New Zealand is no stranger to the screen, being absolutely stunning and all. But there is one film series that surpasses all others as a walking advertisement for the Land of the Long White Cloud: Lord of the Rings. Now, a famous LOTR site has reopened to the public after 11 years, so you can finally explore more of Middle Earth.
Sitting between Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown’s Deer Park Heights featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (mostly The Two Towers). The Rohan refugees’ journey from Edoras to Helms Deep and their battle with the wargs and Orcs all happened here, along with many other scenes.
Originally, the park opened in 1966, becoming a hugely popular attraction – its jaw-dropping views and self-drive safari-style experience on an 800-hectare working farm making for a unique and unforgettable experience.
But 11 years ago, the Mee family (who own the park) decided to close it to the public, instead concentrating on running it as a private working deer farm. The deer farm will continue with the new opening, so they’ve created some restrictions to ensure everyone (including the animals) have a good time.
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“It’s such an amazing location and it seems a shame to not share it,” Deer Park Heights owner Mike Mee shared with Lonely Planet. “We want to welcome visitors to a great fun, good value family day out for those who want to spend time in the outdoors and with our animals.”
Going back to its roots, the park is offering visitors a “scenic drive and animal encounter” experience. They’re limiting the number of guests per day and limiting access to vehicles with up to seven seats, excluding buses, minivans, and commercial vehicles – this is definitely no place for crowds. Hikers and cyclists are also not permitted, as they can spook the animals.
The five kilometre road that takes you around this insane property appeals to everyone, LOTR fans or not.
Firstly, it’s unreal in the true sense of the word: these sweeping 360-degree views of the lake and mountain ranges are so stunning it doesn’t seem of this world.
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Secondly, there are picnic areas and many chances to spot (and in some cases, feed) animals like red and fallow deer, goats, miniature horses, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and Kunekune pigs.
Thirdly, movie buffs will appreciate the interactive online map that helps guide you through the movie locations and areas of interest, including the fact that not just scenes from LOTR were filmed here: Wolverine and Pete’s Dragon got a look in, too.
To get in on the farm action, you need to book online. The pass is about $52 (NZD$55) and you’ll receive a unique access code which you enter at a toll gate upon entry and exit – meaning you can take all the time you want to act out your fave scenes.
(Lead Image: Instagram / @deerparkheights)
Sonia feels most at home on the road, with travel her greatest passion. But really, she’s hype about a lot of things: beautiful design, tasty food, wellness, nature, interesting people and women’s issues. The Founding Editor of Junkee’s The Cusp and former Homes Editor at Nine, Sonia prides herself on seeking out authentic experiences with charm and loves sharing a personal rec. Catch her on Instagram @sonnietothetee.