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A Guide to Canterbury's Middle-Earth

A Road Less Travelled

“Wow – David, we’ve never met celebrities before.”

“So. Um. Who do you guys play in the new series?”

As I stood there, atop of Edoras, my feet bare and cold, my regal dress blowing gently in the wind, and my headpiece catching just the right amount of light, ready to deliver a cheeky wee white lie, Frodo, or I guess I should say James; my husband, the other half to my 'fellowship', was already assuring the travelling couple that we were just a Kiwi girl and an Aussie bloke, embarking on their own road-trip journey through Middle-earth™.

Middle-earth™, but right here in Canterbury.

Edoras Mount Sunday valley mountain lord of the rings rohan
Edoras - Also known as Mount Sunday

In anticipation of the upcoming [Amazon] Lord of the Rings series being released, and the immense excitement building within the two of us, we thought what better time than now, to go on our own quest and discover Middle-earth™ right here at home.

Canterbury’s Middle-earth™.

The road less travelled.

But, as we very quickly discovered, so much more worthwhile.

Enlisting the help of our very own Gandalf the Grey, off we went.

Hiring out costumes from Petticoat Lane.

James to be Frodo.

Me, Charlotte to be Galadriel.

Packing our 44-year-old Ford Transit Camper – Eggy. (Using my best Galadriel voice to warn him about what would ensue should he choose to break down during our road-trip).

Matipo Street in Christchurch

Buying chains, jerry cans, shovels, and max-tracks. We wanted to be extra prepared as we had decided to embark on Middle-earth™ in Winter.

“Have you got your first aid?”


“Your locator beacon thingy?”


“Extra water?”

“Yes Mum, I think we’re good to go”

“And have you got your ring?”

As we waved Mum off, ready to leave Christchurch and go on, what we quickly realised would become the most memorable adventure of our lifetime, we couldn’t help but laugh.

Hanging on a silver chain, dangling gently from our rear-view mirror (where we could still see Mum waving,) was the ring.

The one ring to rule them all.

And so it began.


Canterbury's Middle-earth™ Locations

Our top five must visit locations on our journey through Canterbury's Middle-earth™ are:

  1. Edoras

  2. Lake-town

  3. Pelennor Fields

  4. Castle Hill

  5. Minas Tirith

Use the map below to plan your journey.


Location 1: Edoras

“I can’t believe I’ve lived in Christchurch most of my life and never been out here. This is stunning”.

First up on our journey through Canterbury’s Middle-earth™ was Edoras, capital of Rohan, or for those using an Aotearoa/NZ map, “Mount Sunday” out in Mount Potts Conservation Area. Mount Sunday, nestled deep within Canterbury’s high country is just over two hours’ drive from Ōtautahi Christchurch (or perhaps closer to three hours if you’re in a 44 year old camper like us), but the journey starts well and truly before it comes into view. In fact, it starts well and truly before it’s even close to coming into view.

Starting our road-trip with a fresh Cookie Time in our hands (and then promptly after - our bellies), Eggy, took us over the Rakaia Bridge. A crossing we have made together countless times, but one that always leaves us speechless as we take in the views of our beautiful braided rivers intertwining and dancing with each other.

Rakaia river braided river aerial drone new zealand
The beautiful Rakaia River

rakaia river aerial top dow blue water new zealand
Top Down Aerial of the Rakaia

Continuing on along the asphalt, pulling Eggy over to let the mountain of traffic behind us pass, and of course, like all other travellers in 2022, discussing how amazing it was to travel freely again, we both suddenly felt a powerful change. A powerful presence.

A powerful shift.

Was this the power of the ring?

Or was this us hitting the gravel?

Were we already about to embark on break-down number one?

But as we stopped and looked, the two of us fell silent. The mighty, and in our humble opinions, majestic, Southern Alps were slowly revealing themselves.

Within minutes, we were all but surrounded by them.

Mountain reflection in Lake Camp Hakatere
Morning reflection at Lake Camp

Much better than a breakdown.

From there, the two of us travelled in complete and unintentional silence, both desperately trying to commit every mountain, every slope, every inch of the spectacular scenery to memory. As we did, Eggy continued to carry us on our way.

The road snaking its way into Ashburton Gorge, with endless views of different lakes on either sides, and then over the one-lane bridge through the valley.

Campervan driving to Mount Sunday Edoras
Driving through the Rangitata Valley

Where right in the centre, stood Edoras.

Tolkien initially described Edoras as a walled city, sitting upon on a tall peak, surrounded by mountains that were “white tipped and streaked with black”.

As we awkwardly manoeuvred Eggy into the Mount Sunday carpark (having our pick of the lot), we couldn’t help but keep looking out to Edoras.

It really was standing tall and proud in the centre of the Rangitata Valley with the snow-capped mountains twinkling behind.

Edoras Mount Sunday snow capped mountains in rangitatavalley
Edoras - The Capital of Rohan

It was truly breathtaking.

Quickly unbuckling our belts, opening our doors and jumping out of Eggy, the two of us suddenly felt a jolt as our double-socked feet excitedly hit the ground.

“Well that was weird”.

“Did you hurt your knee too?”

Since embarking on our journey through Canterbury’s Middle-earth™, I have thought about this jolt a lot. What it was exactly. Why it happened. What it meant.

When you’re travelling with a ring this powerful, a ring that has a 'will of its own', it’s easy to be constantly on the lookout for connections. Drawing conclusions. Making assumptions.

But over the weeks, I have come to believe, with absolute certainty, that this jolt was in fact a connection.

I believe, with every inch of me, both as Charlotte and Galadriel, that this jolt was the power of Tolkien. We were feeling the thoughts that were going through his head when he dreamed up Edoras. The views. The scenery. The landscapes.

Aerial image Mount Sunday Edoras in Rangitata valley with mountains
Aerial view of Edoras

We were feeling the power of an entire world he had dreamed of. Now, being brought to reality, right in front of our very own eyes.

Quickly grabbing our costumes, puffer jackets and more camera gear than we would ever care to admit, we eagerly began our journey to the summit.

“Have you got the flag of Rohan?”

“Yes Galadriel”.

“Great Frodo! I can’t wait to throw it up the top. I want to watch it fall, like Éowyn did”

“You know you’re not Éowyn right”

[There’s always that one person right. The one that has to make you subtly aware (or perhaps not so subtly) that they have watched Lord of the Rings more times than you.]

“Yes. But just let me live this fantasy out ok. The flag. And Rohan’s impending demise. It will be great”

Meant to be only a short (30 minute) walk to Edoras; the Department of Conservation (DOC) track to Mount Sunday gently takes you through the twisting and turning valley, over two beautiful wooden bridges (with unbelievably clear waters running below), and then onto rolling farm land where you make the brief (5-10 minute) ascent to the summit.

Swing bridge mount sunday edoras hiking track
The swing bridge en route to Edoras
Blue river in front of snow covered mountain from swing bridge on hike to mount sunday edoras
View from the Swing Bridge

Ours, however, suddenly became much longer as we abruptly realised we had forgotten something important.

Very important.

We had forgotten the ring.

Dropping our gear down on the least poo-covered bit of farmland we could find and nervously asking the big bulls not to touch our camera, we quickly ran back to Eggy.

Hastily turning the key in our lock and thrusting open the doors, we both anxiously looked up.

And of course, there it was.

Still gently dangling from our rear-view mirror. Right beside our tutti-frutti air freshener. Twinkling as the soft afternoon light hit it.

It almost felt as if it was mocking us.

Snatching it up quickly, and then shuddering as the action made me feel awfully Gollum-like, we went for round two at Edoras.

As we made the last few s