Top New Zealand Film Destinations

A cinematographer’s dream, New Zealand’s incredible scenery has provided the backdrop for many a movie.  Whether you’re still saving for that trip of a lifetime or are excitedly anticipating one that’s already booked, these films are guaranteed to whet your appetite and give you a taste of what to expect. We’re guessing you’ll already know that New Zealand film destinations provided the setting for films that include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Whale Rider and The Piano, so here are our picks for the best of the rest.

New Zealand Film Destinations

The Last Samurai

North Island’s Taranaki region stood in for Japan in the Tom Cruise blockbuster, The Last Samurai.  The Uriti Valley was the main base for filming with Mount Taranaki doubling as Japan’s most famous peak, Mount Fuji.  Other recognisable locations included Pukekura Park which became the Imperial Army’s parade ground and Lake Mangamahoe where the battle scenes were staged.  While you’re there, you can enjoy a spot of surfing and horse riding just as the diminutive Cruise did in his breaks from filming.

Mount Taranaki. New Zealand film destinations
Mount Taranaki


Hollywood star Hugh Jackman might hail from Sydney, but he was more than happy to film X-Men Origins: Wolverine in and around the Otago region.  Part of Dunedin’s old cement works was transformed into the set for Cassidy’s Bar where Jackman brawls with Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth, Wolverine’s half-brother and nemesis.  In between takes, they were both spotted out and about in the region’s principal city.  Other popular locations that pop up during the movie include the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and the dramatic Skipper’s Canyon.

Dunedin's picturesque setting. New Zealand film destinations
Dunedin’s picturesque setting

The Chronicles of Narnia

Location scouts for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe knew that exploiting the fabulous Kiwi scenery was the recipe for a cinematic triumph and they weren’t to be proved wrong.  Flock Hill Station was chosen for the film’s epic climax, a battle which pitted Aslan against the powerful army of the White Witch.  You can reach it by car from Arthur’s Pass in around 25 minutes, or Christchurch in an hour and a half.  There you’ll find a working sheep station offering a range of accommodation, the perfect New Zealand film destinations base from which to enjoy a range of activities including hiking, horse riding, bouldering and mountain biking.

Castle Hill Canterbury. New Zealand film destinations
Castle Hill Canterbury, NZ

The World’s Fastest Indian

Anthony Hopkins is next on our roll call of Hollywood legends that’ve come to New Zealand to work.  His 2005 film recounts the inspirational story of Invercargill native Burt Munro and his 1920 Indian Scout motorbike.  In 1967, at the age of 68, he broke the land speed world record, clocking a speed of 183.58mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  The record still stands.  The film made the most of a number of New Zealand film destinations including the 26km long Oreti Beach, Munro’s training ground and site of his earlier record-breaking speed attempt of 131.38mph.  Beach racers still contest the Burt Munro Beach trophy at the spot today.

Burt Munro's famous bike. New Zealand film destinations
Burt Munro’s famous bike by Sicnag CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar for JuliaHammond


    I have never seen New Zeeland but I have never expected to see such beauty so close to me. I would love to visit New Zeeland one day.

  2. Avatar for JuliaHammond


    Thanks Luminita, what’s your favourite NZ movie?

  3. Avatar for JuliaHammond


    I knew New Zeeland was the setting for many movies because of the beautiful landscapes, but it’s nice to see the locations “in person.”


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