Wētā Workshop Unleashed is a new behind-the-scenes experience from Wētā Workshop, the famous special effects company that helped bring The Lord of the Rings to life. I also visited the Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington, so I was excited to hear it’s arrived in Auckland too!
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is a super immersive experience that teaches you what goes on behind the scenes in a really fun way. You get to explore amazing film sets, see props and pieces from famous films, and test out fun interactive exhibits. It feels like a combination between a theme park and a set tour! And if you enjoyed tours of Hobbiton or LOTR film sets, this is an absolute must.
Since Wētā Unleashed is relatively new, you probably have some questions about it – which is exactly why I wrote this blog! Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about Wētā Workshop Unleashed, from what to expect to how to get here.
1. About Wētā and Wētā Workshop Unleashed
The story so far
Wētā Workshop is a legendary special effects company that achieved international acclaim for their work on the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They’ve also got an array of prestigious awards under their belt, including Oscars and BAFTAs.
The company was founded in 1987 by Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger, who were working out of the spare room in their apartment at the time. During the 1990s, they provided special effects for several TV shows and worked with Peter Jackson on Meet the Feebles.
Then, they worked with Jackson again on The Lord of the Rings movies, which established Wētā Workshop as one of the best special effects and prop companies in the world. Since then, they’ve worked on many major blockbusters, including Thor, Mulan, Avatar, King Kong … honestly, the list goes on!
Wētā Workshop is based in Wellington. After The Lord of the Rings came out, fans began to gather outside the workshop regularly in the hopes of getting a glimpse behind the scenes. Wētā then opened the Wētā Cave so that visitors could check out props, statues, and costumes up close. They began offering workshop tours a few years later.
Wētā Workshop Unleashed
The Wētā Cave and Workshop tours proved to be such a hit that they decided to open another experience in Auckland! Although Wētā Workshop Unleashed isn’t a working set or effects workshop, it gives visitors the chance to go behind the scenes. You’ll learn all about the incredible artistry that goes into creating some of the world’s most beloved films.
On a Wētā Workshop Unleashed tour, you visit three “pretend” movie sets. You learn about how horror, fantasy, and sci-fi movies are brought to life through the power of props and special effects.
In the horror department, you’ll discover some incredibly realistic animatronics and prosthetics. You even get to enter a dark maze for a heart-racing experience! Don’t worry, this is optional, and you don’t have to go in if you scare easily.
The second part of the tour takes you to the artists’ shed, where you get to learn all about how intricate fantasy worlds are brought to life. It’s actually pretty inspiring, and I was so impressed by the creativity on display here.
Then, the third and final section is a sci-fi film set where you’ll marvel at robots, spaceships, and light displays. It’s so cool!
Wētā Workshop Unleashed vs Wētā Workshop and Cave
I think a big difference between the Wētā Workshop Unleashed tour and the Wētā Workshop tour is that the displays are more immersive and elaborate. I also feel like you get to see more on the Wētā Workshop Unleashed tour because these production zones are all for hypothetical movies, so they don’t have to keep it confidential!
Meanwhile, the Wētā Cave is more about shopping and checking out replicas, whereas Wētā Workshop Unleashed is super interactive. I feel it has more in the way of entertainment value.
There is actually a Wētā Cave at Wētā Workshop Unleashed. This cave is similar to the original one in Wellington, so you can still get your fill of movie merch. I do think that the original Cave is better, though.
Real movie buffs will probably prefer the Wētā Workshop tour because you get to see sets and props that were used in real movies. However, Wētā Workshop Unleashed is more fun for kids and was designed specifically for tourists.
To be honest, both are worth visiting and will teach you a ton about movie-making. However, they do offer slightly different experiences.
Related Read: Do you love road trips but are short on time? Check out the best stops between Auckland and Paihia (Bay of Islands). This drive is short but sweet, with lots of awesome sights on the way!
2. Where is Wētā Workshop Unleashed?
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is in the Auckland CBD, right opposite the Sky Tower! Since it’s so central, it’s really easy to get to. If you’re staying downtown or near the waterfront, it’s only a short walk to get there. If you’re spending a couple days in Auckland, it’s really easy to stop in.
3. When is Wētā Workshop Unleashed open?
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is open from 10 am until 6 pm every day of the year (except Christmas Day). When you book your tickets, you’ll need to choose a time slot, and it’s recommended that you arrive 15 minutes beforehand.
Admission tickets include a guided tour. The first tour of the day leaves at 10:10 am, and the last one departs at 4:10 pm. Tours last for around 90 minutes.
4. When is the best time to visit Wētā Workshop Unleashed?
I always suggest trying to get the first time slot of the day. This way, you avoid the crowds and get a more personal experience. You won’t have to deal with lots of other visitors when trying to get close to all of the amazing set pieces. Plus, you have more chances to ask all of your burning questions.
