New Zealand’s popularity as an international film making destination means movie fans have plenty of film locations to visit when they come to New Zealand.

The last ten to fifteen years in particular has seen an increase in demand and respect for New Zealand film production; the crescendo came with Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003).

Magnificent scenery for movies – South Island, New Zealand

Passion for their work

It’s reputed that part of the success of the New Zealand film industry can be credited to Kiwi creativity, innovation and a sheer passion about the work they do – from heads of department to crew, stunt performers to sound technicians.

New Zealand has garnered extensive screen experience and post-production glory as creators of hugely detailed fantasy and re-created worlds through conceptual design, physical manufacturing and state-of-the-art digital /visual effects technology including performance capture and virtual camera use.

Of course, this was showcased at its best with the LOTR films, Avatar (2009) and both Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – largely created in Wellington’s Weta Digital studios. Weta also contributed to blockbusters The Avengers and Prometheus.

Being a small nation, we are continuously proving our capability for technical production and expertise that reaches into motion capture (in Wellington and Auckland), CGI animation, mixed media, 2D digital (Toon Boom), traditional 2D, special effects, makeup, prosthetics, costume and weaponry design and manufacture.

All these factors and more have attributed to a rapidly growing list of international credits that includes multiple international, Emmy and Academy Award®-winners and it ensures demand with international filmmakers with an emphasis on attention to detail and quality.

Location, location, location

New Zealand’s huge diversity in landscapes means we often ‘double as’ other places such as Japan and North America with easy to access locations meaning less travel time.

Our reverse seasons (the opposite of the US and Europe), make it possible to shoot golden wheat fields in February or snow in July with everything in between from city backdrops, to rugged beaches with sheer cliffs to pastureland or rainforest.

Filming in New Zealand means a huge diversity of landscapes including city backdrops such as Auckland in the North Island

Filming locations in New Zealand

New Zealand has hosted a number of television mini-series in the past such as Xena: Warrior Princess, Spartacus, and The Amazing Race. Our own film productions have seen Kiwi films such as Whale Rider, Once Were Warriors and The World’s Fastest Indian step up on the global stage.

Here is Black Label’s round-up of some NZ film locations:

  1. Woodhill Forest, Auckland

An hour north-west of Auckland, a dark region of the Woodhill Forest was used to portray the camp of the White Witch of Narnia from 2005’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The Bridge to Terabithia and Yogi Bear had scenes filmed here also. Woodhill is a popular destination for mountain biking – hire a bike and make a day of it and it is also close to black sand surf beach Muriwai.

2. Karekare Beach & Waitakere Ranges, Auckland

Fifteen miles west of Auckland is the beach made famous in Jane Campion’s 1993 film The Piano. Karekare was used as the location where the party comes ashore and Ada’s (played by Holly Hunter) piano is abandoned initialy. The Waitakere Ranges were also used for vampire flick 30 Days of Night.

Karekare Beach on the west coast near Auckland was a film location for The Piano

3. Civic Theatre, Auckland

The largest theatre in New Zealand took a star turn in 2005’s King Kong as Broadway’s Alhambra Theatre.

4. Monte Cecilia House, Auckland

The grounds of Monte Cecilia House were filmed to represent the grounds of the mansion where the children are holidaying from 2005’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

5. Hobbiton / Matamata

Located in the picturesque Waikato countryside near to Matamata, Hobbiton is an iconic LOTR location; guided tours visit the site.

Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

6. Mount Fuji / Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s most-climbed mountain, turned on a stunning performance as Mount Fujiyama in 2004’s The Last Samurai. Much of the filming centred on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley, which was remodelled slightly to imitate Japanese rural life in the 1860s.

7. Mordor and Mount Doom / Tongariro National Park

Mount Ngauruhoe stepped in as a suitable replacement for Mount Doom, in the land of Mordor where Frodo and Sam journey to destroy the Ring.

Mt Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park filled in as Mt Doom in the land of Mordor

8.Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s most-climbed mountain, turned on a stunning performance as Mount Fujiyama in 2004’s The Last Samurai. Much of the filming centred on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley, which was remodelled slightly to imitate Japanese rural life in the 1860s.

