The Top Tours, Hikes and Activities in Glenorchy
A photographer’s dream, a hiker’s paradise and a Lord of the Rings fan’s mecca, Glenorchy is a worthwhile road trip from Queenstown. The small settlement on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, ancient beech forests and the braided glacier-fed Dart and Rees rivers. While many recommend simply to “go there”, it’s not always obvious what there is to do in Glenorchy once you arrive. We’ll help you plan an exceptional day (or many days) out with this list of the best things to do in Glenorchy.
1. Enjoy a Scenic Trip Down the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road
Let’s kick this list of things to do in Glenorchy off with the journey itself. Spanning around 45km (28 miles) along Lake Wakatipu between Queenstown and Glenorchy, the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road is one of the most stunning drives in New Zealand. There are many reasons to stop for photos along the way, using the roadside parking areas, as well as places to walk such as the Twelve Mile Delta to Bob’s Cove Track, Lake Face Creek Falls and the Mt Judah trails.
Location: Glenorchy-Queenstown Road.
2. Get an Obligatory Photo of the Glenorchy Boat Shed
The cute red shed with the backdrop of Lake Wakatipu and Mt Bonpland is a worthy photo if ever there was one. Need we say more?
Location: Glenorchy Waterfront Reserve Road.
3. Visit Isengard
See the filming location of Isengard from The Lord of the Rings movies in an area just above Glenorchy, known as Paradise. Yes, Paradise. Really! Either travel there independently or get a guided experience with behind-the-scenes stories and visits to other Rings locations with Nomad Safaris (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook). Find out more about the LOTRs locations in our Guide to The Lord of the Rings Locations in Queenstown.
Location: Glenorchy-Paradise Road at the GPS coordinates: 4440’25.0″S 16820’27.4″E. Note that this is a gravel road.
4. Blast Down Braided Rivers on a Dart River Jet Boat Tour
Jet boats were invented in New Zealand to get to the South Island’s remotest places on the shallowest rivers. That’s exactly what you’ll experience with Dart River Wilderness Adventures. More than just a thrill ride, this jet boat tour is a journey into a UNESCO World Heritage Area of the Mt Aspiring National Park. In the national park, you’ll stop for a walk among the ancient forest and learn about the early Maori inhabitants of the area. Get more details on tours with Dart River Wilderness Jet on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from Queenstown and Glenorchy.
5. Tackle the Routeburn Track
Experience one of the acclaimed Great Walks of New Zealand by hiking the Routeburn Track. Although the complete journey takes two to four days, day walks can be enjoyed by walking the one-hour Routeburn Nature Walk or to the Routeburn Flats Hut and back taking approximately three to five hours return.
Location: Start from the Routeburn Shelter, Routeburn Road, approximately 25km (15.5 miles) from Glenorchy.
6. Explore the Landscape on Horseback
Bask in the glorious lake, braided river and mountain views on a horse riding tour in Glenorchy. Ride through ancient beech forest and across braided rivers with High Country Horses or experience natural horsemanship in sublime scenery with Lighthouse Adventures. See more places to experience horse riding in the 11 Best Horse Treks in New Zealand.
Location: High Country Horses – 243 Priory Road, Glenorchy. Lighthouse Adventures – 2 Swamp Road, Glenorchy.
7. Walk the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway
Accessible from the village itself, the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway is a fantastic walk for all fitness levels. Cross wetlands over boardwalks and lookout for birdlife on this one to two-hour loop which features a lagoon on the shorter loop and a scenic lookout on the longer loop. For more walks in the area, check out the 15 Best Walks in Queenstown.
Location: Signposted from Mull Street, Glenorchy.
8. Feed the Animals at Glenorchy Animal Experience
Animal lovers and families alike should consider a cheeky visit to Glenorchy Animal Experience. Hand-feed lambs, ducks, llamas and the friendly Clydesdale horse, watch a sheep shearing demonstration and get plenty of photo opportunities at this farm park. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids.
Location: Glenorchy-Paradise Road, Glenorchy, approximately 2.5km (1.6 miles) north of Glenorchy.
9. Hike the Lake Sylvan Track
Another one of the best things to do in Glenorchy is the easy-going Lake Sylvan Track. The 1h40mins loop walk is accessible for most fitness levels, taking you through towering forest and over an old river terrace to the shores of a picturesque lake. There are also opportunities to spot robins, fantail and riflemen along the way.
Location: Lake Sylvan car park, signposted off Routeburn Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Glenorchy.
10. Take a Scenic Flight Over Glenorchy and Beyond
Leave the hiking boots at home because scenic flights with Heli Glenorchy will get you to some of the most remote alpine regions of the Mt Aspiring National Park from Glenorchy. There are options for a snow landing in the mountains, for a heli-hike to a nearby glacier, to Milford Sound and beyond.
Location: 35 Mull Street, Glenorchy.
11. Hike or Take a Helicopter to Earnslaw Burn
A stunning hike and one of the trickier Hobbit locations to get to, Earnslaw Burn rewards trampers with lush forest and views of an impressive icefall on Mt Earslaw. You can either see the valley by chopper from Queenstown (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or hike the 8-12 hour return Earnslaw Burn Track.
Location: The Earnslaw Burn Track starts on the left bank of the Earnslaw Burn on the Glenorchy-Paradise Road, approximately 14km (8.7 miles) from Glenorchy.
12. Zip Through the Forest with Paradise Ziplines
Queenstown’s best-kept secret adventure activity, Paradise Ziplines is an exciting eight-line zipline course. Fly through native forest and over babbling alpine streams on this fun adventure experience that’s not as extreme as some of Queenstown’s other adrenaline activities, so it is accessible to most. See how the zipline tour compares to others around the country in the 10 Best Places to Zipline in New Zealand.
Location: Pick-up from 25 Mull Street, Glenorchy.
13. Skydive Over Stunning Scenery
Were you thinking about doing a skydive in New Zealand? Why not do one of the most scenic skydives in the country with Skydive Southern Alps? They offer amazing jumps from up to 15,000ft, giving you an adrenaline-inducing freefall experience before releasing the canopy and floating back to earth with pure uninterrupted views. Book your skydive with Skydive Southern Alps on Viator or Tripadvisor or see how it compares with the 11 Best Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.
Location: Pick-ups available in Queenstown and Mrs Woolleys General Store in Glenorchy.
14. Hike the Mt Judah Track
Get gorgeous views and discover mining relics on the Mt Judah Track (2-3 hours one way) found along the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road. Advance up the Mt Judah Road sidling around Mt Judah where you’ll come across the Glenorchy Sheelite Battery and State Mine before reaching the Bonnie Jean Hut. For those with a little more energy, you can continue to the Heather Jock Hut which is an additional 1-1h30mins one way.
Location: Whakaari Conservation Area car park, signposted off Queenstown-Glenorchy Road, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Glenorchy.
15. Have a Coffee or a Bite to Eat
Yes, even in the tiny settlement of Glenorchy there are places to relax with a coffee, a hearty high country meal or even dumplings. Glenorchy Cafe & Bar (The GYC) is a popular go-to for their all-day breakfasts, a roaring fireplace in winter and sunny outdoor deck in summer. The Trading Post is a good place to go for coffee or a light meal in its delightful cottage ambience. For an upmarket affair, try Kinloch Lodge and for naughty dumplings – yes, dumplings, head to Queenie’s Dumplings.
Location: Glenorchy Cafe & Bar – 25-27 Mull Street. The Trading Post – 13 Mull Street. Kinloch Lodge – 862 Kinloch Road. Queenie’s Dumplings – 19 Mull Street.