Visit Glenorchy at the head of the lake.
Glenorchy sits at the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu, overlooked by the awe-inspiring Mt Earnslaw and Earnslaw Glacier. Glenorchy is also home to the Rees and Dart valleys (whose rivers are two main sources of Lake Wakatipu) and the starting point for the famous Routeburn Track.
With less than 500 locals as guardians of this magnificent haven this really is a slice of paradise!
Glenorchy is without a doubt one of the most charming townships in the world, tucked at the end of the road with nothing but rivers, mountains and glaciers at it's back garden.
Bordered by a World Heritage Area, the frontier village of Glenorchy sits at the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by mountains, glacier-fed rivers and beech forest. It’s the gateway to Paradise and Mount Aspiring National Park and the starting point for multi-day treks, including the famous Routeburn Walk.
With only a few hundred residents, a tiny school, and horseback as a mode of transport it's easy to forget you are on the same planet you went from!
Getting to Glenorchy: The stunning 45km lakeside drive offers breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu, hanging valleys and sheer mountains. Make sure you stop at the Bennetts Bluff Lookout (on the left, 25kms from Queenstown) for an amazing view of the head of the lake and an excellent photo opportunity. Drive yourself , catch a bus or check whether your booked tour includes transport.
Glenorchy is a safe, friendly and typically kiwi village that's ideal for a family visit or holiday. With unique places to stay - and several eating places, along with lots to explore!
The accommodation of choice is the inspiring and truly delightful Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat (year round), NZ's first NetZero Energy accommodation (Unique - innovative - and thought provoking, as well as cosy and comfortable) plus Mrs Woolly's Campground (summer) which boasts the most stunning location on Earth!
The township has an adventure playground and skateboard park, plus a swimming pool. But on a sunny day, swimming in the lake, with the wharf and a swimming pontoon nearby, are so much fun! There's picnic and BBQ spots at the lakeside and if you fancy taking a kid fishing, salmon and trout to be had! Otherwise the township and surrounds, with their quiet roads, are great to explore.
Amazing Glenorchy activities include getting onto the lake on a unique kayak adventure with Rippled Earth Kayak Safaris (guided and no experience necessary) over to your own island in the middle of Lake Wakatipu. Truly stunning.
Animals play a big part of life in Glenorchy, and you can get up close at Glenorchy Animal Experience, where you are guaranteed to laugh and 'ohhh and ahhh' as you feed and pat home the variety of friendly animals that call it their home, daily sheep shearing is included in entry price.
Dart River Adventures provide one of the best jet boat experiences where you can explore iconic, untouched landscapes inaccessible by other means in the pristine Dart River Valley and the Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Area of Mount Aspiring National Park.
Finally a visit to Glenorchy wouldn't be complete without the 'must visit' Mrs Woolly's General Store for a browse or to tuck into one of their famous gelato sundaes!
Lagoon Loop Easy – 1 hour
Facing the lake and Glenorchy Jetty, follow the path to your right – it leads to a boardwalk skirting the lagoon. Stunning views and lots of birdlife, including black swans.
Lake Sylvan Easy – 1 1/2 hrs return
Driving from Glenorchy, follow the Routeburn road and turn right towards the Routeburn Track. The Lake Sylvan turn off is well-marked and the pleasant bush walk starts with a swing bridge and finishes at a hidden lake.
Glenorchy Battery Moderate – 45 min each way
Short, steep climb to great views and relics of the gold-mining era. Track starts from Whakaari Conservation Area carpark, 2km before you get to Glenorchy.
Routeburn Track beginning Moderate
This track takes 2–3 days to complete but why not walk along it for a while and explore? Starts at the end of the Routeburn Road. The first track hut is at Routeburn Flats and takes about 2 hrs each way (8km). The most stunning mountain top views are from the Routeburn Falls hut, about 3 1/2 hrs each way (11km) with the final hour or so being a steady climb. Well worth it if you have the energy.
Greenstone Track and Lake Rere Day Walk Moderate
The start of the Greenstone multi-day walking track is beautiful and well worth exploring for a few hours. It starts from the carpark beyond Kinloch and although it's a further 35km from Glenorchy, the drive itself is incredible. Follow the Greenstone River and look out for trout in the incredible emerald water! If you have more energy and want to make a full day of it, The Lake Rere loop track (4-6 hrs) starts from the same carpark (start this track clockwise) after sidling the lake, you climb up through beech forest to discover the beautiful Lake Rere and the loop back to the Greenstone Track and along to where you started.
Mt Judah Track - Whakaari Conservation Area Moderate
From the carpark on the Queenstown - Glenorchy Road, three kilometres before Glenorchy, an easy climb leads up the old Mt Judah Road and the track passes the remains of the Glenorchy Scheelite Battery and the State Mine, last operated in the 1960's. You can walk for as little or as long as you like and return the same way, but you get to some interesting relics and incredible views quickly or stay at The Bonnie Jean Hut (2-3hrs) on this track for an overnight adventure. If your kids are older and/or you would like to do a more advanced walk there are two overnight huts - McIntosh (2hrs one way) and McIntyre (4hrs one way) within the conservation area, where a step climb is rewarded as they are in truly stunning locations.