...okay, you don’t have to skip it all. I certainly didn’t. I had a beer at The Green Dragon, held Elven armor at Weta Cave, went on a 4x4 tour of Isengard, hiked Mordor, and drooled over the view of the Remarkables from my friend's porch in Queenstown. But while I love the trilogy, I know it's not the top of everyone's bucket list when visiting New Zealand. My boyfriend's opinion on Lord of the Rings? About as interesting as a pack of gum. But one filming location he could get behind — and my absolute favorite — was Mount Sunday. Why? For starters, it's freakin' Rohan. Not to mention, we had the whole place to ourselves. And while it may not have turned the boyfriend from a hater into a fan, it did inspire him to watch a 64-second clip on Youtube. That's progress, right?
To get to Mount Sunday from Christchurch, drive West on State Highway 73, taking State Highway 77 to Methven when you get to Darfield. Once State Highway 77 joins with Inland Scenic Route 72 before Methven, follow 72 until you get to Mt. Somers. From Mt. Somers, drive Northwest on Ashburton Gorge Road until you get to Hakatere and the intersection of Hakatere Heron Road and Hakatere Potts Road. From there, travel West on Hakatere Potts Road towards Lake Clearwater and Mt. Potts Station, which is the filming location for the Edoras.
Now, I’m gonna keep it real with you here — the drive out there, while beautiful, really sucks. It’s a 45-kilometer gravel road, littered with potholes and shallow creeks to ford. Think you’re surely on the wrong road because you haven’t seen any sign of life in 30 minutes? Good, keep going. Also, if you’re worried about driving down the road in a rental vehicle, don’t let that stop you. Just go slow and be sure to wash off the dust afterwards.
You’ll pass a handful of lakes and a itty-bity town before eventually coming up on a small gravel car-park on the left (from the beginning of Ashburton Gorge Road to the car-park took us about 45-minutes). There’s a sign that says it’s the beginning of the trail to Mount Sunday, but there’s no mention of Lord of the Rings, so if you run into someone else there, they're most likely a die-hard fan.
Now comes the 30-minute hike where you’ll cross a couple of bridges through a large field. You should recognize Rohan by now, but if you’re not savvy in LOTR realms, it’s that little rocky hump of a hill right in front of you.
The climb isn’t too bad, but it’s definitely all uphill. Take as many breaks as you need to catch your breath while making up the excuse that you’re really stopping to admire the sheep.
Now, once you’re up top, prepare yourself for one of the most kickass 360° views you’ve ever seen. Mountains — mountains EVERYWHERE.
I mean...C'MON. I was practically Eowyn.
All in all, Mount Sunday is a beautiful place for anyone wanting to find some seclusion in the mountains of New Zealand, whether you’re a fan of the epic trilogy or not.
That gravel road your boyfriend was cursing about an hour ago? Totally worth it.