This was one of my favorite adventures on the South Island. If you like horseback riding, enjoy beautiful scenery, are a movie buff (or all of the above), you should definitely make the 45-min drive from Queenstown out to the small town of Glenorchy. Dart Stables offers several tours to suit all riding abilities. We chose to take the afternoon Ride of the Rings tour, a half-day excursion that includes horseback riding in the Dart Valley and across the Dart river, as well as a 4×4 tour out to the small town of Paradise to check out some film locations from movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, Wolverine, and the Chronicles of Narnia.
This was our first adventure after landing in Queenstown just a few hours before. What a great first impressions! I was in awe by the beautiful backdrop of our ride and immediately fell in love with New Zealand.
Before the ride, we were given boots, helmets, and some brief safety instructions for the beginner riders. We spent some time learning the names of the horses.
And we’re off! I was paired with Pip, who liked to stay towards the back of the pack.
Our guide gave us information about the area, pointed out filming locations of famous movies, and fed us lots of trivia.
At the end of the Spring season, colorful lupins appear along lake and river fronts. Though technically weeds, I love the pop of color they provide to the earthy landscape!
Here, we’re about to cross over to the other side of the Dart River.
Besides keeping us in line, cracking silly jokes, and leading the way, our guide told us lots of stories about the horses and their personalities. You could tell she spent a lot of time with them, and that they take good care of the horses.
That’s me and Pip on the left, and my friend Teri and her horse, Scar.
Pip and I got along generally well, except for when he kept on trying to bend over and eat everything in sight!
The horseback ride lasted a little over an hour. It was a gentle, walking pace which I found enjoyable and perfect for being able to take lots of pictures. I loved soaking in all the views!
This horse (I forgot his name) is famous for being a star in the Lord of the Rings movies. He was chosen out of hundreds of horses to be filmed in a lot of the action scenes. They cloned him on the computer and so a lot of the scenes with lots of horses at once- they are all just copies of him!
After the horseback ride, our guide took us in a 4×4 out to Paradise, no really—a town called Paradise that really does look like Paradise.
Just hanging out in Paradise with grazing sheep for the afternoon.
This is the famous backdrop for Isengard in the Lord of the Rings movies. They CGI’d the fortress in front of these mountains and made everything look all dark and dreary when in reality, this place couldn’t be more different. The landscape is stunning.
Our Lord of the Rings tour wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the forests where many scenes in The Lord of the Rings were filmed. I can just imagine these trees (Ents) suddenly picking up and starting to walk around.
On the way back, we drove through part of Mount Aspiring National Park, one of three World Heritage sites in New Zealand. I could have spent so much more time here. There are beautiful lakes, hikes, and places to have picnics. It’s truly idyllic.
Tip: In the busy Summer season, these tours can book up pretty quickly since they keep the groups pretty small. To avoid disappointment, book your tour in advance online.