A Lord of the Rings Tour from Queenstown, New Zealand

An epic and beautiful safari adventure, even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan.

A GORGEOUS view of the mountains lit up by the sinking sun somewhere near Queenstown, New Zealand.

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Year visited: 2017

Time of year: March

The Best Thing To Do


So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, you know that this Queenstown tour to nearby Lord of the Rings filming locations is definitely something you should do if you’re planning on going to New Zealand!

Queenstown is one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand, and for good reason. It is full of epic adventure, beautiful sites, and of course, Lord of the Rings filming locations!!!

About Queenstown, New Zealand

The Remarkable Mountain range (overlooking Queenstown). So named because some explorer who first came here looked at them and thought, ‘My, they’re remarkable!’

True story.

Of all the places I’ve been, and all the bajillion places my sister and brother-in-law have been, Queenstown, New Zealand is one of our favorite places to visit. To me, it felt like the epitome of everything I expected from New Zealand.

It is an adorable tourist town that’s easily walkable, has gorgeous views all around (without even trying), and no end of epic (and some more tame) activities to do.

An ice bar, escape rooms, scenic safaris, bungee jumping, animal sanctuaries, hiking, biking, parasailing. It’s all here. Or you can just sit on the deck of your hotel room and enjoy the view (like I said, gorgeous views without even trying—but they get even better if you take a few steps out of Queenstown).

It was even the home base of the Lord of the Rings film crew for a while, and there are quite a few recognizable Lord of the Rings filming locations near Queenstown!

Where is Queenstown, NZ?

Queenstown is on New Zealand’s south island. It is on the western side, in the bottom half of the island, close to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.

Is Queenstown too Touristy?

That being said, I ran into some people who did not like Queenstown at all. They said it was too Americanized. Which…it is. Americanized and touristy. And too expensive for the locals to live there anymore.

So if you want to get away from tourists, you don’t want to go to Queenstown. But if you want to do anything adventure-sporty/adrenaline-rushy, this is the place to be. Or if you want to be an American tourist in New Zealand.

Walking Around Queenstown

It was easy to walk from our hotel to anywhere in the town. We walked down the street to a grocery store and bought food to make for lunch and dinner.

We were also easily able to walk to the bus stop where we got picked up for our Milford Sound tour, and to Nomad Safaris downtown shop, where we started our tour with them. We walked down to find them the day we arrived, to make sure we knew where to go, but it was very easy to find, so you won’t have any trouble.

Weather in Queenstown

We were here at the end of March, which in New Zealand weather is the beginning of fall. Because of the mountains surrounding Queenstown, it takes a long time for the sun to get up high enough to be seen in the mornings, and they can be chilly. But after the sun came up, it warmed up to perfectly comfortable temperatures.

We walked down to the beach in the morning to watch the sunrise above the mountains.

How to get to Queenstown

The view from the plane! So excited to land and explore!


The best way to get to Queenstown is to fly. We flew to Queenstown on Air New Zealand from Auckland, after staying in Auckland for a few days. The airport is so tiny and chill, we actually got right off the plane on the tarmac, just like I did in my very first plane ride back in the 90’s! It was a super nostalgic moment for me.

The view from the plane was gorgeous (I’m going to use that word a lot while describing Queenstown). I remember my sister saying as we looked out the window, coming from the north island, “Now that’s the New Zealand I was expecting.”


Another way to get to Queenstown would be to drive yourself, if you have a rental car or campervan.

Take a Bus

If you don’t want to fly or drive yourself, you can take a bus to Queenstown from one of the larger cities on the south island, like Christchurch. This is the cheapest way to get to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Nomad Safaris

Our transport for the afternoon.

Full and 1/2 Day Safari Adventures from Queenstown, New Zealand

Nomad Safaris is based in Queenstown. Your tour will start and end at their shop in downtown, and it’s very easy to walk to from anywhere in the town.

Our tour took up half a day, but they also have full day tours. We met at their shop at 1 pm, and got back around 5 pm.

They have Lord of the Rings filming locations tours, but also other tours that have nothing to do with Lord of the Rings, if you just want to see the sites.

Our Lord of the Rings Tour from Queenstown

Our tour was “Lord of the Rings” themed, which means they pointed out several filming locations during the tour. That being said, the majority of the tour was just epic New Zealand sites, and not necessarily Lord of the Rings related. So if for some reason your travel buddy isn’t into LOTR… they will still enjoy this!

