Hobbit Tourism: Planning a Trip To Middle-earth

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The movie The Hobbit will be in theaters next week, and the anticipation is building – especially among fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired movies. There’s another constituency that’s very excited – tourism officials in New Zealand, where the movies were filmed.

If you’ve seen the LOTR films, you’ve been exposed to New Zealand’s spectacular landscape.

Tourism New Zealand has taken advantage of the popularity by branding the country Middle-earth. It’s working – international visitor numbers have shot up 40 percent since the original trilogy was first released.

If you’re considering a Hobbit-themed vacation there’s plenty to see and do, including Hobbit-themed activities at the Auckland airport and a monstrous Gollum sculpture at the Wellington airport.

Clearly, hobbit-mania is big business. A slew of new restaurants and bars have sprung up to accommodate the influx of people.

New Zealand is already known for its great outdoor life and active lifestyle, so you don’t have to hike to Mordor and battle Orcs in order to get in some decent exercise during your Hobbit vacation. Try these activities:

  • Got for a jog. Did you know that jogging was invented in New Zealand? If you said “yes” I’m going to accuse you of lying. But it’s true – around 1960, athletic trainer Arthur Lydiard invented jogging as a way to build physical fitness by gradually increasing stamina. So celebrate Lydiard by going for a run through Wellington, or perhaps on a course through Auckland.
  • Go for a swim with the dolphins. There are plenty of great beaches in New Zealand, but you might want to try swimming with the dolphins off Kaikoura on South Island. The environmental conditions off Kaikoura are perfect for marine life, so you’ll see plenty of dolphins and even whales.
  • Hike Abel Tasman National Park. On the northern coast of South Island, this park is one of dozens of great hiking spots in New Zealand. There’s a ton of wildlife along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, as well as beaches and plenty of green wilderness. The hiking can be challenging or easy; you can pick your spots to suit your fitness needs.
  • Go skiing. If you visit New Zealand in winter (June to October), skiing is a great option. The southern Alps run pretty much the length of South Island, but the best skiing is pretty far south, at Coronet Peak and Treble Cone.
  • Go spelunking. We wrote about this a few weeks ago; you can climb, rappel and even do some underground tubing in New Zealand’s spectacular caves.
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