“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Cue epic Lord of the Rings theme. Earlier this week, I headed to Mount Victoria, where some of the scenes on the outskirts of the Shire were filmed. It was an easy spot to shoot for Peter Jackson, since it’s not far from downtown Wellington, so some of the first scenes ever filmed for the trilogy were done here, most notably the Shortcut to Mushrooms/Get Off the Road scene when the four hobbits encounter their first Ringwraith. You can take guided tours here, but I wanted to check it out myself first (for free), and headed out armed with some screenshots and directions on my phone to help me find the exact spot.
On my way there, I encountered this sign, which I thought was only too appropriate.
At the intersection of cool and dork, I know which way to go. Google Maps helpfully stepped in and confirmed I made the right choice. Left it is!
As I started the easy climb up Mount Vic (as they say here), I was treated with some pretty great views.
I thought I was most likely nearing the filming location based on the somewhat ambiguous directions I found online, something like “Partway up Mount Victoria, you’ll see a parking bay and a path on the left that heads downhill through some trees.” Sounds great, except there were about four paths heading downhill through trees. Luckily, fate stepped in and a tour van happened to be parked in that area. I knew I was at least at the correct starting point. I went down one path but it seemed to be all wrong, based on the screenshots I had saved to my phone. Retracing my steps, I came across this helpful sign.
Ok, so THAT path downhill through some trees. I rounded a bend in the trail and suddenly knew I was in the right spot. Although it was sunny, I could easily picture the ominous darkness that hung over the hobbits as Frodo shouted, “Get off the road! Quick!”
So, of course I had to get creative with the self-timer on my camera. Some of these are a little blurry, but I did my best to line them up. It has been about 15 years (wow!) since the shots were filmed here, but the big tree on the right is easily recognizable, as is the embankment to the right of the path.
Luckily, only a couple people came by when I was nerding out with the camera. Because it was the middle of the day on a Tuesday, Mount Vic wasn’t all that busy.
Next up, I had to find the spot where the hobbits hid from the Ringwraith. It wasn’t all that hard, since the area has been worn down by all the fans who take the exact same pictures I was about to take. The huge tree used for shelter in the movie was actually a prop, built alongside the path and removed once filming was done, so just picture a big tree behind me. Maybe a terrifying Nazgûl, too.
In this one, you can see the trees behind me are the same.
After I got these shots, I was forced to move on when some other fans came by and wanted to do the same thing. I had the decency to respect their nerdy desires and not watch while they made fools of themselves, like I just had. I think they were from Spain, so they came a long way to visit the Shire.
I reluctantly headed out of Middle Earth and back towards civilization.
Maybe I’ll come back on a tour one of these days to see some of the other filming spots around Wellington that are harder to identify or access. For now, I’m really looking forward to my visit to Hobbiton on Thanksgiving! It’ll be great to see a filming location with the set still in place. My 13-year-old self would never have believed this dream could come true.