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Queenstown to Glenorchy: One Of NZ’s Most Scenic Drives

Last updated : December 15th, 2020

queenstown to glenorchy scenic drive

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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 the best places to stop for photos!

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 far is Queenstown to Glenorchy?

Glenorchy is 46 kilometers or 28.5 miles from Queenstown.

What are the best stops between Queenstown and Glenorchy?

The best stops are 12-Mile Delta, Wilsons Cove, and Pig and Pigeon Island Viewpoint

How long does it take to drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy?

Without stopping it takes 45 minutes to drive to Glenorchy. With stops allow 2 hours.

Are there tours from Queenstown to Glenorchy?

Yes, there are lots of tours to Glenorchy that you do from Queenstown including half-day scenic tours and Lord of the Rings themed tours.

What is the road condition between Queenstown and Glenorchy?

The road is fully sealed and in good condition, however, be careful during heavy rain or snow.

About the Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

The Glenorchy shed in Glenorchy
Everybody who comes to Glenorchy visits the famous shed!

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.

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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 kilometers 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.

Twelve Mile Delta

Relaxing at 12 mile Delta on our way to Glenorchy from Queenstown
Relaxing at 12 mile Delta on our way to Glenorchy from Queenstown

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 $13.50 per person per night.

Related Read:   The Queenstown Hill Walk: One of the Best Trails in NZ

Wilson’s Bay

Wilsons Bay, New Zealand
Enjoying those breathtaking views at Wilsons 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!

Pig and Pigeon Island Viewpoint

The Pigeon Islands viewpoint
The Pigeon Islands 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!

The Milky way on the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy
The Milky Way on the road to Glenorchy!
Related Read:   33 Free and Cheap Things 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.

The Glenorchy Jetty

The glenorchy Jetty in Glenorchy
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.

Mrs. Woolly’s General Store

mrs woollys generaly store in glenorchy
Mrs Woollys general store in Glenorchy! Photo Credit – Mrs Woollys

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.

Glenorchy Petting Zoo

selfie with a donkey at the glenorchy petting zoo
Selfie with a donkey!

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

One of the best stops on a New Zealand road trip is mirror lakes
The reflection lakes near Glenorchy

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!

Routeburn Track

This is a photo of the views on the Routeburn track in New Zealand
The Views of the Valley as you head up to Routeburn Falls Hut

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, use NZHuts. This website will notify you of any cancellations or openings for your selected dates!

Check out these tours in Glenorchy

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 YHA – This is your most budget option for an actual hotel near Glenorchy (there is the caravan park). This place is not in Glenorchy but it 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!

Bold Peak Lodge – 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:   Ultimate Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand

Before you go…

Daniel and Bailey

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!

If you have any other questions or comments then leave them below. We always love to hear from our readers!

If not, then be sure to check out all our other detailed New Zealand or Queenstown guides. We have so much info and lots of hidden tips and tricks we share with our readers!

We’ve written a ton of blogs about Queenstown! A few other related travel guides you might like are:

Secret Moke Lake Viewpoint

Visiting the Best Queenstown Breweries

Queenstown to Milford Sound Road Trip Guide


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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