Glenorchy – epic scenery just begging to be explored

Hemmed in between the Richardson Mountains to the east and the Humboldt Mountains to the west, the village of Glenorchy perches at the northernmost tip of Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island. If the setting sounds idyllic, that’s because it is. Don’t take my word for it. Location scouts for well known films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, X-Men Origins and The Chronicles of Narnia all agree: this is scenery at its most epic. If you’re visiting, here are some things to do in Glenorchy.

Things to do in Glenorchy

Hike the famous Routeburn Track

Hiking in around its epic landscape is probably one of the best things to do in Glenorchy. For those itching to get out and explore this dramatic landscape, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to the walking trails in the vicinity. For the ultimate in tramping, then you can’t do better than to follow the famous Routeburn Track. It stretches for 32 glorious kilometres from Glenorchy to the Divide on Milford Road. Hikers should allow about three or four days to walk this magnificent trail which traverses Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. Dip into the trail on an easy hour’s round trip with a walk to Double Barrel Creek and back to the Routeburn Shelter, which will reveal a varied landscape encompassing beech forest, craggy rock faces and Bridal Veil Falls.

Things to do in Glenorchy: Humboldt Mountains from the Routeburn Track New Zealand
Humboldt Mountains from the Routeburn Track: Photo on Flickr by kiwinz / CC BY 2.0

Plenty more choice for walkers in the area

Slightly more demanding than the Routeburn Track is the Rees Dart Track, which will take a day or so longer but rewards with impressive mountain scenery, alpine meadows and views of the Dart Glacier. Parts of the trail are currently closed so seek local advice before you make firm plans. If you’re short of time, you needn’t miss out. Twitchers will delight in following Diamond Creek to Reid Lake, where they’ll encounter a plethora of wetland bird life. Families will love the Glenorchy Walkway, a looping trail with sweeping views across Lake Sylvan and Mount Earnslaw – look out for black swans and Canada geese.

Things to do in Glenorchy: Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy New Zealand
Peaceful Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy: Photo on Flickr by Stewart Baird / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

An outdoor enthusiast’s playground

If you think hiking is a little tame, don’t write Glenorchy off. Perhaps the ultimate in adrenaline activities is the mix of abseiling, sliding and leaping across mountain canyons offered by companies such as Routeburn Canyoning. Kayakers will be more than happy to take to the water on Lake Wakatipu or on the River Dart; bush trails accessible from the water and picnic lunches in secluded rock pool settings make this even more special. Of course, speed merchants might prefer to travel by jet boat instead. That’s not all: with opportunities for leisurely lake cruises, fly fishing, horse riding, skiing, snowboarding and even sky diving, this area has something for everyone.

Glenorchy, Otago
Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy: Photo © albertpalenshoots

Make Glenorchy your base

Back in Glenorchy, despite having a permanent population of just a couple of hundred people, you’ll still find a good selection of hotel, guesthouse and self-catering options to suit all budgets. Campervans can be parked overnight at the Glenorchy Hotel for no charge so long as you dine there.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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