There is certainly some fantastic scenery around the township of Glenorchy but there are equally spectacular view to be had on the drive there from Queenstown. The 45km drive follows the eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu to its northern end where the Dart River enters the lake near Glenorchy.
Near the head of the lake are Pigeon and Pig Islands. On a sunny day you can see through the clear waters. To the west you can see Walter Peak and Mount Nicholas; and Mount Earnslaw sits as a backdrop when looking to the north.
The Dart river jet boat takes you for a 37km trip up the Dart River. The scenery is fantastic, snow capped mountains, and blue water. This is World Heritage Area.
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, then you will know some of the scenes in the film were in this area. Paradise was actually named after the Paradise Duck – a local feathered inhabitant and was used for scenes in Lothlorien, Isengard, Fangorn and Amon Hen. The computer wizardry of Weta Studios superimposed Isengard and the tower of Orthanc right on top of the Dart River. And if that's not enough, the opening scene which has the camera sweeping alongside dramatic mountains, is sweeping alongside Mount Earnslaw, right before it dives inside to let us know of Gandalfs fight with the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.
Away from the "Lords" and we were taken through a narrow gap between some large boulders to a beautiful glacial pool, on coming out, the views of the mountains....wow! fantastic!
The "braided" glacial river is so shallow, it is amazing how well a jet boat handles it!
This was the jet boat ride that we chose, we didn't want the adrenlin rush of the Shotover Jet, we wanted to experience a Jet boat ride, but be able to see some beautiful scenery as well.
Well, we were not disappointed, it was one of our most memorable experiences in New Zealand.
In saying that, the Jet boat ride is not all sedate touring, you do get the 180degree spins, you do get water on you, and you do get very close to rocks, and wizz through small areas at high speed. The river is massive, and it is very shallow, and the boat just skimmed across the shallow water at fast speed!
It was great!
JOURNEY IS 1.5 hours.
PRICE in 2010....$229
It was the best value jet boat ride when we did it, but I see now, the price has gone up incredibly, I really wouldn't pay that much myself even though I did enjoy it! Your decision!
Thinking of going to Glenorchy? Well, Glenorchy is SMALL, there isn't much here, and only has a population of approx 200 people. To me, it was the nice location, nice to be away from busy Queenstown, and to be staying in what seemed like paradise!
This is an area for hiking, for scenic jet boat rides, horse riding, kyaking, general outdoor activities in this beautiful area.
Located in the small town of interest, is the grass roof log house.
My wife and I went on an afternoon "River Wild" tour on Sunday November 29, 2009 and my wife got a temperament ex-racehorse who threw my wife from the saddle. The result is broken arm in three pieces, ruined vacation, and long recovery ahead.
We realize that every time you engage in activity like horse riding you're taking risk. But when you rent skies you don’t expect to get a broken ski or when you rent a car you assume that it's got good brakes. The horses you get at Dart stables are ex-race horses that are NOT suitable for recreational use by non-professional riders. And when something happens they don’t even have an emergency plan, you're on your own.
We learned our lesson and the risk wasn't worth the ride with Dart stables. Unless you're a professional horse rider don’t risk it, go somewhere else where it's safer.
This is now one of the most popular tracks and while not overcrowded with trampers, you will need to book in the peak season (Nov to April) to get hut accommodation.
The track covers 32kms and starts at the Routeburn shelter which is 25kms from Glenorchy. Most walkers do the track over 3 days and 2 nights. The routeburn is not a circular track, you need to organise transport at one end. However, you can also link into a longer trip by continuing on back down the Greenstone or Caples tracks arriving back at Lake Wakatipu just south of Kinloch. This does make it possible to end up near your start point.
Transport connections can be arranged at each end depending on what options are selected.
From the shelter point start, it is 6.5kms (.15-2.5 hours) to the first hut and campsite (the flats hut) and a further 2.3km (1-1.5 hours) up a stepper climb to the Falls huts (no camping). The next stretch is 11.3kms (4.5-6 hours) to the Lake McKenzie Hut and camping area. This is an alpine exposed area, so you need to be aware of the weather, it can change quickly. This section passes the superb Harris Saddle area. From here it is another 8.6km (3-4 hours) to the Lake Howden Hut and another 3.4kms out to the end of the track. From the Howden Hut is where you can connect and continue down the Greenstone or Caples tracks or continue onto the Divide on the Te Anau - Milford Road and end up about 85kms from Te Anau.
This is a very worthwhile tramp.
infotrack offer full day guided tours on the world famous Routeburn Trail, which is one of New Zealand's most stunning alpine walks and is located in the pristine Mt Aspiring National Park.
The guides will pick you up at 8am from your accommodation in Queenstown and drive you to the start of the walk not far from Glenorchy, which is about an hours drive away.
They were very informative throughout the day and shared a lot of interesting information about the history of the Routeburn Trail, including the wildlife and alpine beech forests. They also pointed out the sapplings that were used for making Gandalf's staff for the 'Lord of the Rings'.
You will cross many swing bridges to cross numerous stream, which the kids seemed to treat as an opportunity to test everyone's sense of balance by creating some serious wavy motions!
The trail takes you past many waterfalls, through native beech forests and up to the edge of the tree line up the mountain where we still found plenty of fresh, powdery snow.