With that being said, this is an indoor activity, so you can do it anytime. You don’t need to worry about the weather conditions or the time of year! Regardless of when you’re visiting New Zealand, you can enjoy Wētā Workshop Unleashed!
Related Read: The Wētā Workshop is an awesome activity even when it’s chilly. If you’re visiting in the cold season, check out the best things to do in winter in New Zealand!
5. How much is the entrance fee to Wētā Workshop Unleashed?
Tickets for Wētā Workshop Unleashed cost $59 NZD for adults and $35 NZD for kids (ages 6-14). The price includes your guided tour, so there are no hidden extras. I think that this is pretty good value for money because the experience really is fantastic.
The Cave at Wētā Workshop Unleashed is also free to visit, so you can head here after the tour and check out replicas from famous movies.
6. Is there parking at Wētā Workshop Unleashed?
Yes, there is!
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is right opposite the Sky Tower and Sky City Casino, and you can park in the Casino’s underground parking for free. When you check out the Wētā Cave after your Unleashed tour, ask the staff to validate your parking so that you don’t have to pay. Don’t forget to do this; otherwise, you’ll end up paying $24 NZD for two hours of parking!
If you don’t want to drive to Wētā Workshop Unleashed, you can take this Hop-on Hop-off Bus. It stops right outside the Sky Tower, which is directly opposite.
The Hop-on Hop-off Bus is a super convenient way to get around Auckland and see the city’s highlights. It takes you right to all of the tourist hotspots! For adults, a 24-hour pass costs $50 NZD, or you can get a 48-hour pass for $60 NZD. Kids ages 5-14 are half-price. To make it super easy, you can even book your bus tickets online right here.
7. Do you need to book your tickets to Wētā Workshop Unleashed in advance?
Yes, for sure. Wētā Workshop Unleashed is super popular, and there’s a big buzz around it because it’s a new experience! Tours book up in advance during the summertime when there are lots of tourists in Auckland, so make sure you don’t miss out.
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is a top-rated experience on TripAdvisor and has amazing reviews. You can only imagine how many people book this tour while they’re in Auckland! During the summer, it’s best to book tickets online at least a few weeks in advance and try to get an early slot if you can.
To secure your spot, you can check availability and book this experience online here.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
8. Is Wētā Workshop Unleashed suitable for kids?
In general, yes. It’s a fun family day out, and kids will be enthralled by the super realistic set pieces and interactive exhibits.
However, the first part of the tour is focused on horror movies, and some of them can be a bit scary (even for me!). The prosthetics, animatronics, and monster sculptures are quite graphic, and there’s a jump scare in the dark maze.
There are warnings around to let parents know when something scary is coming up, and it’s easy to skip these parts. If your kids are young or you’re just sensitive to horror, avoid these parts of the tour and just enjoy the rest of your experience. So don’t let the horror section put you off, but be prepared to skip it if necessary!
9. Is Wētā Workshop Unleashed wheelchair friendly?
Most of the Wētā Workshop Unleashed exhibit is wheelchair friendly, which is fantastic! However, there is a small part of the horror section of the tour that is not wheelchair accessible. When you reach the horror house, the host will point you toward an alternative route, so it’s easy to skip.
It’s also best to make sure that your wheelchair has brakes because there are some slight inclines and declines on the tour.
10. Can you take photos at Wētā Workshop Unleashed?
Yes – and I loved that about this experience!
I really enjoyed the Wētā Workshop Workshop tour in Wellington. Unfortunately, my least favorite thing about the experience was that photography was prohibited in most places. However, at Wētā Workshop Unleashed, you’re free to snap away to your heart’s content, which makes the tour even more fun!
This is because, at the Wētā Workshop in Wellington, you visit working sets, and a lot of what you see is confidential. You can only take a few photos during your tour and when you visit the Cave.
However, at Wētā Workshop Unleashed, the sets aren’t actually going to be used in real movies. So, you can take as many photos as you like!
11. What are Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington?
Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington are the original Wētā experiences.
The Cave was opened first as a prop house, mini museum, and store. It’s a place where visitors can check out amazing replicas from movies like The Lord of the Rings, Thor, and Thunderbirds. Photography is allowed here, so you can snap lots of photos with famous figures like Gandalf, Gollum, and the giant troll outside!
The Cave is free to visit, whereas you can only visit the workshop on a guided tour.
The workshop is where the amazing artists of Wētā actually work on the props, set pieces, and effects that they create. You can only visit certain sections as some of the things they’re working on here are top-secret (this is one of the reasons you have to take a tour!).
On this 90-minute tour, you can often see artists at work, and you’ll learn about how props and costumes are made. For example, I got to watch a demo of helmets being made for Lord of the Rings. There are also parts of the tour where you can even get hands-on and touch the set pieces or try wielding swords that were used in famous fantasy flicks.
