This has to be one of the most underrated parts of the south island- looking through guide books, blog posts, itineraries- nobody even hinted that this location was a thing. But us Middle Earth fans? We know it’s a thing- so I give you a guide to Mount Sunday or in LOTR lore Edoras.
Driving to Mount Sunday
The road out to Mount Sunday is only around 2.5 hours from Christchurch but it is a bit of a drive- and a decently long haul on a gravel road, but don’t let that deter you. It was well graded- just slow so any ol’ car can make it in fine weather. Take hwy 1 out of Christchurch, taking a right to stay on highway 76 towards Ashburton Gorge and Mount Somers. Once in Mount Somers, you’ll continue onto Asburton Gorge Road. From there you’ll drive straight onto Hakatere Potts Road (the gravel one) for the final 48.1km. (about an hour)
The best part of the drive is undoubtedly at the top of a hill just before you drive down into the valley- you have expansive views over the plan with a clear view of Mount Sunday randomly jutting out of it in the middle. When you see it, you’re about 20-25 minutes way from the parking lot which will be on your left.
Address: 1705427/5″S State Highway 5, Mangakakahi, Rotorua 3015, New Zealand
Where to stay near Mount Sunday
Apart from a view campgrounds along the drive in from Mount Sommers, your only option closest to Mount Sunday is at Mount Potts lodge which will run you $220/ night and books up fast. I’d recommend finding a place in Mount Somers if you are already road tripping around the south Island so you can get to Mount Sunday earlier in the day. (before the tours)
If you are camping, expect to pay around $20-$35 for the night.
Mt Pott’s Lodge is $220/ night for a private room
Where we stayed in Mount Somers for only $72- an entire cottage with included laundry
The hike to the top of Mount Sunday
Now for the fun stuff- the short but sweet 1 hour RT hike from the parking lot will lead you across multiple little bridges of clear glacial water and up the steep hill that made up the Edoras set. There’s not set left behind, but you can 100% picture Edoras as you walk up the hill and view the flat top and surrounding mountains.
Distance: 1.8 miles/ 3km RT
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Time: 1 hour + for exploring
The trail starts from the opposite end of the parking lot with a few signs about the wildlife and a reminder to stay on the trail as parts of the land belong to a private ranch. While the first bit is an easy to follow track, you’ll have to watch for the orange flags that indicate where you’ll veer off towards the mount and from there you’ll see some marks in the footing but will mostly need to rely on the flags to get you across the small bridges. Eventually you’ll get to the beautiful swing bridge which has a max 1 person load and makes for dramatic photos and then it’s just a steep climb up the hill to the top.
While we had a very blustery and chilly day, we lucked out in having the place completely to ourselves! (about 9AM) We spent a lot of time taking photos and videos and otherwise enjoying the beautiful landscape before heading back down to continue our road trip south.
Notable spots to see nearby
Rakaia Gorge Walkway
Bonus where to eat near Mount Sunday:
Panthers Rock Bar & Café – one of our favorite meals we had on the south islands was at Panthers. We both got daily specials which were delicious plus topped it off with the national dessert of New Zealand-Pavlova. It was affordable, homey, and delicious.