The cost was NZ$175 per adult and included lunch, trail mix snacks and drinks. Your water bottle can be topped up at the many fresh water streams throughout the park.
Whether you just like horse riding through some stupendous mountainscenery or if you a a 'Lord of the Rings' fan, this ride takes you through some breathtaking vistas around Glenorchy.
You will find yourself in the woods of Lothlórien, passing through Amon Hen, views of the Wizard's Vale and the mighty peak of Methedras are simply stunning.
I had never ridden a horse before but I found the 2 hours in the saddle no hardship at all. But with the gorgeous scenery you wouldn't notice any discomfort anyway.
Our guide, Georgia, kept us suitably entertained with constant anechdotes of the various locations for 'The Lord Of the Rings' an more recently, 'Wolverine'. Although the commentary for the latter was more to do with her efforts at Hugh Jackman spotting ;).
The cost for this ride was NZ$165pp and worth every cent!
The Dart Valley is the western valley of the two and the present landscape of the area has been shaped by glaciation.
The Dart Glacier is now a small valley glacier but at the peak of the last ice age, about 18,000 years ago, it was part of an enormous glacier system that terminated at Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, about 135 km from its present location. Huge moraine walls in the upper Dart Valley beyond Dart Hut show the previous extent of the glacier and how much it has receded even in the last few hundred years. This is a long way in.
Southern beech, or Nothofagus, dominates the forest. Red beech is found on the warm valley floor of the Dart Valley, while mountain and silver beech dominate the rest of the Dart Valley and the Rees Valley. Some of the beech forests are quite spectacular.
The Rees is one of two valleys just north of Glenorchy and each has differing features.
The Rees follows a dirt track narrow road into the valley across braided river flats and into beech forest before coming out onto alpine like flats.
Once the track ends, you need a 4WD to continue or walk a little to get a feel for the rugged and remote nature of the place. Further down the valley are the Lennox Falls and Mt Earnslaw.
It is not hard to why the area was chosen to portray "Middle Earth" in the epic movie "Lord of the Rings". Mt Earnslaw is infact known as Methedras in the Wizards Vale at Isengard. While the wild combination of water, trees, mountains, and glaciers provided director Peter Jackson with a perfect backdrop for Isengard at Nan Curunir, Lothlorien, Amon Hen, and Dunharrow.
There are a number of walking options in this valley.
Even more remote than the small town of Glenorchy, Kinloch is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu and makes a great base for exploring the valleys or doing day walks on the start points of the Routeburn, Caples or Greenstone tracks.
The Kinloch lodge provides an accommodation option with a range of room choices, and some great food and wine.
Above all, I believe you will enjoy the peacefulness of the place and the stunning lake and mountain views.
The road to Paradise are unsealed. Well, It started with sealed road until it reached several kms and then there comes the unsealed rocks. We immediately have to slow down the car and finally end in a stop where we had to go through a creek. There was no way a starlet can go passing a creek without damage. So... we never go to Paradise. But if you are planning to go to Glenorchy - give this place a visit and then write to me and attach pictures :)
If you are heading to Paradise, make sure you rent a 4WD
Along the right shore of McKenzie Lake there is an interesting and at times intriguing short hike to the monumental Split Rock. I imagine that after a rainfall, the path might be quite slippery so don't forget to bring good shoes along.
The following day, the trail takes you through dense vegetation. It starts with a short climb and sooner than you think, you get to Howden Hut where you can take a break or eventually stay, if planning on hiking the Greenstone/Caples tracks. It is then a short stroll to the end of the trail (The Divide).
This last day should take about 4-5.5 hours (12 km). At the end of the hike there is a shelter where you can wait for your pre-arranged transportation or hitch hike to your next destination. Milford Sound, one of the jewels of Fiordland National Park, is an obvious choice. It is a mere 30 minutes drive and there is no possible explanation for you to skip it (forgetting ultra-strength insect repellent being a border line case...).
Note that you can go from hut to hut much faster. In fact, I think the entire track can be done in one tough day by any fit tramper. The question, however, is, what's the point? This may be your last time hiking the Routeburn! Enjoy the views!!
One of the highlights of this tramp is the approach of superb Mackenzie Lake. As you first see it and start descending, you can hardly believe you will be spending the rest of the day at such pleasant location! Despite the water being on the chilly side (yes, plenty of snow around when I visited...), you can take a deep breath and jump into the lake without taking your favorite soap bar and shampoo, as the foam would remain for a long time...
This second day should take 4.5-6 hours (11.3 km).
The start of the trail is relatively level, taking you through dense vegetation covered with moss. As you start getting higher (and higher!), enjoying some splendid views, you reach Routeburn Falls, by the bush line, where you will spend the rest of your first day. In this area, you can go for short walks and enjoy the waterfalls. Before you jump into the water, however, keep in mind that this is not recommended for the weak of heart... euphemistically speaking, let's say that it may be a bit too cold...
This first day should not take more than 2-3 hours (6.5 km).
After a fine night of sleep (no, no shower in the morning...) you will start climbing and soon after, reach Harris Saddle, the highest point of the journey at 1,277m. Following heavy snow, this area is frequently slammed by avalanches - at all times, make sure you take the ranger's advice seriously!