Wētā Cave and Workshop is in the suburb of Miramar in Wellington. The cave is free to visit, and tour tickets cost $52 NZD for adults and $27 NZD for kids (ages 6-14). If you also need transport to the workshop, you can book a tour with guided transfers for $91 NZD for adults and $57 NZD for kids.
If you’re visiting Wellington, I highly recommend booking a tour of the original Wētā Cave and Workshop! To make it even easier on yourself, book the tour with transportation here.
Related Read: If you’re looking for more great activities in Wellington, read about my favorite day trips from the city!
12. Is Wētā Workshop Unleashed worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely. I loved the tour, and I found the displays absolutely amazing. You really do have to see them for yourself to understand the sheer genius that goes into special effects.
These tours are also super well organized. They’re really fun and engaging, and things like the light show and the dark maze add even more entertainment value. This tour is obviously super appealing to movie buffs and Lord of the Rings fans, but I think pretty much anyone will enjoy this tour!
If it sounds like fun (which it definitely is!), you can check availability and book the Wētā Workshop Unleashed tour online!
Other Things to do While You’re in Auckland
As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is filled with amazing things to do and see! While you’re here, make sure not to miss out on some of the top attractions and activities.
- Take a harbor cruise – Nicknamed the City of Sails, there are SO many boats in Auckland, and the harbor is a must-see aboard one. I love this 1.5-hour harbor cruise that takes you past the Auckland Bridge, and you even get to help the crew steer!
- Hike Mt Eden – One of the best hikes on the North Island is to the top of Mt Eden. This dormant volcano has amazing views of Auckland, and the loop trail is only a 40-minute walk.
- Go to the beach – Only 45 minutes from Auckland is the famous Piha Beach! This is one of the best beaches in New Zealand and one of the most beautiful with bright blue water. You can drive yourself or join a guided tour to get here.
- See dolphins and whales – One of my favorite Auckland activities was joining this dolphin and whale watching tour to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. You’re on a luxury catamaran looking for all the amazing animals around here. Plus if you don’t see any dolphins or whales, you can do the tour again for free.
- Bungy jump – For the adrenaline chasers, there’s no more memorable activity than bungy jumping from the iconic Auckland Bridge. It’s one of the top places to bungy jump in NZ and you can even have your head touch the water!
- Explore Ponsonby – Easily the coolest Auckland neighborhood, Ponsonby is full of trendy bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Make sure you stop at Prego for Italian food and Bedford Soda & Liquor for the best cocktails in the city!
Where to Stay in Auckland
Auckland is a huge city, so deciding where to stay in Auckland can be a challenge. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Auckland countless times (and even lived there for a few months), so I know the best areas. Below are my favorite hotels/hostels in Auckland to suit all budgets and travel styles:
$$$ – The Grand by SkyCity
The Grand by SkyCity is an Auckland accommodation unlike any other. Treating you to a lavish stay right in the heart of the city, this five-star hotel is exactly where you want to be if you’re after luxurious rooms and city views. Plus, it’s literally next door to the Wētā Workshop Unleashed!
Rooms are typically $400 NZD and up, but I have found some stellar deals on Booking.com, so it’s worth checking before you book!
$$ – Marsden Viaduct Hotel
One of the Auckland hotels with the best views, the Marsden Viaduct Hotel puts you right on the harbor without breaking your budget. This world-class accommodation is within walking distance to the Wynyard Quarter and the restaurant and bars in the Viaduct Harbour, so you’re pretty much in the center of it all. You’re also just a 15-minute walk or 5-minute drive from Wētā Workshop Unleashed.
Rooms are around $300 NZD nightly and can be reserved on Booking.com.
$ – The Attic Backpackers
The Attic is one of my favorite budget-friendly accommodations in the heart of Auckland city. It’s also just around the corner from the Wētā Workshop Unleashed. Although The Attic isn’t as high-end as the other hotels in the area, you can still call it your home-away-from-home, and it’s actually pretty cozy. You have some chill-out areas a few steps away from the room for chatting with friends and watching TV.
There’s also a spacious outdoor covered deck to enjoy the sun in. Dorm rooms start around $50 NZD nighly and private rooms are available for $120 NZD. You can book The Attic online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
For more detailed info on the best areas to stay in Auckland and the best hotels, check out my blog!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is an awesome experience for all film buffs! I love that it’s located in the heart of Auckland and reasonably priced. Although similar to the Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington, the Unleashed version feels more interactive. But hey, if you can make it to both, why not?!
If you enjoyed this article, check out my other blogs about New Zealand. I’ve traveled all over this beautiful country and even lived here for some time. To give you an idea of what I write about, I’ve included some links below.