Home of the pastoral Hobbit films, New Zealand has a thriving screen industry plus plenty to see and do in Auckland, its biggest city
Chances are, you have loved the beauty of New Zealand even if you haven’t actually visited it yet. Both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed entirely on location there, from the Shire’s peaceable farmlands on the North Island to Edoras’s epic battlefields on the South Island.
The screen industry in this little country is big business: four of the all-time 20 most profitable films were made here, and revenue in 2015 was $3.22 billion compared to just $2.6 billion in 2005. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city (population 1.4 million), leads the country in television production, while Wellington—home base for Sir Peter Jackson’s companies, including Weta Digital, where the Oscar-winning special effects of Avatar were created—is known for film.
In 2013, after Middle-earth marketing campaigns, New Zealand saw an unexpected 13.4 per cent surge in visitor arrivals from the U.S. and 3.8 per cent from Canada.
In 2014, a 20 per cent production grant was introduced to lure international productions to New Zealand, including an additional five per cent for those that could show wider economic benefits to the country. Tourism fit the bill, and NZ Inc., working with WingNut Films and Warner Bros. Los Angeles, launched the Hobbit leverage program—PR activities surrounding each of the Hobbit films’ premieres.
If you’re drawn to the land of the hobbits, here are five things to check out in and around Auckland, from Middle-earth to the true New Zealand
IMAGE BY: DEBRETTS KITCHEN
DeBretts Kitchen is located in Hotel DeBrett, a stylish boutique hotel with just 25 rooms and suites on High Street in the business district. This beautiful café, set in a three-storey atrium between two buildings, is the place to see and be seen. For more private conversations, duck into the discreet bar around the corner.
Movers and shakers share cocktails and stock tips at Soul on the Viaduct Harbour. This sunny waterside location makes for prime people-watching and yacht-gazing under the big umbrellas.
Auckland is high on adrenalin–the bungee was created in New Zealand. For a taste, you can rocket yourself 192 metres off the top of New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure, the Sky Tower, and reach 85 kilometres an hour. Or simply enjoy the view at the rooftop Sugar Club.
If you fancy a trip to Bilbo’s Bag End, board Kiwi Rail’s Northern Explorer train in Auckland. After just a few hours’ travel through some of the world’s richest agricultural countryside, you’ll arrive in Hobbiton.
Drive 40 kilometres west from Auckland, and suburbia soon gives way to deep dark forest and the wild black sand beaches of Piha. On your way back, stop at Karekare Beach, where 11-year-old Anna Paquin danced her way to an Academy Award in director Jane Campion’s The Piano.