Wellywood movie tour
A few months ago I went on the Wellington Movies Tour billed as the ‘Lord of the Rings tour in NZ’s movie capital’. Given the Hobbit is about to be premiered here I thought I should finally get round to writing it up.
I didn’t do this tour because of being a Tolkien geek. I’m not; I did see all the movies but only once and I haven’t read the books. Most Wellingtonians wouldn’t pay to do this tour, as is often the case when something is on your doorstep.
I basically decided that it would be interesting to do because we live in the movie industry hub of Wellington* and had seen the tour vans around. Aside from knowing that some filming took place in the woods behind where I lived when I first moved to Wellington, I knew very little about what happened and where.
*Though in saying that, in the last few years of living amongst all the Wellywoodness, I have seen only one actor whom I recognised.
So I booked myself in one Saturday for the full day ‘ultimate’ tour – a bit more than $100 including lunch. On said day, I bussed into the city to the pick-up point, and joined a van load of others. A mixed bunch; mostly foreigners but a couple of other locals. The morning would be spent out of Wellington and our chatty guide steered us north-east out to the Hutt.
First stop was at a quarry, just up from the intersection of highways 2 and 58. One clever aspect of the tour was the playing of film clips in between stops, relevant to the locations we were visiting – a handy refresher for the likes of moi.
At this location they constructed Helms Deep and later on half-demolished it to create Minas Tirith. Not unsurprisingly, if a touch disappointingly, there are no remains of sets left. In a couple of places there are signs if you know where to look.
On we continued, to a park in Upper Hutt I’d driven past maybe twice but never stopped at before.
You don’t really need a full day to get around the locations. Maybe if it was more than just about LOTR, but that’s where the enduring popularity is for this kind of tour. What lengthened the day was:
- Re-enactments. Yes, at several of the locations members of our group* donned provided props and did a brief role play – usually just posing in a particular way. (Looking back, it does create a point of interest in photos that would otherwise be of some grass, water or a tree.)
- We went on a nature walk at one of the stops.
- The all necessary pause for lunch.
- A museum stop.
Nearby in the suburb of Birchville we made our first stop at the Hutt River. My scribbled note says this was an Aragorn scene from the second movie…
Our second river stop was a touch more rural, near Te Marua and down a side road. I’ve not spent much time around the Hutt River which is crazy talk really as it’s beautiful and has a great walkway along it. This particular spot was quite secluded and picturesque.
*Kaitoke Regional Park*
Further north a ways we turned off to Kaitoke Regional Park: an area of hills and valleys dense with native bush. Lunch preceded further tour stuff.
It was here the guide suggested we go on a loop walk that would take us back to the carpark via a very scenic route. That was one of the highlights of the day for me, but I think I’ll combine a few pictures into a separate post.
Then it was time to head back into town.
Mt Victoria forms part of the town’s greenbelt and its summit is an excellent lookout point over Wellington. There are plenty of woods and walkways making it a perfect setting for some of the LOTR filming.
We bundled back into the van to my neck of the woods.
The studio had the big outdoors green screen (constructed from shipping containers) up for months. We were allowed to take photos from this discreet distance. There’s a hill nearby where a year or so ago people had been taking photos from, but they clamped down on that. Security guards were posted anywhere you could get a glimpse of filmsets.
Next up was the Weta Cave, a mini museum on the site where Weta Workshop began. I’ve been a couple of times before so I knew what was in store for them, including a great screening of some behind the scenes information about Weta and a movie montage. I didn’t need to sit through it again so I took a long walk around the block.
That was the final stop. We drove around the south coast where another location was pointed out – one of the old WWII forts on the peninsula, fantastic in its own right. I was let out near the airport and from there I walked home.
As I finally finish this post tonight, I saw a news item about international media arriving in Wellington including a group that went on some of this tour.