The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and On the ‘Middle Earth’ Wine Route

The second instalment of New Zealand director Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy is set to hit the big screens in December 2013. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins and company as they continue their quest to reclaim Erebor. The diverse landscapes of New Zealand will once again be on show when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is released.

New Zealand has become one of the leading places in the world to shoot TV dramas and feature films with its breathtaking landscapes shown to full-effect in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy. Needless to say, the vineyard regions of New Zealand are equally stunning in scenery, indeed many of the filming locations are within close proximity to some of the country’s top vineyards, as detailed in the Wandering Palate’s article “Gone Fishing (for Pinot) in Middle Earth”

Of course, the best way to get to Middle Earth is to fly on Smaug the dragon (AKA Air New Zealand), and domestically with Gwaihir the Windlord the giant eagle – which were (in real life) native to New Zealand – the Haast’s Eagles with a 10ft wingspan known as the world’s largest raptor until extinction circa 1400.

I doubt there could be any better holiday on this earth for both young and old adults, than travelling through Middle Earth on the Wine Route and the trail of Hobbits.

Air New Zealand Smaug the dragon livery

Air New Zealand Smaug the dragon livery

Lonely Mountains, Wanaka
Sir Peter Jackson chose this rugged inhospitable terrain scorched with the colours of volcanic fire to depict Hidden Bay – the entrance to The Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the watchful eyes of the giant craggy bust of Thror. Wanaka is also home to one of New Zealand’s oldest and finest vineyards – Rippon Vineyard – click here

Filming in Tongariro National Park was significant as it was the first major feature to be shot in the park since The Lord of the Rings Trilogy more than 10 years ago, when these landscapes inspired Mordor and Emyn Muil.

While The Hobbit Trilogy cast and crew spent only one day filming at Turoa, their visit had been preceded by 18 months of planning and discussion with representatives of local Māori and the Department of Conservation to ensure respect of the region’s unique Māori spiritual and cultural values and precious conservation status.

Before film work could begin, the cast and crew were formally received with a powhiri (welcome and blessing) ceremony performed by the two Māori tribes – Ngati Rangi and Ngati Uenuku – that are the guardians of Turoa. The ceremony, which took place at the tribal meeting ground, was described as an incredibly moving cultural experience.

Central Plateau
New Zealand’s central North Island is an expansive inland region of amazing and varied geographical features – volcanic peaks, tranquil lakes – including the southern hemisphere’s largest lake, rushing waterways, alpine desert and vast wilderness forests.

The region is a natural playground with endless opportunities for walking, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, adventure and winter snow sports. During summer, the clear lakes and rivers are the place to be for fresh water holidays – Kiwis love to come here to swim, fish, boat and water ski, or simply relax and soak in the natural hot springs.

Martin Freeman (Bilbo in The Hobbit Trilogy) described the central North Island region as his favourite location: “It is beautiful. There is a mountain, there is a waterfall, there’s a beautiful view across the valley there. It’s one of the sort of archetypal Kiwi places that you thank god New Zealand has such amazing landscapes.”

Richard Armitage (Thorin) made the most of his time on Mt Ruapehu – “filmed, skied and hiked there”.

Hugo Weaving (Elrond) recalled: “I love coming here I think the people here are just wonderful, very spirited and creative and very welcoming.”

Wellington to Queenstown direct flight

Wellington to Queenstown direct flight

Forest River – Pelorus River, Marlborough
Just west of Pelorus River, there are several film locations from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in the Nelson Tasman region.

Takaka Hill and Abel Tasman National Park were used for scenes depicting Chetwood Forest in The Lord of the Rings, and Reid Helicopter Tours offers scenic flights to Mt Olympus (South of Rivendell) and Mt Owen (Dimrill Dale).

In West Golden Bay, Kaihoka Station featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Weatherhills trees and rocks in the scene where The Company arrives at a destroyed farmhouse. The location is on private land but can be visited with Cape Farewell Horse Treks.

Vineyards cover much of the Marlborough region, and the warm climate and stony river valleys offer favourable conditions for grape growing, particularly the world renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The region’s 140 wineries produce 80 per cent of New Zealand’s wine exports.

Marlborough is also well known for its fresh produce, especially seafood such as scallops, crayfish, New Zealand green shell mussels, King Salmon and fresh ocean fish, along with vegetables and fruit crops such as apples, berries and olives.

More reading on Marlborough wine region:

VinEssence – Marlborough’s Premier Wine Experience, Soak in the views, Savour the wines – click here

Accommodation in the Marlborough Wine Region – click here

Marlborough Pinot Noir Rising – click here

Churton – Stunning results from Biodynamic Viticulture in Marlborough – click here

Mahi Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – Marlborough – click here

Seresin Estate – The Benchmark of Marlborough and representative New Zealand Vineyard – click here

Lake-town – Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook
At the head of Lake Pukaki, New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook dominates the turquoise ribbon of lake that fills an elongated ancient glacier-carved valley. The craggy peak draws serious alpinists and mountaineers from around the world, and the surrounding region is a popular destination for star gazing, winter snow sports, cycling, summer hiking and walking, and romantic getaways.

Sir Peter Jackson chose this part of the Southern Alps – the main divide stretching north-south the length of New Zealand’s South Island – as the setting for ‘Lake-town’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.


Beorn’s House – Paradise, Queenstown
Sir Peter Jackson is just one of the many directors who have chosen these landscapes as backdrop in a major motion picture. Jackson has previously used the Glenorchy region for numerous scenes in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Arcadia Station – a working high country farm in Paradise Glenorchy – is where Beorn’s House in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was filmed. Jackson’s team spent weeks building Beorn’s House at Arcadia Station. The film crew were on set for four days.

Mt Earnslaw, which looks down over Paradise, was used for The Misty Mountain Paths in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Queenstown is known as New Zealand’s adventure capital and annually attracts more than a million visitors who come for everything from world-class skiing and snowboarding to bungy jumping, jet boating, cycling and gourmet food and wine.

More reading on the Central Otago wine region:

Best Winery Restaurant of the Year – Carrick, Bannockburn, Central Otago – click here

Rātā – Back to the Roots – click here

Lapin au Vin des Central Otago a la Wandering Palate (Rabbit Casserole with Central Otago Pinot Noir) – click here

New Zealand Red Wine of the Year – Mount Edward Pinot Noir – Central Otago – click here

New Zealand Red Wine of the Lunar Year (Dragon) & Biodynamic Vigneron of the Lunar Year Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago – click here

New Zealand’s Quiet Achiever: Rudi Bauer, Quartz Reef, Central Otago – click here


For more information, please visit:

In conjunction with Tourism New Zealand

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


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