Most people know Kaitoke Regional Park as Rivendell, the Elven city where the Fellowship forms in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. But it’s more than that: Kaitoke Regional Park, just outside of Wellington, is an ancient rain forest full of old native trees and winding rivers, and a tranquil place to escape the city for a day or more.
Kaitoke Regional Park is a common stop on most Lord of the Rings tours. While the city of Rivendell may not be fully preserved, the filming spot—one of the park’s many peaceful, picturesque places—is marked out in all its natural beauty. Explore the near-7,000-acre (2,833-hectare) park’s many bush walks and see all sorts of native trees and animals, including a thicket of rare matai and totara trees. Check out the park’s swing bridge, spanning the width of the Hutt River, on the easy-going Swing Bridge Track. More experienced hikers can tackle the Ridge Track, which runs along the skyline of the Upper Hutt valley.
Kaitoke makes for a great day trip and is also open for camping. You don’t need to book to use the campsite—just drive in and pay the fees at the information kiosk. Once settled down, go swim in the nearby Pakuratahi River or enjoy a campfire on the banks of the Hutt River.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kaitoke Regional Park is ideal for nature lovers, hikers, and LOTR fans.
- On-site park rangers provide guidance on finding a location or keeping safe in the rain forest.
- Hunting for deer, goats, and pigs is permitted in much of the park, though you’ll need to get a permit from the Greater Wellington Regional Council first.
- The park typically has events running during the summer for families camping in the area.
How to Get There
Fewer than 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Wellington, Kaitoke Regional Park is best accessed by car, as public transport doesn’t run directly from the city. It’s an easy drive—from the Wellington Urban Motorway, keep right and follow Hutt Road (State Highway 2) until you reach Twin Lakes Road, where you can start the Ridge Track or the Kaitoke Hill Track; or until Waterworks Road, where you can park at the campground and hike from there.
When to Get There
Kaitoke is most popular during the Christmas and New Year season, when the sun is high and people on holiday descend on the campground. If you want to get away from the city for a few days, it’s best to visit in early December or late January. Otherwise, the park is lovely—and free—to explore at any time.
Camp at Kaitoke Regional Park
The Kaitoke campground has all the basics—drinking water, sinks, toilets, power sockets, and trash collection. The site also has a covered barbecue shelter that’s free to use or bookable for a minimal fee. Note that open fires are allowed only on the riverbeds, not at the campground.