My most recent Lord of the Rings guided tour was to Deer Park Heights in February 2009. As the name suggests, it is 800m above Queenstown and there are lots of deer around.
In mid-2009, the owner decided to close this 800-acre Deer Park to public access. It’s a shame, as the scenery is fantastic! It was here that I had my closest encounter with a deer. Let me share my experiences with you.
Lord of the Rings Tour to Deer Park Heights
The entrance to Deer Park Heights is from Kelvin Heights Peninsula Road. While driving, you can see many kinds of animals roaming freely. It is like a safari style park.
Animals include bison, donkeys, goats, highland cattle, Himalayan thar, llamas, miniature horses, and sheep. There is also a nut dispenser and nut cans here for you to feed the animals.
Most people probably didn’t know. Here’s a Korean prison movie set made for a Walt Disney movie “The Rescue” in 1986! On the one hand, it looks like Middle Earth, and on the other, it looks like you are in ancient Korea.
The owners left the film set intact for the past 20 years. However, the building is no longer safe to enter. You can only see it from the outside. There probably isn’t much inside anyway.
For most of the sites, we were able to travel on foot. Canes and waterproof jackets were provided (also for the actors during the filming of Lord of the Rings), and it gave you the feeling of walking in Middle-earth.
Did you know that Gandalf’s publicity shots were made here in Deer Park Heights? In fact, the angles of the slopes were used to
lots of places like ‘pickup’ shots in all three Lord of the Rings movies.
In a small mountain tarn 500m south of the parking lot, a short sequence was filmed showing Gandalf riding towards Minas Tirith on the West Road to Gondor. After the cattle stop, that was the exit wall of Senderos de los Muertos.
Ahead, to the left of a large door, was the rock wall where Scout Warg jumped down and killed Hama. Continuing up was where Gimli was thrown from his runaway horse, much to Eowyn’s amusement.
Continuing down the road until a walking path led to the cliff face where Aragorn was dragged. In the movie, there should be a river here. The truth is that that area is actually grass. Furthermore, it was here that the wargs and the horsemen of Rohan clashed.
Further up the hill, it was where Legolas made his incredible leap on his horse before the battle. And there was also a rock platform where Legolas shot his first arrows at the Wargs when they reached the hill.
Last but not least, around the great tarn near the top, was where the Rohirrim refugees were led on a perfectly clear and pristine winter morning. And the extras in this scene were locals from Queenstown and neighboring towns!
The locations are actually quite far apart geographically, but the finished sequences in the movies made it seem much closer. Those are the wonders of cinematic effects!
To conclude, this was an amazing half day tour. The view at Deer Park Heights was certainly impressive. Hopefully they will soon reopen the park for public access once again.