Omanawanui Track Waitakere Ranges Regional Park Auckland Julian Apse


The other film locations in New Zealand

Published April 27th, 2015

New Zealand’s bubbling brooks, snow-capped peaks, rich forest valleys and ancient glaciers gained international fame after they were transformed into the home of Middle Earth for Peter Jackson’s first The Lord of the Rings movie in 2001. Since then, the 150-plus amazing locations used in the film alongside other international blockbusters like King Kong and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe have overshadowed other tourist-friendly backdrops used in some of New Zealand’s best-loved films. Here’s how you can get off the Hobbit trail and bring some of your other fave film characters to life on your next NZ holiday.



Boy, Waihau Bay, Bay of Plenty

The backdrop of this lovable coming-of-age film – about a boy who spends a lot of time dreaming about Michael Jackson and his estranged dad – is the coastal area of Waihau Bay in Bay of Plenty.

Why go: Get your own daydream on in Waihau Bay and the East Cape area’s remote and rocky foreshores, sandy beaches and water that's perfect for swimming, fishing and kayaking.



World’s Fastest Indian, Invercargill, South Island

Invercargill was the perfect location to film Sir Anthony Hopkins in World’s Fastest Indian. The film is based on the true story of local motorcycle legend Burt Munro, who spent years perfecting his Indian motorcycle to break a new world speed record.

Why go: The same smooth beach Munro used to test-drive his bikes in real life was also used in the film. That beach is Oreti Beach, which overlooks the waters of Foveaux Strait and is a great spot for walking, mountain biking and horse riding.


Waitakere Ranges Regional Park in Auckland.
Photo: Julian Apse


Once Were Warriors, Auckland, North Island

Once Were Warriors, an iconic film that follows a Maori family’s problems with everything from suicide and domestic violence to poverty and alcoholism, was filmed in New Zealand’s largest and multicultural centre of Auckland.

Why go: From climbing volcanoes to a wine tour on nearby Waiheke Island (hello mid-tour dip, weather pending!), there’s plenty to do alongside exploring the nooks and crannies and cultural diversity of Auckland.


Tolaga Bay
Photo: Eastland Tourism


Whale Rider, Whangara, between Gisborne and Tolaga Bay, North Island

Whale Rider, based on a novel about a young Maori girl name Pai who fights to fulfill a destiny her granddad refuses to accept is hers, was filmed at the small beachside township of Whangara on the Gisborne and Eastland coastline of New Zealand.

Why go: In addition to exploring a beautiful part of the country, Whangara offers tours of the locations used in Whale Rider, including the Marae house where the carving of the man on the whale (Paikea) stands.


Wellington Waterfront
Photo: Rob Suisted


Black Sheep, Wellington, North Island

This slapstick horror/comedy, which sees a genetic engineering program on sheep go wrong with baaad consequences, was filmed in and around New Zealand’s capital of Wellington.

Why go: Wellington has much to offer the traveller seeking outdoor adventure in the surrounding hills and rugged coastline or the culture chaser at its many museums, theatres and galleries and boutiques. For an authentic Black Sheep experience, why not try a farmstay - if you dare?


Jolee Wakefield

A seasoned backpacker and travel writer, Jolee has spent the past decade wandering the globe in pursuit of good vibes, unusual conversations and unforgettable adventures like cave diving in Mexico, mountain climbing in Borneo and learning (failing at) local dances in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.