Queenstown to Glenorchy Drive: The Absolute Best Stops

The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy
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The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is a picturesque journey along the shores of the magnificent Lake Wakatipu. It’s one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand, if not the entire world. There are spectacular views around every corner. The Queenstown to Glenorchy drive is an absolute-must on any visit to New Zealand’s South Island.

This 45km stretch of road winds through the beautiful mountains. Once you reach Glenorchy, you are greeted by a quaint town surrounded by countryside, rugged mountains and pristine lakes.

This hadn’t been on my original itinerary for the South Island, but so many people recommended it to me, it was hard to resist. I did little planning beforehand and went to see what I could find.

In this post, I’ve shared everything you need to know about driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

Scenic stops on a Queenstown to Glenorchy drive
Queenstown to Glenorchy

How to get from Queenstown to Glenorchy

The distance between Queenstown and Glenorchy is 45km or 28 miles.

The best way to get from Queenstown to Glenorchy is by car. The drives takes 45 minutes without making any stops. But this is one of the best drives in New Zealand so it’s well worth giving yourself the time to explore it properly. It’s full of stunning viewpoints around every corner.

Unfortunately, there is no bus between Queenstown and Glenorchy. This means you’ll either need to rent a car  or join an organised tour. 

Klook.com

Is Glenorchy worth visiting?

Glenorchy is a must visit place in New Zealand’s South Island. This remote and charming town boasts incredible landscapes. It’s also a little off the beaten path so tends to be much quieter than other places in the area.

While the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is an activity in itself, be sure to spend some time exploring Glenorchy too. It’s a very quaint town with some nice coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants. There’s plenty to do in Glenorchy to keep you busy. 

The area is also full of exciting outdoor activities including hiking and horse-riding.

I’d suggest giving yourself an entire day to do the drive and explore Glenorchy. Especially if you want to spend some time exploring the town.

The town of Glenorchy - a scenic drive from Queenstown
Glenorchy

The best stops on a drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

Sunshine Bay

You’ll find your first spot as you drive out of Queenstown. Sunshine Bay is on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and gives you amazing views of the magnificent mountains. If you want to stretch your legs, there’s an easy 2.5 mile (4km) hiking trail which takes you to some viewpoints along the way.

It’s the perfect place to relax and take in the scenery.

Moke Lake

Moke Lake is a little out of the way, but it’s an incredibly beautiful area.

There are several things to do in Moke Lake including hiking and kayaking, but it’s the scenery itself which makes this lake so special.

I didn’t get to spend much time here myself, but here’s a great guide to visiting Moke Lake

Sunshine Bay on Queenstown to Glenorchy road trip
Sunshine Bay

Wilson Bay

I loved this hidden gem. The water was crystal clear. As I visited Wilson Bay on a nice day, I had the perfect mountain reflection in the water.

Wilson Bay only needs to be a quick stop on your Queenstown to Glenorchy drive, but it’s well worth it.

There is also a walk you can do between Wilson Bay and the Seven Mile Recreation Reserve. The walk takes you along the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

Bob’s Cove

This is another stunning spot on this itinerary. Bob’s Cove is home to a 30-minute loop walk through the forest. Towards the end, you’ll find a clearing with stunning views of Lake Wakatipu with the mountains in the background.

After the loop (or instead of the loop), follow signs to the Jetty for more magnificent views.

Bob's Cove
Bob's Cove

Bennetts Bluff Lookout

Bennetts Bluff is another scenic viewpoint on the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (spoiler: there’s a few in this list). I promise it’s worth it though, this was one of my favourite stops on the road trip.

There’s a large car park (with toilets), so you don’t need to worry about finding space. From there, it’s a short five-minute uphill walk to a fantastic viewpoint of the lake and the valley.

This really is an incredible place to stop.

Queenstown to Glenorchy Road

Just when you think it can’t get any better, you begin the next part of your drive to Glenorchy and wow … it’s breath-taking.

This isn’t a specific spot as such, but after leaving Bennetts Bluff, the scenery somehow becomes even more spectacular.

There are a few places where you can pullover to admire the views. Just make sure you are in a designated spot and not causing obstructions on the road.

Scenic Lookouts on Queenstown to Glenorchy drive
Queenstown to Glenorchy Drive

Glenorchy

Once you arrive in Glenorchy, take some time to stop and walk around the town. It’s very quiet, peaceful and there’s a few places to buy coffee and snacks. It’s well worth spending some time exploring.

Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway

While in Glenorchy, make sure you don’t miss the Lagoon Walkway. The walk takes you out of the town and round the lagoon/swamp. There are some fantastic views of the mountains. The walk takes 1-2 hours (I did it in 1 hour) and it’s completely flat. If you want to get out into nature without taking on a big hike, this is a good option.

Glenorchy
Glenorchy

Glenorchy Animal Experience

If you’re keen to meet some farm animals, the Glenorchy Animal Experience could be your answer. The farm welcomes visitors to pet and feed their many animals including pigs, horses, alpacas and sheep (to name a few).

The entry cost for an adult is $25 NZD (Dec 2023). The farm is just beyond the town.

Isengard Lookout (beyond Glenorchy)

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, then this iconic filming location must be on your Queenstown to Glenorchy itinerary.

There is a tiny spot at the side of the road where you can park and walk down under the bridge. Keep walking and you will be greeted by snow-capped mountains and a crystal-clear river. It was so beautiful. It’s a lovely spot to spend some time relaxing or eating lunch.  

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, the area is full of famous filming locations for the franchise. Be sure to check out all the famous Lord of the Rings filming spots around Glenorchy and Queenstown.

Routeburn Nature Walk

If you’re keen to explore the Routeburn area without taking on a big hike, consider the Routeburn Nature Walk. It’s only 2 miles (3.1km) with minimal elevation. The walk takes you through an ancient beech forest and is perfect for all abilities. You’ll need to drive about 25 minutes beyond Glenorchy to reach here.

Routeburn Track

This is one of New Zealand’s famous great walk. On average, it takes 3 days to complete as you traverse some of the most incredible landscapes in New Zealand. The hike ends near Milford Sound.

For those keen to do just part of the track, consider the Key Summit hike when driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Queenstown to Glenorchy Tours

If you don’t have a car but still want to visit Glenorchy, fear not. There are several day tours operating from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

If you’re an avid Lord of the Rings fan, there is a dedicated tour which will take you to all the famous filming locations near Queenstown and Glenorchy. Journey through Middle Earth and feel like you’re in the movie yourself. 

For those who want to make the most of the amazing scenery, consider joining this day tour from Queenstown. It takes you to many of the scenic spots in the area and you’ll also have a guide. 

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