Our tour had 6 people and 1 driver, and our jeep was full. I had the best seat because I got to ride up front! We drove down regular paved roads, through a “highway” that went in and out of a river, and down several roads that were marked with warning signs.

Scenic Stops and Panning for Gold

We also stopped at a tiny little town called Arrowtown. We were here only briefly, mostly to use the public restrooms they had at the park, but we also got a quick drive around this adorable town.

Arrowtown is one of the gold rush towns that got built up by people searching for gold in the mountains (like dwarves…?). At one point as we were driving through the river, we stopped and tried our luck at panning for gold.

We weren’t lucky… Maybe next time.

We also took a snack break and had cookies, tea and cocoa, provided by Nomad Safaris.

Arrowtown, an old gold mining town in New Zealand.

Is this tour scary?

If you are afraid of heights or have trouble with motion sickness, be warned. The ride gets very bumpy, and you do drive along some narrow roads.

One of our friends was afraid of heights, and refused to come out of the jeep at one of the overlooks. But other than that one overlook, she was fine the whole rest of the ride.

If you do suffer from motion sickness, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some dramamine. But none of our group was bothered by the bumpy ride (it was AWESOME!)

Lord of the Rings Filming Locations

The river that runs through this valley is where they filmed the great Anduin River. It was super bright blue, which didn’t show up as well in the photo. But this view was EPIC!

Like I said before, even if you’ve never seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you will enjoy this tour. Most of our time was not focused on LOTR at all, but just seeing the epic sights, cute towns, and panning for gold.

When we did come to a filming location, our driver would hold up a picture of the scene from the movie against the real life backdrop and explain how they filmed there. The three main Lord of the Rings filming locations we saw were:

  • Lands of the Rohirrim, where they passed on their trek from Edoras to Helm’s Deep

  • The Ford of Bruinen, where Arwen faced the Black Riders

  • The great Anduin River, where the giant statues of old kings are, that the fellowship passes at the end of the first film.

One of our friends was disappointed in how little Lord of the Rings scenes we actually saw. But I had so much fun driving through bumpy rivers, along cliff edges (it’s perfectly safe, I swear!), and seeing the beautiful scenery, I was 100% content.

Photos from the Safari

At first I was mad at biker dude for getting in my photo. But then I realized he made it so much cooler! This could totally be a bike ad or something, if you’re into that.

Other Things to Do in Queenstown, NZ

On a boat cruise of Milford Sound.

There are so many epic things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand! I wish we had had more time here, but hopefully we can come back and visit again soon!

Here are just a few of the epic things there are to do in Queenstown:


We could see parasailers from the deck of our hotel room, jumping off the side of the mountain. I haven’t decided if I actually want to try this, or just watch from the safety of my hotel deck, but I would definitely pick parasailing over bungee jumping…

Bungee Jumping

Probably not the activity for me (although I might turn out to love it…), but bungee jumping in Queenstown is one of the most iconic things to do in all of New Zealand!

Kiwi Park

One of the more tame things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand is a visit to Kiwi Park wildlife sanctuary. My friend really wanted to come here to see the kiwi birds, but unfortunately we didn’t know about it ahead of time, and had tour planned during all of the viewing times. So this will definitely be on our list next time we (hopefully) go to New Zealand!

Day Trip to Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of the prettiest places in New Zealand. It takes a full day to travel there and back from Queenstown, but it is a very popular activity. We took a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound for a boat cruise. You can also rent a car and drive yourself if you don’t want to be with a tour group the whole time.

Where to Stay in Queenstown

From the airport we got a green cab to our hotel, which we had booked online ahead of time.

We stayed at the Cherry Apartments, and it was a perfect fit for the 6 people we had in our group. It had a full kitchen, and a large deck with a view of the mountains (and parasailers!).

Our hotel was at the top of the hill, with all of Queenstown stretched out below us. We had a bit of a hill to walk up to get there, but it wasn’t too bad. It was easy enough to walk downtown and to all of our tour locations from our hotel.

From the beach in Queenstown, as the sun sets.

Further Reading:

Here is a full list of Lord of the Rings filming locations across New Zealand!

Any more questions?

If you have any questions about our Lord of the Rings tour or visiting Queenstown (or other suggestions of things to do!), feel free to email me or comment below.

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