Destinations

5 reasons to love Glenorchy

This southern wonder feels a world away!
Glenorchy

This tiny township at the top of Lake Wakatipu punches well above its weight when it comes to things to do.

1 The town

The best thing about Glenorchy is there’s not much to it. It’s so easy to escape the world here, even if it’s just a scenic 45-minute drive from Queenstown. Bring your kids – there’s dreadful phone coverage, so the only device they can peer into is the camera. And no-one can resist taking pictures – there’s a very good reason why they filmed so much of The Lord of the Rings here and the Narnia films around these parts. Take one of the 4WD safari tours to some of the most famous sites, go jet boating on the Dart River, ride a horse or – on the first Saturday in January – have a flutter at the Glenorchy Races.

2 The retreat

The views from Aro Ha Wellness Retreat are to die for, but the buildings themselves at this hilltop hideaway are just as stunning. Described as “Zen-inspired luxury”, I can totally understand why people come from all over the world, in their singles, pairs or as families, to get a bit of whatever Aro Ha’s having. This place sure ain’t for slouches, though. You’ll do at least one robust alpine hike a day and a couple of yoga sessions, and your food, much of it grown on the property, will be Paleo. There’s no telly – but there is an amazing spa outside overlooking the mountains. If you want an overhaul in unbeatable surroundings, this is the place for you.

3 The Routeburn

Those of you who aren’t regular hikers might still have heard of the Routeburn Track, a 32km trail that starts on the Te Anau side of the Southern Alps and finishes near Glenorchy. It’s one of the nine DOC Great Walks that Air New Zealand helps promote and protect, and I’ve done it twice – which I can’t say about any other 32km stretch in the world. The good news is, if you’re not up for the whole shebang, you can just walk the first part. The track takes you through beech forest and alpine meadows as it meanders along beside the river, then it’s up to you whether you want to climb up to the Routeburn Falls or just picnic on the flat. Air New Zealand, by the way, starts evening flights into Queenstown on July 1.

4 Paradise

Keep driving to the very end of the road out of Glenorchy and you come to Paradise. This, according to Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the movies, is as close to Middle Earth as you can get in real life. And if you want to stay there, you can, thanks to the not-for-profit Paradise Trust. There’s a selection of huts with varying levels of luxury. The really fancy one has electricity! It truly is heaven, tucked up in the bush with every native bird singing its little head off. There’s also a beautiful area set up for outdoor weddings. Not shotgun ones, though – the rules say no guns, but a fishing rod (and licence, of course), could come in handy.

5 The new kids

There’s much change in Glenorchy, thanks to the generous family who set up Adobe software – they’ve bought the old campground and surrounds, and are updating the accommodation options, with future profits going back into the community. You’ll love the goodies inside the new General Store – there’s a top-notch deli, a supermarket with pre-made meals, and a fantastic selection of tools, raincoats, books and blankets. My fave for lunch, though, is around the corner at the rustic Glenorchy Café.

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