Set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the Rings of Power is Prime Video’s first foray into Middle Earth. While timelines may have changed for this new streaming series, the ethereal vistas remain a focus for the epic fantasy franchise.
New Zealand is once again a home base for an adaptation of Tolkien’s work, having previously hosted Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies from the 2000s.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s fantastical landscapes, rugged terrains and Hobbiton film set attraction have cemented New Zealand as ‘the home of Middle-Earth’ and a must-see destination for film and fantasy fans.
Read more: Cast and release date for The Rings of Power
It’s the obvious destination to film a fantasy series with jagged mountains, thundering waterfalls and pristine coastlines acting as magnificent backdrops.
Amazon has taken full advantage of New Zealand’s epic landscapes and filmed the entire first season of the Rings Of Power series across various locations in New Zealand’s North and South islands – twenty years on from the release of the first ever Lord Of The Rings film.
Around a third of the multi-million-dollar series was shot on location, across 38 spots in New Zealand’s North and South Islands. The rest was painstakingly created in film studios in Auckland, using impressive VFX to draw viewers into the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth.
Kevin Spring, Location Scout/Supervising Location Manager has raved about New Zealand’s diverse locations and hopes that fans will be suitable impressed.
“I suspect the audience will be wowed with the locations,” says Spring. “The work that went into choosing these locations was no small feat. All the locations are outstanding and with the skill of our VFX department and combining some of these locations together, we’ve created worlds that none of the other Tolkien adaptations has ever seen.”
“They’re going to be unique just by the nature of them being the tapestry of different places creating one world.”
“I just think that it’s a real showreel of New Zealand’s locations. You look at where we’ve been and it’s just an incredible showcase of the country.”
Executive Producer Callum Greene has also raved about filming the series in New Zealand. "One of the beauties of my job is that I get paid to be a tourist, and you can't beat that in New Zealand. There are probably the best locations in the world there that I've ever shot in.”
One of the most intriguing locations in the new Tolkien series is Númenor – an otherworldly island kingdom that is only mentioned in the original LOTR/Hobbit series but plays a pivotal role in the new Rings of Power series.
Being an island, it gave the Amazon film crew the perfect opportunity to make use of New Zealand’s diverse coastlines, often overlooked in comparison to the mountains, native bush and fiords New Zealand offers.
With the series still showcasing brand new worlds created specifically for this prequel, Amazon is keeping some of the fictional locations under wraps for the time being.
However, Tolkien fans can still explore some confirmed filming locations to get a sense of the Rings Of Power enchanting worlds and revisit famous LOTR locations.
The Coromandel, North Island
The Coromandel region is one of the North island’s most popular holiday destinations and is known for more than 400km of dazzling white sand beaches and turquoise ocean.
Númenor’s spectacular coastline locations were filmed at the Coromandel Peninsula and Piha Karekare on the North Island’s West Coast.
“As an island, we were looking for beaches to shoot on,” says Rings of Power producer Callum Greene. “I think one of the special things about New Zealand as an island is there are so many different types of beaches.”
Green adds, “So here we are on the East Coast Coromandel Peninsula, beautiful sandy beaches. And yet a day or two ago we were over at Anawhata on the black beaches that are more typical of the West Coast.”
“So, from a central position, we're able to strike out and get two very, very different flavours. Shooting in New Zealand means the opportunity to shoot in these very different beautiful locations, all from a nice central hub. It’s the best of both worlds really.”
Read more: How far did Frodo walk in Lord of the Rings?
This idyllic coastal location has also played host to another fantasy film favourite. Cathedral Cove was used to represent the mythical land in The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Where the siblings discover the ruins of Cair Paravel.
The Denize Bluffs
Known for unique limestone cliffs and dense native forest, the Denize Bluffs area was previously used as a film location in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.
The verdant location provided the ideal setting for the spooky Troll Forest when the assembled company for Bilbo's quest to the Lonely Mountain are captured by gigantic trolls with cockney accents.
In the Rings of Power, it’s rumoured that the cliffs located in the Mangaotaki Valley will form part of the Harfoot’s territory.
Local tour company Hairy Feet Waitomo takes fans to exact filming locations in the Mangaotaki Valley and will point out where key scenes were filmed in the Lord Of The Rings universe. You can even get your photo taken in the exact spot where Bilbao Baggins receives the sword "Sting" from Gandalf.
Putangirua Pinnacles, Wairapapa
Located in the southeastern corner of the North Island, the Putangirua Pinnacles is a scenic reserve in Aorangi Forest Park.
These unique rock formations may already be familiar to film fans as they were previously chosen by Peter Jackson and his team to represent the Paths of the Dead in the third Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King.
Tolkien and film fans can already visit the area to put themselves in the shoes of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as they bravely travel along the Dimholt Road to rouse the army of the dead.
Visitors can explore this natural phenomenon through self-guided walks, with options to walk the streambed with the rocks towering overhead, or hike the steep climb to the top of the Pinnacle lookout.
Waitomo, North Island
Waitomo village in the North Island is home to unusual underground activities and is a confirmed film location for the Rings of Power series.
Under the lush green hills of Waitomo lies a dark labyrinth of subterranean caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, sinkholes and atmospheric underground rivers. The area's name comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole).
Visitors can explore Waitomo beneath the earth by taking a boat ride through the glow worm grotto where thousands of tiny glow worms light up the underground passages, creating a fantasy film feel below the surface.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.
As well as being a confirmed Rings of Power location, various sites within the national park were also featured in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, including Lake Pukaki featured as Lake Town and Aoraki Mount Cook as Lonely Mountain.
The wild lands in the Mount Cook National Park can be explored through a variety of day walks through bush and mountains; glacier viewing and skiing; and mountaineering
Fiordland National Park
Occupying the southwest corner of the South Island, this remarkable natural environment features stunning fiords, cascading waterfalls and jagged peaks.
Listed as a United Nations World Heritage site in 1990, this national park is home to some of New Zealand’s most recognisable locations, including Milford Sound, a spectacular fiord dubbed by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.
Unit Production Manager Pip Gillings thinks that New Zealand’s diverse and accessible locations are a major advantage when filming a fantasy series.
“I think it’s all about locations, really," says, Gillings. “We're geographically in a very small space where you know you can be in a tropical forest and into Fiordland within an hour and a half flight. There are not many places in the world where you can do that.”
The Fiordland National Park has not only provided a beautiful backdrop to The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies but it’s also been used as a location for X-Men Origins: Wolverine; and Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming on Prime Video.