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Queenstown to Glenorchy – NZ’s most scenic highway

The Journey from stunning  Queenstown to Glenorchy or the “Gateway to Paradise” is one of the most scenic drives in the world.

Known fondly by locals as “The Queenstown to Glenorchy Highway”, this road is also  known  these days as part of the “Middle Earth Trail”, due to international exposure from the famous Lord of The Rings Trilogy.

Sir Peter Jackson put New Zealand on the map  after the success of these films, and now this region is the back drop for many current movie locations which increases the fascination of this area even more.

Leaving Queenstown the road winds along the skirts of the pristine Lake Wakatipu, which is nicknamed Wakatipu Blue because of the famous deep blue colour which can vary in shade to a mesmerising turquoise at times.

Driving through bursts of emerald beech forests and following along glassy bays and inlets you arrive at our first scenic spot of Twelve Mile Delta.

Run by the Dept of Conservation this camping ground is situated on a beautiful river delta surrounded by Mt Crichton and was a location for Ithilien in The Two Towers, Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Photographers can capture a beautiful view looking towards the shores to both Cecil and Walter Peak.

As you meander further around the coastline, anticipation builds as Bennetts Bluff, a midway point between Queenstown and Glenorchy is reached. Offering exceptional views of the Southern Alps opening up to the top of the Lake, Mt Earnslaw Glacier in the distance and Mount Aspiring National Park, people are often gob-smacked at this majestic backdrop.

Lord of The Rings followers will now see The Greenstone planes used for the muster of the Rohirrumsoldiers in the Return of The King.

Looking toward the majestic Mt Earnslaw, a glacial mountain and its adjoining Mount Aspiring National Park you will be actually be looking in the direction of other movie locations such as Wolverine and the Hobbit as well as Narnia.

The road towards Glenorchy follows the course of the towering hills on one side and the Lake on the other. Passing by Pigeon Island and Pig Island you start to see the Top of the Headwater in the distance and the beginning of a braided river system.  Characteristically  a braided river system occurs  in streams that flow from the base of a glacier thus forming small channels, they are a rare ecosystem.

As you drive into the quaint village of Glenorchy, the one thing you notice is the uniqueness of some of the local housing. From tiny homes to dwellings that incorporate natural materials and elements, there are many homes that embody individuality.

Driving down to the alluring foreshore you might find a hive of activity at the iconic Glenorchy red boat shed.

The lady of the Lake, “The Earnslaw“, used to be a reliant source for freight and livestock to this destination ,however these days photographers and historians alike come to see this beautifully restored little shed so relevant  once upon a time for  the township itself.

Allow an hour or two to take in the scenery on this drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, and of course set no time restraints to wander around the town itself enjoying the local ambience in this special part of the world.

No wonder this drive is featured in the top ten drives to do in New Zealand!


Posted in: Pure Glenorchy Blog