The ultimate weekend guide to Glenorchy: Lake Wakatipu, Mt. Aspiring & Lord of the Rings

The ultimate weekend guide to Glenorchy: Lake Wakatipu, Mt. Aspiring & The Lord of the Rings

Visit Glenorchy and see Middle-earth and Narnia all in a weekend! This charming town holds the key to New Zealand’s most incredible natural sights — read on to find out more.

What do Middle-earth and Narnia have in common? The answer: Glenorchy. Set against the background of awe-inspiring rolling mountains and lush native beech forests, this charming town is a slice of heaven on earth. Glenorchy is located at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, a rare shelf of flat land cornering Mt. Aspiring and the Fiordland National Park. Only a 45-minute drive from Queenstown, this rustic oasis is a popular choice for those looking for a peaceful escape.

Glenorchy is no stranger to the big screen. From the towering snow-capped mountain ranges of The Lord of the Ring’s Middle-earth to the magical landscapes of The Chronicles of Narnia, Glenorchy has been the backdrop for many blockbuster films. See these spectacular filming locations come to life with breathtaking photo-worthy sights everywhere you look.

Apart from soaking in incredible film-worthy views, Glenorchy offers outdoor activities galore! Trek across the Glenorchy Lagoon Scenic Walkway, whizz through the trees on a zipline, sip on a freshly-brewed flat white amongst panoramic views; Glenorchy is every outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Be spoiled in the unmatched beauty of this hidden paradise. Here’s your ultimate guide to a weekend in Glenorchy!

About Glenorchy

Glenorchy is a small settlement home to about 360 residents. With two pubs, a cafe, and a small range of shops, its main attraction is its panoramic scenic beauty. The town is also the gateway to multiple hiking trails that circle Lake Wakatipu, the Dart River, and the surrounding mountain ranges.

When to visit Glenorchy

Winter is the busiest season for tourism in Glenorchy, followed by fall. During the mid-year winter months, the region sees moderate rainfall and cold weather with high temperatures enough to put on a jacket. In fall, humidity and temperatures ranging from 20.4°C to 10.1°C combine to make the region moderately cold. Rainfall is more likely during the fall months, so in addition to packing a light jacket, make sure to waterproof your items. Temperatures may dip during the nighttime so remember to pack a few extra layers.

Travel itinerary — The ultimate weekend guide to Glenorchy

Route map

Day 1 — Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy Trading Post, Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway, Twelve Mile Delta

Embark on New Zealand’s most scenic drive

Begin your morning with a breathtaking drive from Queenstown along the Glenorchy–Queenstown Road. This drive overlooks Lake Wakatipu’s pristine blue waters and features numerous lookout points for you to stop and take in the stunning scenery of Mt. Aspiring on the horizon. Though the drive may only take 45-minutes, we encourage you to allocate more time (two to three hours) to stop at lookouts along the way and discover the untouched lakes and open vistas of Glenorchy’s surrounding landscapes. 

Some of the route’s lookout points include the Little Thailand viewpoint, Bennetts Bluff lookout, and a local favorite, the Moke Lake stopover. While the Little Thailand viewpoint and Bennetts Bluff lookout are relatively easy to spot along your drive, the Moke Lake stopover requires a slight detour.

After passing Little Thailand viewpoint, take the first right turn onto Moke Lake Road for a 15-minute drive. Once there, you can reach the hidden Moke Lake viewpoint via an unmarked but well-paved trail. Tucked between the mountains of Ben Lomond and Mount Crichton, this peaceful viewpoint offers stunning panoramas of the lake’s unique shape and surrounding mountain ranges.

Brunch at the quaint Glenorchy Trading Post

Once you’ve arrived at Glenorchy, make your way to the quaint Glenorchy Trading Post for a hearty brunch. This independent business sells locally-sourced products, freshly-brewed coffee, and delicious food.

Image by hungerlusttravel via

Feast on your meal with front-row seats to views of rolling mountain ranges, clear blue skies, and crisp mountain air.

Address: 13 Mull Street, Glenorchy 9350, New Zealand

Opening hours: Glenorchy Trading Post is open from 9 am to 3 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 4 pm on weekends.

See native bird species on the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway

After lunch, take the loop trail on the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway. Spend one to two hours strolling this easy, must-do trail. Its route features Glenorchy’s best sights, including vistas over the wetlands, Mt. Earnslaw’s hanging glacier, and the surrounding mountain ranges. 

As you make your way along the boardwalk, look up to observe New Zealand’s native bird species. Catch a glimpse of falcons and swamp harriers soaring through the sky. Glenorchy is also home to a number of wading bird species such as black swans, pied stilts, the South Island pied oystercatcher, and the Australasian bittern. During the warmer months, spy colorful dragonflies and damselflies flying across the wetlands.

