking into Mordor was no easy feat, but it was less stressful than popular culture lead me to believe. The hike itself was the most rewarding trek I've ever done. It is sacred land so please be respectful. At this time you can not climb the actual volcano which is depicted as Mount Doom in the films.. so.. I guess I'll be keeping my ring of power after all.
Now go home!