Explore The Shores Of Lake-town
Step foot upon the shores of the Long Lake to behold the Lonely Mountain, home to the dwarven Kingdom of Erebor and lair of the last great dragon, Smaug.
The Road Less Travelled continues through Canterbury’s Middle‑earth™ to Lake-town or Esgaroth, a key location in the Hobbit novel and movie trilogy – predominantly the Desolation of Smaug. Roadtrippers love the spectacular drive to Aoraki Mount Cook, which meanders along the Western side of Lake Pukaki, however very few take the route along the Eastern shore.
Three and a half hours from Ōtautahi Christchurch, this drive takes you through popular foodie spots Geraldine and Fairlie, as well as Lake Tekapo along the way. Once you have reached the Lake Pukaki Viewpoint and stopped for your obligatory photos, take Hayman Road on your right and follow it for 20km. The vistas along this road instantly take your breath away. With blues upon blues upon blues, carefully layered between the domineering snow-covered mountains and elven-inspired forests dotted everywhere, one can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of Middle‑earth™ magic on this drive.
But the real enchantment happens when tarseal turns to gravel, straight roads become winding and bumpy, and the only traffic you might encounter is lone farmers with sheep dogs on tractors. Aoraki Mt Cook is the live, beating heart of Aotearoa, but seeing it standing tall and proud across the lake bares remarkable resemblance to Tolkien’s vision of Smaug’s lair and ancient Dwarven Kingdom of Erebor. The books describes Lake-town as a community built on the Long Lake, south of the the Lonely Mountain and views from the shores transport you to this mythical location.
Here’s the kicker -- some parts of the set from the Hobbit Trilogy remain lakeside today. The top of a wooden hut, a small wooden door perfectly sized for Hobbits to make their grand entrance and several triangular tent frames. For those aptly barefoot, don’t freeze your feet off in snow or icy waters - an alluring rock awaits your pose with a sunset. Even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings buff, these landscapes, are so spectacular they alone are worth a visit in their own right.
- Lake-town is 285km (3.5 hours) from Christchurch, or 59km from Lake Takapō/Tekapo.
- When you reach Lake Pukaki Viewpoint - a favourite view for many Kiwis - take a right onto Hayman Road and follow it for 20km, of which the last 14km is unsealed.
- Once you arrive at Lake-town, it’s only a few minutes to walk to the set.
Hobbit’s Handy Hints
- Lake-town is not signposted and there’s no designated parking area, so use the Google Map pin “Hobbit Film Lake-town location” as that is accurate. Make sure to pull off the road completely.
- Take your time on the unsealed portion of the road, it is narrow in places and occasionally used by logging trucks. In the winter this can become icy and slippery.
- Be sure to allow enough time to explore the remaining structures of the Hobbit set. If you have kids, prepare for an epic game of hide and seek – middle earth style!
- For real-time weather conditions and to see whether Aoraki is visible before you arrive, there are several webcams in the area. The closest to Lake-town is at Glentanner otherwise the Hermitage in Mount Cook Village.
- If you are visiting Lake-town from Lake Takapō/Tekapo, make sure to have a soak at Tekapo Springs. With three delightfully large hot pools, it’s a true oasis that you won’t want to leave (especially in Winter). If you want to take this experience to the next level, we recommend the Soak under the Stars. You will want a clear night if possible!
- If you are driving from Christchurch, make sure to stop in Fairlie at the bakehouse for their utterly sensational pies. See the menu if you fancy a dribble.
- If you have a self-contained campervan, there are several spots around Lake Pukaki where you can freedom camp, and in our humble opinion, they offer some of the most scenic camping in all of Aotearoa. On the south side of the lake is a dedicated freedom camping area with toilets.
- In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Bard shoots the last black arrow and kills Smaug. The next few scenes show the people of Lake-town clearing up what they can salvage on the edge of the Lake.
- If you watch closely enough, you can recognise the wooden structures in the movie that are still remain at this site – in particular the structure under the large tree in the below screenshot.