Queenstown is a popular base for visitors making an excursion to Milford Sound. Apart from Milford Sound, I would also recommend an excursion to Glenorchy, a quaint little town at the head of Lake Wakatipu.
The Glenorchy – Queenstown Road is renowned as one of the most scenic roads in South Island. We started the journey on a cloudy morning on a windy and hilly road with lots of twists and turns!
However the scenery throughout the drive was mesmerizing as the road skirts Lake Wakatipu with the majestic Southern Alps as backdrop. Though the journey was supposed to be only 45 minutes, we made plenty of stops to take in and admire the beautiful scenery.
Glenorchy is made up of a main street with a few rows of souvenir shops, hotel, tour operators, charming cafes and restaurants. In its heyday, the town was a hub for mining activity and the only way to travel from Queenstown was via steamship, until 1962, when the road is built.
What really stands out in this small town is its breathtaking scenery of the intensely blue Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains.
It’s quite easy to while away a couple of hours hiking the numerous trails in town. For the more adventurous, there is jetboating the Dart River and horse trekking across the Dart and Rees rivers to choose from.
After working up an appetite walking along the Glenorchy Waterfront and exploring the town, we had a hearty lunch at the cosy Glenorchy Café.
We then drove a few kilometers further on rough unsealed (untarred) road to Paradise! Yep you read it correctly, there is a place called Paradise here.
This aptly named small settlement just outside of Glenorchy is the location for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and most famously served as the backdrop for Isengard. One can join guided tours to these locations for more informative commentary and to visit the exact locations.
There is nothing much to see here except farmland and some houses but the awe inspiring landscape of Mount Aspiring National Park mountain ranges interspersed with blue lakes and rivers and ancient beech forests made the drive worthwhile.
After all how often does one get to go to Paradise :).