A few miles from Queenstown on the South Island, where the Dart and Rees rivers and their tributaries meet to throw themselves into Lake Wakatipu, is Glenorchy, a small town of just 300 people. The first inhabitants of the area were William Rees and his family in 1860. Others soon followed, with gold and scheelite having been discovered in the vicinity. Until 1962, the only way to reach Glenorchy was through the steamboats that sailed on the lake. Then in 1962, the road linking Queenstown to Glenorchy was opened and tourism became the major resource of the region.
Nowadays Glenorchy is the gateway to a whole bunch of hikes including the Great Walk Routeburn Track and many shooting crews come to shoot some scenes like The Lord of the Rings did.
Staying in Glenorchy means enjoying the tranquil rhythm and beauty of the landscape. The mountains of Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park that border the valley and Lake Wakatipu are stunning.
To get to know the area, I recommend the Glenorchy Walkway, a 1 to 2 hour stroll through the village and the marshes where a colony of black swans are doing somersaults to catch their meals. If you are in the mood for hiking, about twenty walks are at your disposal but often require a car to reach the beginning. Close to Glenorchy, I did the Mt Judah Track and I recommend it.
For lovers of The Lord of the Rings, a passage through Paradise is necessary. Located about twenty kilometers from Glenorchy, a dozen of which on a gravel road, the place was used to depict Isengard, the home of Saruman ! You know me, I was not gonna miss this. So I took my bike and I went all excited. The road is splendid, zigzagging through the valleys and fields where cows and sheep are grazing. Typically New Zealand. On the other hand, the gravel road by bike is not really ideal. Gravel, the size of large stones, made the progression hazardous. Better to go by car or with the organized tours from Glenorchy. If you can, be sure to stop at Diamond Lake, a lake with an extraordinary color gradation. Some cows graze on the edge of the water. A few kilometers further, you arrived at Paradise. The place is made up of a farmhouse and a beautiful house with Victorian architecture. And that’s all. A little bit after the village, on the edge of the paddocks, is the river Dart and the place where Isengard was digitally implanted. Even if you have to be imaginative once there, the landscape is gorgeous. I stayed for a long time contemplating the view bathed in the light and heat of a late summer afternoon. A real corner of paradise!
_ Je recommend
Mt Alfred Track
If you only have the time to do one hike in the area, Mt. Alfred is the one you can not miss. Located in the middle of the valley, the mountain dominates the surroundings and allows you to have a 360° view of the beauty of the place. A tiny parking lot is located on the road from Glenorchy to Kinloch about twenty kilometers from Glenorchy. From there you attack a very steep and difficult climb across the mountain slope. Many trees fell on the way making the climb quite slow. It took me four hours to reach the edge of the trees. Thirty minutes of climbing more in the tussocks and rocks to finally reach the ridget are necessary. A difficult climb but then what a view! 360° of magnificence! At almost 1400m of altitude, no helicopter is needed to enjoy the scenery. The Dart and Rees rivers reveal their peculiar motives and the snow-capped peaks of the mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. The trail continues for 30 minutes on the ridge to see both sides: on one side the lake Wakatipu, on the other side Isengard. In a word: breathtaking.
If you are visiting Queenstown, do not miss a few days in Glenorchy, you will not regret it, the area is superb.
Mandatory stops regroups the things that have marked me, the places that I particularly liked, the most interesting activities I have done, the best restaurants where I ate, in short the list, in my opinion, of things not to be missed during a visit to the country.
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