Welcoming visitors to Middlemarch yesterday are (from left) Berly Marshall as Gandalf, and hobbits Logan and Scott Tisdall. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Forget Wellington's red carpet premiere for The Hobbit
movies - Gandalf and his hairy-footed friends have been
hanging out in Middlemarch.
The Middle-earth characters were part of a tour in the Strath
Taieri yesterday, organised to promote Middlemarch as a
visitor destination in its own right.
Nineteen tourism industry professionals took a train from
Dunedin to Middlemarch for the day-long tour.
Middlemarch Promotion Group chairwoman Lynnore Templeton said
it displayed everything Middlemarch and the surrounding area
had to offer, from landscape filmed for The Hobbit
movies to high tea at Pukerangi.
"It was really successful: we took them through some of the
things we've put in place in terms of packages we can offer
and different activities," she said.
The trip included lunch and a presentation at the town's
community centre, a museum visit and an encounter with
Gandalf and his hobbits at the railway station.
Parts of the heritage trail were explored and accommodation
Visitors were taken to the base of the Rock and Pillar Range
to see walking trails developed by the Department of
Conservation, and saw a sheepdog demonstration.
On the way back to town, the tour bus was held up by cowboys
on horseback in a surprise hijacking, Mrs Templeton said.
"The aim of the day was to showcase to Dunedin tourist
operators and influencers just what the Strath Taieri has to
offer visitors to Otago, and what a great place it is for
Dunedin people to get away from it all.
We are 60 minutes from Dunedin and have a totally unique,
amazing landscape with a lot to offer," she said.