Just 45 minutes from Queenstown, Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu & is the gateway to hiking trails and Middle‑earth magic.
This rustic town is a true outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Set against a background of native beech forest and towering mountain ranges, Glenorchy’s surrounds are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Lake Wakatipu and the Dart River offer opportunities for jet boating and kayaking, and some of New Zealand’s best hiking trails can be accessed from here. Horse trekking in the area is also highly recommended.
Glenorchy’s spectacular landscapes have become a prime location for film scouts, depicting many scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as featuring in the Narnia movies. Twenty kilometres away from Glenorchy, as bucolic farmland gives way to beech forests, lies Paradise. Some say it was christened for its natural charms, others for the paradise ducks that live in the area. Nobody can say for sure how it got its name, but the one thing people agree on is its breathtaking beauty. "This is the Middle‑earth I had always pictured," Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) said of Paradise.
Home to about 500 people, Glenorchy is a welcoming and vibrant place famous for its southern kiwi hospitality. There’s an assortment of accommodation, cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s a good idea to buy hiking supplies in nearby Queenstown.
A few of the most scenic walking tracks in the world are right on Glenorchy’s doorstep. One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track, is nearby and features soaring mountain peaks and jewel-like lakes as part of a 3-4 day hike. There’s also the 4-5 day Rees and Dart Track and the Greenstone/Caples Track. Accommodation is in the form of basic huts, which need to be booked in advance. The Department of Conservation Visitor Centre can help with information, booking and transport.
The area also offers a large choice of day walks with everything from 20-minute strolls to full day hikes available. Mt Alfred, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, is a popular day hike and just a short drive from Glenorchy. The track zigzags uphill through native forest and emerges through bushline at the top. Continuing on to the upper section requires permission from Earnslaw Station (the working farm there).
Hollywood has fallen in love with the landscapes surrounding Glenorchy. Locations for Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen for The Lord of the Rings trilogy were all filmed nearby, and are easily accessed on foot and by jet boat. Parts of the area also had a starring role in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as well as Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia and countless adverts.