New Zealand: The HobbitKayaking the Pelorus River
The Pelorus River was chosen by Peter Jackson for the famous 'barrel run scene' in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The director came here camping as a youngster, and remembered the river fondly from his childhood.
The main site of the filming is one location comprising a waterfall and a rocky outcrop upon which a massive platform was built for Jackson and his crew to film the Hobbits coming downstream. This 100-metre scaffolding ramp allowed a waters-edge perspective of the Hobbits coming ashore on the small sandy beach. The behind-the-scenes story is that flood-waters submerged the platform (under a four metre torrent!) halfway through filming, though thankfully cast and crew had safely cleared out.
Check out the behind-the-scenes footage in this video (skip to 10:42 to see the Pelorus River portion) to see the location, filming platform and even the inclement weather.
If you're keen to make like a Hobbit and head downstream on your own barrel run (albeit in an inflatable kayak) then Pelorus Eco Adventures run a Hobbit Kayak Tour which featured on the FilmQuest blog.
Tours depart from the Blue Moon Lodge at 48 Main Road, Havelock.
In June 2017 Pennie undertook the Hobbit Kayak Tour with Pelorus Eco Adventures...
... and I can attest that the Pelorus River is truly one of New Zealand's gems. You'll experience crystal-clear water that lets you see all the way to the bottom of the river floor, native bush teeming with birdsong, and a leisurely kayak trip where you can meander downstream at your own pace. There's nothing high action about this trip, the 'rapids' are harmless (I even managed it while six months pregnant) and it's more about the experience of being out in the beautiful natural environment than it is about the action-packed ride down 'Forest River' from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Owner/operator Shane is passionate about this part of New Zealand and tried several different ventures on the river (including bat tours!) before settling on his kayak business. When the Hobbit was filmed here in 2011, Shane saw an opportunity to turn his inflatable kayak tours into something more, and the Hobbit Kayak Tour was born.
Fans do have the opportunity to stop and take a good look at this site. In summer, it's the perfect place for a swim. Sceneframing proved impossible the day I was here - it was mid-winter and the rocks were wet and slippery, so Shane showed us a couple of film stills and we moved on. For more hardcore fans looking to find the exact camera angles, I would recommend taking your own screenshots with you and letting the guide know in advance you'd like a little extra time at the site. The guides are really accommodating and knowledgeable in their field - you'll feel safe at all times and it is important to remember that is their priority, but they are not necessarily Hobbit experts.
There's plenty of natural magic on the Pelorus, but it's really up to you to add the layer of filmic magic on site.
For more information on the Hobbit Kayak Tour contact Pelorus Eco Adventures.