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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, and 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!
Queenstown to Glenorchy Overview
How to get From Queenstown to Glenorchy
There are two main ways to get from Queenstown to Glenorchy, in my opinion, the best way is to rent a car and drive yourself there. Renting your own car will give you so much flexibility and you will get to decide how long you want to spend at each stop and can even go off the beaten path and explore to your heart’s content.
The other alternative is to take a guided tour that departs right out of Queenstown and explores Glenorchy. The tour in particular that I would recommend is this Glenorchy and Paradise Tour which lasts for 4 hours and departs from The Station in central Queenstown. They will take you along the scenic drive and make several stops for pictures on the way at scenic viewpoints and Lord of the Rings filming locations. Once you get to Glenorchy, you’ll walk along the wharf and stretch your legs before another scenic but short drive to Paradise for tea!
About the Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is actually 45 km (28 miles) 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.
Related Read: If you want more ideas while visiting check out our New Zealand road trip itinerary guide that’s filled with many great adventures!
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 From Queenstown to Glenorchy?
The drive itself is only 45 kilometers (28 miles) and can be done in 45 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 around an hour and a half 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.
1. Sunshine Bay
As you first drive out of Queenstown be sure to make a quick stop at Sunshine Bay. In the summer this is a local beach used to escape the crowds of Queenstown beach. There is a short walk here called the Sunshine Bay Track too which is a 2-kilometer (1.2 miles) one-way track.
If the weather is nice you may want to save this stop for the way back when you can spend more time enjoying the stunning bay. If not come back another time and bring a picnic lunch and some drinks!
2. Moke Lake
One of my favorite stops on the road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy is Moke Lake. Not only is Moke Lake absolutely stunning but there are also lots of great activities at the lake such as the Moke Lake Viewpoint (pictured above), stargazing, and even kayaking.
Moke Lake is a short detour off the highway and part of the road there is unsealed. be sure to take your time but don’t worry all vehicles can make the journey.
3. 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 Crichton 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 $15 per person per night.
Related Read: One of the best easy trails in New Zealand is the Queenstown Hill Walk! The views are stunning.
4. Wilson’s Bay
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!
5. Mt Crichton Loop Track
If you’re looking for a short walk to stretch your legs check out the Mt Crichton Loop Track. This 8-kilometer (5 miles) loop track takes around 2 hours to complete and takes you through some of Queenstown’s gold mining past. Stops include the Sam Summers Hut, a beautiful waterfall, a viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu, and a gold mining tunnel.
6. Bob’s Cove
Similar to Sunshine Bay, Bob’s Cave is a beautiful Bay popular with beachgoers. From the beach, you can also start Bob’s Cove Track and a short 30-minute return walk that takes you to a breathtaking viewpoint over the cove. This is easily one of the best hikes in Queenstown and well worth stopping for!
7. Bennetts Bluff Lookout
Bennetts Bluff Lookout is the best viewpoint on the road to Glenorchy and 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 Island.
There isn’t a sign or parking lot 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.
Related Read: For more photo locations check out our blog about the most Instagramable spots in Queenstown!
Related Read: While in the area you must check out all the free and cheap things there are to do 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.
1. The Glenorchy Jetty
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.
2. Mrs. Woolly’s General Store
If you want a souvenir, something to eat, or just want to check out the cutest little shop then Mrs. Woolly’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.
3. 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 2.5 km (1.6 mi).
4. Mirror Lakes
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 Lord of the Rings 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!
5. Routeburn Track
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.
If you do want to hike the entire Routeburn Track over a couple of days, you’ll need to book your huts or campsites online in advance. If they are all already fully booked, you can keep actively checking in hopes that someone cancels.
Where to Stay in Glenorchy
There aren’t many options for places to stay in Glenorchy, but there are a few! Some places we recommend are:
Kinloch Wilderness Retreat – This is your most budget option for an actual hotel near Glenorchy (there is the caravan park). This place is not in Glenorchy but is the best place to stay for those wanting to hike the Routeburn Track or Greenstone Trail.
Glenorchy Lake House – Is a great option if you want to stay in the heart of Glenorchy. They have luxury private rooms and even a holiday home for families and friends of up to 9 people!
EcoScape – Another beautiful hotel in Glenorchy that features beautiful rooms. Its a favorite among couples and is the perfect place for a romantic getaway!
Browse all the accommodation options in Glenorchy here!
Related Read: If you are road tripping, see our tip about renting a campervan in New Zealand it’s very practical!
Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand
The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)
You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.
You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!
Personally, we have rented a campervan from a company called Mad Campers before and had a great experience. Mad Campers is for budget travelers and they offer 1 and 2 berth campervans that are very comfortable and perfect for a road trip in New Zealand! You can read our full Mad Campers review for more info!
We also have a discount code for our readers. Use DTRAVEL5 at checkout to get 5% off your campervan rental with Mad Campers!
The only downside to Mad Campers is that they have limited inventory, so they might already be sold out for your travel dates. In that case, your next best option is JUCY. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suite your budget and travel style. You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.
Kiwi Motorhomes is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer luxury motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates. Check out our full review on them as well as more info specific on renting a motorhome in NZ in our guide!
Kiwi Motorhomes has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DEST5 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read our blog about the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. We really hope this article has helped you plan your trip!
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