|North and South islands of New Zealand personify Middle Earth.|
|Hobbits and sheep have similar tastes in landscapes.|
Occasionally you'll spot seriously large, chiseled men that remind you of a ranger. Unlike a Tolkein ranger, though, they are normally friendly and outgoing with a "Good on ya, luv," benediction after encounters.
|Wellington from Mount Victoria.|
Tip: The only part of my half-day tour that included any difficult walking was in Victoria Mountain park and it wasn't really that bad. Looks worse than it is: Some elevation, some rocky, rooty and uneven pathways that could trip you up if not paying attention. If going on your own, do not even think about walking up Mt. Victoria; take a cab or a bus. It's so steep along this road that residents install their own trams and cog lines to get from street level to their homes!
|Phil Mackie, our guide to the movies.|
• Christopher Lee was the tallest in the cast, John Reese Davies at 6'1" was the tallest of the fellowship.
• Most of the Riders of Rohan were women wearing false beards.
• Viggo Mortensen is a method actor and slept in his costume with his sword and horse, but Liv Tyler, who as Arwen was supposed to be a warrior, couldn't wield a sword convincingly enough and didn't like horses, so the Rohan princess' role was enlarged.
|Frodo senses the Nazgul.|
Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith
Enormous sets were built in Dry Creek Quarry, which has been returned to business as usual.
|Where Boromir's body washed up.|
Several scenes were shot along here including the finding of Boromir's body.
Because it was a national park, it took a ton of money and very specific restrictions for the filmmakers to use it. They could eliminate a plant but had to put a GPS tag on it so it could be replaced exactly as it had been pre-filming.
|Mackie at Legolas's tree.|
|Legolas at the tree.|
Isengard Gardens and Orc Tree
|The gardens of Harcourt Park were in bloom when I walked there.|
|Gandalf and Saruman walk through Harcourt Park.|
Now you can play frisbee golf, watch jousting matches and let the kids loose in the playground.
Do it yourself
There are many Lord of the Rings Tours throughout New Zealand. The one I took in Wellington was a half-day tour but you can go for days and cover sites on both islands. www.newzealandtourism.co.nz is a good place to start. Just remember, while The Hobbit films are being shot there now, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was shot 12 years ago. Things change.