Nestled in the northern shores of lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s South Island, Glenorchy is only about a 45 minute drive from pretty Queenstown. I have been to Glenorchy once before, when we drove almost till the end of a village called Paradise (otherwise known as Middle Earth because of its breathtaking landscape) and lost our way due to limited network so ended up driving till the dead end. I wanted to return back this time on my babymoon, to see Glenorchy’s iconic red wharf shed – one of the most Instagrammed spot in South Island.
Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy New Zealand
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is so scenic that you’ll want to make several stops/viewpoints along the way. Its such a short drive from Queenstown that its easily one of the things to do in Queenstown. Make it a days trip so you have all the time to soak in the scenery by going on some of the popular hikes.
Lookouts in Glenorchy
The first lookout over the cliff followed by Wilson bay, which is your second stop from Queenstown to Glenorchy. On a gorgeous day, you’ll be able to see the mountain views from ground level and can even walk to the lake’s edge. On our way back to Queenstown, we stopped by here again and set up a little picnic for an evening snack.
The next stop is the Bennetts Bluff lookout. It’s foggy and windy but though I don’t mind a weather like this, it may not be ideal for a photo enthusiast like me. This stop is called the head of lake Wakatipu. There are plenty of stops after this viewpoint from where you can go on hiking trails such as the Bobs cove.
Things to do in Glenorchy
Glenorchy is more like a relaxing place that you’d want to visit after experiencing all the adventurous activities in Queenstown. There is no stress on trying to tick a bucket list, but to just take in everything that this paradise offers. The Routeburn track, one of NZ’s great walks starts here.
Once we hit the Glenorchy township, we stopped by Bold Peak lodge restaurant close to the Glenorchy wharf – grabbed a burger and headed to the wharf for some excellent photo opportunities with the red wharf shed and the sunken trees on the right creating an eerie subject.
The highlight of our road trip though was the Glenorchy Lagoon Walk. This is a 1 hour easy zero elevation walk with bits of muddy pathway eventually leading to a boardwalk skirting the lagoon. Once on the boardwalk, you are invited to fantastic views of the snow capped mountains. It’s a perfect walk for a couple carrying a little baby bump.
The weather has been great with sunny days and temperatures hovering at 9C. But the clouds are greying up now at the top of the mountain peaks giving out the dramatic mighty vibe it deserves.
There is a further northern lagoon circuit at 30 minutes which you can either choose to take or skip that and take the turn to the path that says Glenorchy township. We instead took the pathway back to Glenorchy township as were running out of time to catch a flight back to Melbourne that evening.
Once on the boardwalk, walk a bit further and the views open to a surprising secluded little gem – a picturesque view of the lake with the snow capped mountains as its background ringing the lake. What completes the landscape are little elegant black swans ducking in and out of water while humming its away around the lake. We sat at the bench for a few minutes just taking in the scenes and watching the swans going by its life.
The crisp air, the birds lulling and the slow waves hitting the shoreline made the ambiance as relaxing as meditation and a feeling you could bottle up and take home.
Lord of the Rings Sets in Paradise
If all you want to do is check out the sets of Lord of the Rings, head over straight from Queenstown to Paradise or drive from Glenorchy to Paradise through Kinloch.
Paradise is a countryside used for sheep and cattle farming. Some of the scenes in Lord of the Rings movie were shot at a location about 15 minutes past Paradise. Make sure you’ve planned your itinerary before you hit the road as there is limited mobile network in this area. A research on other blogs show that there are LOR tours that take you behind the scenes. But if you’re venturing on your own, the three known Lord of the Ring sets are:
- Isengard in Dart Valley
- Lorthloien Forst (Paradise Forest)
- Ithilien (Twelve Mile Delta)
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Have you been to Glenorchy? Share your experience in the comments below.