Address: 160 Glenorchy-Paradise Road, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Fish, swim, or go mountain biking at Twelve Mile Delta

As evening approaches, head to Twelve Mile Delta. For film buffs, this breathtaking lookout point is the filming location for Ithilien Camp in the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. Even if you aren’t a fan of the films, a trip to this lakeside spot is worth the drive. 

Spend the evening soaking up golden sunset views, go swimming in the lake, reel in a fresh catch, or, for the adventurous, take a mountain bike ride across the winding track along the water’s edge.

Address: Mount Creighton 9371, New Zealand

Spend a night at Ecoscapes, a luxurious wilderness retreat

EcoScapes in Glenorchy, New Zealand
Image by EcoScapes via Facebook

Treat yourself to a luxurious night at Ecoscapes, an eco-friendly cabin set in the heart of the countryside. Ecoscapes prides itself on blending in with the environment by using locally-sourced green building technology to create an eco-conscious and cozy abode. Located in a remote location, your cabin looks out at unparalleled views of the blue Lake Wakatipu.

Once you’re all checked in, make your way to Kinloch Lodge, located just beside Ecoscapes. From locally-grown vegetables harvested from the cabin’s very own vegetable garden to boutique wines of the region, this unforgettable dining experience is one not to be missed. Make sure to make reservations before arriving!

Address: RD1, 862 Kinloch Rd Kinloch, Glenorchy, 9372

Day 2 — Routeburn Nature walk, Glenorchy Wharf, Glenorchy Café & Bar – The GYC, Mrs Woolly’s General Store, Paradise Ziplines

Begin your morning with a gentle stroll along the Routeburn nature walk

Kickstart your morning with breakfast at your cabins. Spend your morning experiencing the cabin’s amenities. Take a dip in the spa pool, use the cabin’s bikes to explore the banks of Lake Wakatipu, go fishing, or trek the area’s mesmerizing hiking trails.

We recommend embarking on the Routeburn nature walk. This gentle 45-minute stroll takes you through majestic red Beech trees, tawhai forests, and lush vegetation similar to the longer and harder Routeburn track.

Address: Otago 9372, New Zealand

See the iconic red barn at Glenorchy Wharf

Glenorchy Wharf is one of Glenorchy’s main attractions. Its history dates back to when the town first settled and was the only access point by steamboat on Lake Wakatipu. Today, the wharf is an incredible destination for 360-degree views that set the backdrop for films such as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianX-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Fellowship of the Ring

Address: 4 Islay Street, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Enjoy lunch at Glenorchy Café & Bar – The GYC

Glenorchy Café & Bar – The GYC comes out tops as one of the best restaurants in Glenorchy. Best for breakfast foods (think flaky croissants topped with smoked salmon or omelets cooked to perfection), this gem is an incredible find and a superb lunch spot after a long morning of exploring the Glenorchy wilderness. This cafe also offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, perfect for anyone with dietary needs.

Address: 25 Mull Street, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Opening hours: 8 am to 3 pm

Pick up a souvenir at Mrs Woolly’s General Store

Energized after lunch, head to Mrs Woolly’s General Store to pick up some souvenirs for your family and friends. Don’t expect to find any large shopping malls or rows of shops in Glenorchy — the town is relatively small and most businesses here are independent and locally run. Mrs Woolly’s General Store is unlike any other. 

From a handpicked cornucopia to the famous Full Monty gelato sundae, this quaint shopping heaven carries quite an eclectic collection of things to buy. Apart from unique souvenirs and funky finds, the general store is also popular for its tasty Fairlie pies and handmade coffee.

Address: 64 Oban Street, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

See Glenorchy from up above at Paradise Ziplines 

Ziplining in Glenorchy by Paradise Ziplines
Image from Paradise Ziplines

Conclude your weekend in Glenorchy with an adrenaline-racing eight-line zipline course at Paradise Ziplines. Soar through the skies and see Glenorchy from up above via eight thrilling zipline courses. 

The first line begins in an area aptly named Paradise. Start your adventure here as you launch off a cliff overlooking Oxburn Lake coupled with unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains seen in The Lord of the Rings. Proceed with the next few lines that take you over native red beech forests, meandering streams, and jaw-dropping alpine landscapes. Finally, end at the Blue Lagoon and head back to base! 

Address: Queenstown 9372, New Zealand

And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive guide to a scenic weekend at New Zealand’s Glenorchy. Before you go, make sure to check up on New Zealand’s travel restrictions by referring to our guide on Is it safe to travel within New Zealand

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