Often referred to as ‘the winterless north’, the district is a sub-tropical region stretching north from Auckland, with pristine coastlines, rolling farmland and lush mystical forests.
The east coast encompasses the Bay of Islands and some of New Zealand’s most significant historical sites, and the city of Whangarei. On the west you will find native forests, the expanse of Ninety Mile Beach (renowned for its spectacular sunsets and boasting one of the best left-hand surf breaks in the world), the white sand dunes of Hokianga Harbour and laid-back beach communities.
From cosmopolitan skyscrapers to rugged surf beaches and ancient native rainforests, myriad locations are within easy reach of Auckland’s metropolitan centre and stunning harbour. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and most culturally diverse city, with a population of more than 1.4 million. It is a dynamic centre for television dramas, commercials, feature films and post production, animation and visual effects, and offers New Zealand’s largest crew base. The city has seen Ancient Rome recreated on soundstages (and in post-production) for the hugely popular Spartacus television series, doubled for North America in Yogi Bear and post-World War II Japan in Emperor, as well as numerous television shows, features, and TVCs. It is home to two major soundstages – Auckland Film Studios and Studio West and a number of smaller studios and customisable warehouse spaces.
Situated in the heart of the North Island, the diverse Waikato region encompasses Hamilton, New Zealand's fourth-largest city, and the country's longest river, the Waikato. It stretches from black-sand beaches in the west to the native-forest-clad Mt Te Aroha in the east.
The town of Matamata is famously home to ‘Hobbiton’ (from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies), and the striking rock formations of Port Waikato featured as ‘Weathertop’ in the Fellowship of the Ring.
The glow-worm-filled Waitomo caves, carved out of limestone over millions of years, and the unique otherworldly rock formations make a striking contrast to the serene farmland.
The region is also home to several internationally recognised wetlands and dramatic coastal headlands and surf beaches.
Bay of Plenty
From stunning surf beaches to hectares of native forest, boiling mud, steaming geysers, active volcanoes and thrilling waterways, the Bay of Plenty region has some of the most striking scenery in New Zealand. The Bay has provided the backdrop for many an international and New Zealand film or television series, including Narnia, The Bachelor, the Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, and many more. Through the Bay of Connections office, the region has a collaborative and co-ordinated structure to manage queries, facilitate discussions and approvals, and support large and small-scale productions.
Film Hawke’s Bay administers the Hawke’s Bay/Gisborne region offering some of the best shooting weather and light in the country. Unique architecture offerings for film include one of the world’s best preserved Art Deco towns in Napier, fully restored Victorian homesteads, and an authentic prison. Known for its agriculture and horticulture, its apple, pear, peach, cherry, orange and nectarine orchards feature alongside crops of sweet corn, peas, tomatoes, and sunflowers. It is also a major wine-growing region, both boutique and large-scale. Deserted white- and iron-sand beaches, limestone rock formations, rolling farm land, European pine and redwood forests, and indigenous bush, the stunning Te Mata Peak and Cape Kidnappers – all are within easy travel distance from the main commercial centres and with an infrastructure to support.
Vincent Ward’s stunning Vigil was the first major production to showcase Taranaki, while the Warner Brothers’ 2003 production The Last Samurai brought the region’s landscape to international audiences. The region has seen a lot of action since then, with domestic productions Predicament and Show of Hands and a range of local and international advertising shoots. Taranaki’s mix of unobstructed mountain and sea views remains popular, along with classic rural backdrops and vintage buildings and streetscapes. The Taranaki region is very open to and supportive of inbound productions, and Venture Taranaki can assist with everything from location scouting to regional connection.
The Manawatu and its major city Palmerston North are bordered by the rugged Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges. It is a region of contrasts with flat coastal plains and dramatic rolling hill country bounded by rivers, ocean and rugged mountain ranges. It is spectacularly divided by Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge, which is shrouded in myth and legend. The sheer vertical "papa" cliffs and deep canyons of the Rangitikei River are unique to this part of New Zealand. The Rangitikei river was used as the river 'Anduin' in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.
New Zealand’s compact capital city Wellington has a reputation for creativity and culture. It is famously home to Peter Jackson and the Miramar group of companies including Weta Digital, Weta Workshop and Park Road Post Production, as well as many other internationally recognised production and production service companies. The region has two sound stage complexes: Stone Street Studios in Miramar where movies like Avatar and the Hobbit Trilogy were shot, and the purpose-built Avalon Studios, frequently used for medium-sized film and television productions. The city is also a hub for international television production including Jane and the Dragon, The WotWots and Thunderbirds Are Go. In Wellington you can go from cityscapes to rolling hills within 30 minutes, and it is also the gateway to the Wairarapa region with its farmland, vineyards and wild coastline.
"I can’t believe Nelsonians get to wake up in this amazing paradise every morning." Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)
The beautiful, sunny Nelson region is ideally suited to filming with its broad range of potential locations. Segments of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed on location in the area, while several other films, including the successful New Zealand film Kiwi Flyer, have used Nelson as a scenic backdrop. Three national parks – Abel Tasman, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes, afford a wide range of locations, from beautiful golden beaches to lakes to rugged mountainous scenery. An added bonus is the sunny climate with just seven rain days on average in summer and autumn/fall, and eight to nine in winter and spring.
The rugged west coast of the South Island is one of New Zealand’s most remote areas, with a long history of gold and coal mining. There are verdant native forests, spectacular glaciers, otherworldly rock formations, marshlands and black-sand beaches.
The vast patchwork of the Canterbury plains is flanked on one side by the dramatic Southern Alps, which rise abruptly from farmland, and pristine coast on the other. Further inland, the golden tussock-lands of the 'high-country' were Rohan in Lord of the Rings, and more recently Banks Peninsula doubled for North America in US feature Z for Zachariah. The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, is undergoing a renaissance as the city rebuilds after the 2011 quake.
Southern New Zealand offers pristine alpine landscapes, majestic fiords, rocky crags, waterfalls, rivers, beaches, farms, vineyards and historic towns.
Frequently the base for high-end international television commercials (TVCs), it has also hosted film and television dramas like Top of the Lake, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Vertical Limit, 10,000 BC and Prince Caspian, making use of the region’s jaw-dropping scenic diversity.
The town of Queenstown is a dynamic production hub, with crew, specialist production companies and service providers with the skills, equipment, technology and expertise to produce work at the highest international standard.
Dunedin is a film-friendly city with breathtaking scenery and a rare old-world charm. The location for international films like Wolverine, Sylvia and Perfect Creature, Dunedin has much to offer – coastal and inland scenery, wildlife, and the largest concentration of Victorian buildings in the country.
Dunedin is home to major players in the screen industry including NHNZ, a world-leading producer of factual television for global broadcasters, Animation Research Ltd whose expertise in multimedia has gained worldwide recognition, and Elwin Productions, an award-winning boutique production company. Dunedin also boasts talented local crew and a solid infrastructure.
Mark Twain described Milford Sound as the eighth wonder of the world and this incredible fiord is one of several stunning locations within the Southland district. The area's main city, Invercargill, has a multi-faceted, timeless character that lends itself to a wide variety of period looks including US townscapes from the ‘50s to present day. Invercargill is the southern gateway to the unspoiled Catlins region and also hosts a thriving tertiary institution (Southland Institute of Technology) offering various screen production courses through the Sir Anthony Hopkins School of Dramatic Arts, a consequence of Sir Anthony's role in The World's Fastest Indian, shot in Invercargill.
Image courtesy of Destination Clutha