New Zealand’s capital city has a firm footing within the film industry being a location hotspot for much of Peter Jackson’s 2005 film King Kong – the arrival at Skull Island and dinosaur run (Lyall Bay), Times Square/Broadway/Fifth Avenue (a set at Seaview) and the SS Venture (berthed at Evans Bay).

The Legend of Zorro also filmed their second-unit photography in Wellington.

Disney’s fantasy movie Pete’s Dragon due for U.S release in August 2016 features Mt Victoria in several of the forest scenes, and Ghost in the Shell (a Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures production) was also filmed in Wellington.

Wellington is also home to visual effects studio Weta.

Official U.S Trailer for Pete’s Dragon (Disney):

9. Edoras / Mount Sunday

Mount Sunday in beautiful Canterbury is the site of Edoras, the capital of Rohan and home to Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden.

10. The Great Battle / Flock Hill Station, Canterbury

Located 90 minutes from the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch, was the setting for the climmatic final battle between Aslan’s forces and the army of the White Witch. The spectacular battle raged against the backdrop of the Southern Alps. Flock Hill also has a huge number of climbable limestone boulders though access requires a short certification procedure via the internet. The location is on private land, however tours are available in conjunction with Flock Hill Station.

11. Southern Alps, South Island

The longest and highest mountains of New Zealand, the Southern Alps provided the ideal location for the dramatic Misty Mountains of Middle Earth, where the Fellowship had to pass through in the first film of the trilogy.

Snow Farm near Queenstown also served as a prehistoric settting for 10,000 BC, and filled in mountain scenes in 2005’s Stealth.

12. White Mountains / Mount Gunn, South Island

A fantastic cinematic piece – the moment the warning beacons are lit along the White Mountains from Gondor to Rohan in Return of the King. If you want to see the location, head to Mount Gunn near the Franz Josef Glacier in the South Island.

13. Ford of Bruinen / Arrowtown

The only crossable part of the Brunien river (Arrow River) where Arwen called a flood in the form of horses, killing the physical forms and the horses of the Ringwraiths.

Map from

14. Dead Marshes / Keplar Mires, Te Anau

The Kepler Mire wetlands played their part as the swamp where Gollum guides Frodo and Sam, saving Frodo as he falls under the spell of the dead floating in the murky waters.

15. Dimholt Road / Putangirua Pinnacles, Aorangi Forest Park

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas ride through here to meet the Army of the Dead.

16. Paradise & Glenorchy, South Island

Located on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, Paradise and Glenorchy have featured in numerous films including X-Men Origins: Wolverine (When Logan stays in the farmhouse; Zero’s helicopter is downed), and The Lord of the Rings as Lothlorien Woods.

17. Alkali Lake Facility / Stirling Falls, Milford Sound

X-Men Origins: Wolverine headed to the beautiful Milford Sound for this scene.

18. Cair Paravel / Purakaunui Bay, Otago & Hereherataura Peninsula, Coromandel Peninsula

The great castle of Cair Paravel on the Eastern Sea of Narnia was created by computer-generated imagery superimposed on the cliff tops of Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins region, south of Dunedin.

The Catlins coast road from Balclutha to Invercargill is a road trip best done over a few days as the scenery is stunning with waterfalls, forests and isolated beaches.

For the second Chronicles of Narnia movie 2008’s Prince Caspian, when the Pevensie children arrive back in Narnia, hundreds of years have past. The castle of Cair Paravel is in ruins and Prince Caspian needs their help.

Cathedral Cove, North Island

The set for the ruins of the castle Cair Paravel was built on the Hereherataura Peninsula, overlooking picturesque Cathedral Cove on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. Cathedral Cove is famous for its dramatic natural rock arch and white sand beach, which links visually with the train tunnel the children go into before being summoned back into Narnia.

Contact Tania at Black Label today for assistance with travel logistics for film productions in New Zealand of any size including accommodation, transfers, location scouting, heli assistance for remote locations and more.