Queenstown to Glenorchy: One Of NZ’s Most Scenic Drives
If you are visiting Queenstown, one of the things you must do is the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. It is a beautiful scenic drive and an excellent way to spend an afternoon on your holiday.
Keep reading for all the info you need to know about the scenic drive as well as best places to stop for photos!
Queenstown to Glenorchy Scenic Drive
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is famous in New Zealand for offering some of the most breathtaking views the country has to offer. The road weaves through the forest, along cliff edges, next to mountains along Lake Wakatipu.
While the Queenstown to Glenorchy road is actually the only road to/from the town of Glenorchy and serves as the main route of transport for the people who live there, for tourists it’s an attraction! Along the road, there are several places to pull over to take pictures or just take in the scenery.
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is easily one of the most popular things to do in Queenstown simply due to how beautiful the views are from along the road.
But if you don’t know where to stop, you might miss some of the best spots! So, in this blog, we reveal the best places to stop along the Queenstown to Glenorchy scenic drive along with tips for getting there and important safety information!
About the Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is actually 45km long and is officially called Queenstown-Glenorchy Road (how convenient!)
To get there, head west out of Queenstown past Fernhill and Sunshine Bay and continue straight for about 45 minutes to reach the town of Glenorchy.
Along the way, there are many viewpoints to check out as well as some walking trails and campsites. This route is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the best scenic (if not the very best) drives New Zealand has to offer.
Staying safe on the road to Glenorchy
The entire road is paved and well-kept. That being said, there are some steep parts and it is very windy with sharp corners. In the winter during certain conditions, this drive would not be safe so be sure to check the latest road conditions reports before you go!
If you are going to drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy in the winter be sure to carry snow chains with you just in case the weather gets bad in areas!
During the summer, or when the roads are free from ice and snow, as long as you take it easy, don’t speed, and don’t overtake on blind corners, then the drive is perfectly safe!
How long does it take?
The drive itself is only 45 Kilometres and can be done in 30 minutes. However, the point of the scenic drive is to stop along the way and take in the scenery. With multiple stops and taking some pictures, it took us just over an hour one way.
If you combine the drive with hanging out in Glenorchy for a little while, it could be a half-day trip.
Must see places from Queenstown to Glenorchy
There are so many places to stop along the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. You can literally stop anywhere (that is safe to do so) and have an incredible view. That being said, I have a few favorite spots that you will definitely want to check out.
Twelve Mile Delta
Twelve Mile Delta Reserve is an area next to Lake Wakatipu that offers amazing views of The Remarkables mountain range.
You can access this area by driving down a short and steep hill. The area is marked with a large sign and is about 14km from Queenstown.
At the Twelve Mile Delta Reserve, there is a boat launch area, picnic area, campground and the start of a hike to bobs cove. From the Twelve Mile Delta, you can also start the Mt Chrichton Loop track. A beautiful but easy hike, well worth doing!
I just stopped to take some pictures of the view at Bob’s Cove, but I will definitely be back in the future to walk the track.
If you have a campervan or tent you can also camp at the 12 Mile Delta campground for $13.50 per person per night.
Wilson’s Bay will likely be your first stop after leaving Queenstown. It is also clearly signposted and has a large car park that you can see from the road.
Wilson’s Bay offers panoramic views from the lakeside. There are picnic tables and lots of friendly ducks around when we were there.
In the summer, this would be a great spot to go for a swim!
Pig and Pigeon Island Viewpoint
This lookout is not officially marked, however, it’s pretty hard to miss!
Just over halfway you will start to climb up a mountain weaving next to the cliffs. Around the last turn, you are presented with amazing views of the mountains towards Glenorchy as well as Pig and Pigeon Islands.
There isn’t a sign or car park but there is a large pull-off-bay on the left that holds a few cars at a time. Usually at least one car is parked there and you’ll know the spot by tourists taking pictures.
This would be my favorite viewpoint along the drive.
But that’s not all!
This viewpoint is actually one of the best places to view the stars at night due to the very little light pollution in this area. I often come out here to take stunning photos of the milky way.
For more photo locations check out our blog about the most Instagramable spots in Queenstown!
Best places to visit in Glenorchy
So, after the beautiful drive, you will end up in the town of Glenorchy. Glenorchy is small, only a few streets and shops exist. But, there are a couple of places to check out in Glenorchy itself before you turn around and head back to Queenstown.
Once in Glenorchy, turn left at the first roundabout (traffic circle.) This heads towards the lake. There you will find a jetty that you can walk out on and enjoy the views. The area also has some walking trails and is a popular swimming spot in the summer.
Mrs. Wolly’s General Store
If you want a souvenir, something to eat, or just want to check out the cutest little shop then Mrs. Wolly’s General Store is the place to be! While it is overpriced, the food and baked goods are amazing! You will see the store on your right-hand side once you get into Glenorchy town.
Glenorchy Petting Zoo
For animal lovers, there is a locally owned farm that is now also a petting zoo. For $20 you can pet and feed all the farm animals you want! The farm is called The Glenorchy Animal Experience and you will find them if you drive just outside of Glenorchy for 2.5km.
Mirror Lakes is a beautiful swamp area at the edge of Lake Wakatipu just outside of Glenorchy. This small swamp area gives off the most stunning reflections of the Humbolt Mountain range. It is also one of the Lord of the Rings filming locations that you would get taken to on any LOTR tour.
To get there, follow the signs on the main road in Glenorchy and turn right where it says Routeburn Track. Once on this road, follow it around until the first left bend in the road and pull over where safe. If you look towards the lake from here – you can’t miss it!
The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful hikes. It is usually completed in 3 days however you can venture out and explore part of the trail on a day hike.
The Routeburn Track isn’t actually in Glenorchy and is another 20-minute drive further. However, if you have the time or want to dedicate a day to hiking one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks then check out our day hiking guide to the Routeburn Track.
And there you have it, the highlights of the Queenstown to Glenorchy scenic drive! Believe me, it is an awesome drive! Try it or yourself and then tell me what you thought in the comments below.
July 3, 2018