Glenorchy, a true slice of New Zealand paradise, sits a spectacular 45-minute drive northwest of Queenstown at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu.Surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and rivers, ancient beech forests and at the edge of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks, the frontier town of Glenorchy has provided the backdrop for many films, including The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. There are a range of accommodation options as well as numerous activities that will get you out into the great outdoors for which this area is famous. There are also food and beverage options, a new camp ground and general store and a friendly community.
.The nearby settlements of Kinloch and Paradise are also known for their stunning scenery and tranquil setting. The area is also the gateway to several world-famous multi-day hikes including the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. For walks closer to town, there are well-graded walkways that lead to points of interest including the Glenorchy Walkway, Whakaari Conservation Area and Mt Judah, where the remains of scheelite mines can be found.
Explore Glenorchy’s natural beauty
There are a number of exciting ways you can explore the beauty of this pristine area. Take the sites in by horseback and ride through braided rivers, native forests and across open fields. By water you can journey into the heart of glacier country with a jetboat, canoe or kayak. Take a stunning scenic flight into unexplored wilderness or experience the thrill of a skydive over landscapes that have remained untouched for centuries. Or grab a backpack and hiking boots and use Glenorchy as a base for one of the many spectacular walking tracks including the Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples Tracks. Anglers will find salmon in the local rivers, while hunters enjoy seeking out a wide variety of game in the surrounding hills. There are also farm tours available and off road four wheel driving and photo safaris.
Skippers Road clings to the side of Skippers Canyon, which drops vertically to the Shotover River, once known as “the richest river in the world”. Rental car companies won’t allow their vehicles on this narrow, unsealed road, but there are plenty of local operators available to take you up the canyon. If you want to test your fitness, mountain biking is also an option.
The road was built during the gold rush, when a precarious pack track was the only access to Skippers township and the Upper Shotover diggings. Constructed between 1883 and 1890, the Skippers Road was considered a major engineering feat in its day. One three-kilometre stretch of the road involved hand drilling and blasting solid rock to create a platform 183 metres above the Shotover River. This daunting task required workers to hang on ropes high above the raging river. This section, aptly named Pinchers Bluff and the Devils Elbow, is a highlight of the road to Skippers.
Some people are lured up this precipitous road with adventure on their mind. There’s rafting on the Shotover River, jetboating with Skippers Canyon Jet and 4WD adventures to Skippers. Others want to discover the amazing Upper Shotover scenery – dramatic schist bluffs and rock tors stand like sculptures in the tussock landscape. The road commands views of the Richardson Mountains to the west and the Harris Mountains to the east