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February 26, 2020
Wellington, New Zealand: In the Footsteps of the Lord of the Rings (Russell)

Russell writes…

We are huge “Lord of the Rings” fans. We thoroughly enjoyed our Middle Earth dinner in Auckland and our visit to Hobbiton in Tauranga. But today’s was one of our most anticipated excursions for the entire world cruise: a visit to Weta Workshop, the effects studio behind the LOTR movies.

We almost didn’t make the excursion. We got turned around in Wellington; and we had to scramble to get a shuttle back to the ship in time. But we got aboard our tour bus with minutes to spare.

The excursion, by Rover Rings Tours, combines a visit to Weta with a driving tour of local film locations. Our first stop was the nearby community of Miramar. Director Peter Jackson transformed his hometown into the fifth-biggest studio in the world. Today, Miramar is the only place in the world where you can carry a film from concept to completion in one location.

Miramar (note the Hollywoodish “Wellington” sign in lower center)

The “Wellington” sign closer up. Jackson wanted “Wellywood,” but the city nixed that. They compromised with a sign that recognizes Wellington as the windiest city in the world.

Our driving tour through Miramar included this gigantic outdoor green screen

It was here that we stepped into a non-descript building and were treated to a one-hour tour of Weta magic. Our guide was Rebecca, whom we recognized as one of the roving elves from our Auckland Middle Earth dinner. (It’s 400 miles between the two cities; we wonder how all those actors got back and forth.)

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside Weta, but we got some pics in the lobby. It was incredible to see props, costumes and prosthetics ranging from Middle Earth to Avatar.

Gail steps through a non-descript door…

… and into a land of movie magic!

Our guide Rebecca…

… was previously an Auckland elf

Her co-worker Emily…

… was once a female dwarf

After Weta, we drove all the way to the top of Mount Victoria, where Jackson filmed some of the opening Hobbit scenes from “The Fellowship of the Ring.” We also enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view of Wellington and the surrounding area.

Mount Victoria

One of only three markers in New Zealand that reveals an LOTR filming location


Our guide showed several movie stills and the locations where they were filmed

Russell channels Frodo sensing the Nazgul

The hole where the Hobbits hid

A gorgeous panorama of Wellington

This was a half-day tour booked through Regent. When we return to New Zealand in two years, Gail wants to book an even longer tour through Weta!

This was a rare opportunity for splurging on souvenirs!

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