Less than an hour from the bustling Queenstown, Glenorchy feels a world apart but shares the same epic scenery. With strict development controls and being on a road to effectively nowhere (unless you’re a hiker) Glenorchy is a very quiet and low key place, particularly in the evenings after the day trippers have left.
Glenorchy is on the way from Queenstown to some of the finest multi-day walking tracks in New Zealand, including the Routeburn Track, Greenstone Caples Track, and Rees-Dart Track. There are also many superb day walks in the area including the Sugarloaf / Rockburn Track off the Routeburn, Invincible Gold Mine Track up the Rees Valley, and the Mt McIntosh & Mt Judah Tracks in the hills immediately behind Glenorchy.
Glenorchy is at the head of Lake Wakatipu, by the mouth of the Rees River, and was only accessible by boat until a twisty and incredible scenic road was finished in 1962. The town grew from mining and forestry, but even from the early days tourism was a major contributor, and is now the main business in town.
Glenorchy is all about the scenery, best enjoyed from the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway, where kilometres of boardwalk have been installed to explore the area. The autumn leaves are best in late April for magical colour. I was there a couple of weeks too late…
The Glenorchy cemetery has graves going back to the earliest days of settlement, but the small size of the community is clear from the number in the cemetery.
The small population couldn’t justify churches for each denomination, instead the attractive Head of the Lake Community Church serves all.
Half an hour further along the road, crossing over the many mouths of the Dart River, Kinloch is an even quieter place, close to the start of the Routeburn and Greenstone Caples Tracks.
To end with the nearby Pigeon Island, a few minutes down the road from Glenorchy, seen at the end of the day.