Find adventure like Bilbo Baggins
“Home is now behind you. The world is ahead,” Gandalf says in a trailer for the upcoming The Hobbit. His advice to Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who dared embark on a wonderful adventure, rings true for NOLS students as well. Of course, NOLS graduates return home, but not after encountering the world in ways never before experienced.
NOLS shares a vast wonder with The Hobbit: New Zealand.
The Southern Alps, which reach for the skies as the Misty Mountains J.R.R Tolkien wrote about, dominate the South Island. The NOLS New Zealand property sits with a view of this breathtaking range, and semester and backpacking students hike and climb through them.
While a backpacking course was doing just that last year, dozens of helicopters carrying heavy equipment flew overhead; NOLS speculated they were associated with The Hobbit. The movie’s producer, Peter Jackson, confirmed he was using helicopters in that area at that time to scout locations.
NOLS New Zealand will eventually relocate to a new location, which also has a connection to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. Nelson is a small, artsy town is home to many of the craftspeople who helped make props for the Lord of the Rings and can be expected to help with The Hobbit as well.
Due to the pending move, NOLS is researching a new hiking area, Mount Richmond Forest Park. Students traveling in this area might camp and hike along Pelorus River, which is a confirmed filming location for the first two of The Hobbit movies: Bilbo Baggins journeys down the Pelorus along with some dwarfs, possibly inside wooden barrels.
For now, spring and fall semesters, as well as backpacking courses, may find themselves hiking in scenic MacKenzie High Country, where Jackson has confirmed some of the filming for The Hobbit took place. This is also the location of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, an epic battle between the forces of Gondor and its allies against the forces of the Dark Lord Sauron. This is the largest and most important battle in the third Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
En route to the MacKenzie area, courses often stop for fish and chips in the town of Twizel. This popular stop lies just down the road from Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, where the breathtaking opening scenes of The Two Towers were filmed.
Finally, for students eager to see film locations that we don't visit in course, it's easy to travel further south from Christchurch either by bus or domestic flight to Queenstown. Queenstown has easy access to a variety of film tourism locations, accessible by car or through tour guide services.