After reaching Queenstown, we checked-in to our hotel (you can read a review about our motel here), dropped all our stuff, and headed straight back out to Glenorchy. We had about 6 hours before we had to return our rental car. Hence, we wasted no time in following the road signs to Glenorchy. Within minutes, we reached the starting point of the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, a scenic road which goes along Lake Wakatipu right upto the head of the lake. Glenorchy, our destination, was at the other end of this famous drive (often called the Road to Paradise). Glenorchy is well-known for being the shooting location of various Hollywood/international movies, in addition to being a major adventure/nature tourism attraction. But as they often say in New Zealand, it is more about the journey rather than the destination. And that idea was so true in this particular case, because the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy turned out to be quite incredible indeed.
(start of the Glenorchy-Queenstown road)
(beautiful Lake Wakatipu)
As we were driving away from Queenstown, we came across multiple walks and campgrounds along Lake Wakatipu. One of them was the Sunshine Bay track, where the water had different shades of blue as the depth of the lake changed. Another walking track was called the 12 mile delta track. This walk was longer than the Sunshine Bay track, but it apparently has some stunning views of Bob’s Cove and Lake Wakatipu. As we did not have much time on our hands, we could not explore or take any of these walks. But if you have time in Queenstown, I highly recommend doing at least one of these walks along Lake Wakatipu.
(Sunshine Bay track along the way)
(at the start of the Sunshine Bay track)
(changing shades of blue)
(driving on Glenorchy-Queenstown road)
(lots of stopping points along the way)
(the 12 mile delta and Bob Cove track)
(12 mile delta campground)
As we are driving along, some wise guy about two cars ahead of us suddenly decided to hard brake and stop for a hitchhiker. He almost caused a 3 car pile-up!! as we (and the car ahead of us) had to break real hard. We were almost thrown off road, but luckily nothing major happened. However, all the grocery that we purchased earlier during the day flew out of the back seat and onto the car floor. While hitchhiking has quite a reputation in NZ (it was listed somewhere as a must do), one should not do so at the expense of causing a major road accident. So please be cautious if you are going to pick up hitchhikers.
Gathering ourselves from what just happened, we continued. The sky started turning cloudy, and the colour of Lake Wakatipu changed from a bright royal blue to a dull looking greyish-blue. However, that did not reduce the beauty of the scenery one bit, as the mountains and hills on the other side of the lake looked quite amazing in the alternating patches of sunlight and shadow.
(beautiful combination of sunlight and cloud shadows)
(it got cloudy very fast)
(beautiful clouds and greyish-blue Wakatipu)
(hills across the lake)
(has to be among the worlds top drives)
After about 1.5 hours and multiple photo stops, we reached Glenorchy – Gateway to Paradise and reminiscent of Middle Earth. After reaching Glenorchy, we headed to the wharf area. This place gave us a good view of the lake head and we could see Kinloch across the lake. The Glenorchy Walkway also starts from the wharf area. We explored the area a bit and took some pictures. We had planned to do the Glenorchy Walkway, but then changed our minds and decided to head up along Priority Road to do the Sylvan Lake walk.
(Welcome to Paradise)
(the famous red house, seen in so many photos of Glenorchy)
(view from the wharf)
(view from the wharf)
(view from the wharf)
The walk to Sylvan Lake was about 30 mins each way or a total of about 75 minutes, if you count photo/relaxation at Sylvan Lake. The walk was through unspoilt/untouched forest, and there were river crossings too. We spotted a bird along the way which looked like a grey warbler (though not sure about what species it really was). The walk itself is nicely marked with orange arrow-like stickers stuck on tree trunks. These orange arrows guide you along the walking track, and they also keep you from getting strayed. After walking through the forest, we reached a very quiet area with water which looked like a mirror. It was Sylvan Lake, and the water was so calm that you could literally see the reflection of trees, clouds and mountains in the water.
(view from the wharf)
(a local bird)
(beautiful reflection on Lake Sylvan)
(small river crossing)
After getting back from the walk, we realized that it was way past lunch time, and we only had a couple of hours before we had to turn in our rental car. So, after munching on some snacks which we bought earlier in the day, we headed back to Queenstown. We wish we could have stayed longer in Glenorchy and explored the area a bit more (Kinloch, Rees-Dart track are all worth it), but there was no time. As we were driving back on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, the sun starting shining, and we saw some stunning scenery. The Lake Wakatipu waters were very calm that day, and they gave a beautiful reflection of the surrounding hills in the water. We stopped for some more photos before driving along.
(driving back to Queenstown)
(reflection on Lake Wakatipu)
(stunning reflections on Lake Wakatipu)
(driving along Lake Wakatipu)
(heading to Queenstown)
Within about 75 mins, we reached Queenstown. On returning, we filled up the car with petrol before heading straight to the Apex rental car office. Apex has an interesting procedure for dropping off cars at the Queenstown office. They require you to park the car in the street parking marked right outside their office, which has only 2 parking spots of 30 minute limit. It could get tricky trying to bag one of the only two spots. It was our good fortune that one car left just before we reached the Apex office. So, we were able to park our car right away and finish the drop off process in 5 mins (literally!). We were tired and very very hungry (having skipped lunch). So we went to the famous Fergburger, and ordered two giant sized falafel burgers (vegetarian). It took us more than 40 mins to finish them, but it felt quite satisfying.
(gigantic Fergburger twice the size of my hand)
(fries with some Wasabi mayo)
(this was delicious)
Overall, the drive to Glenorchy is very pretty and worth doing. Make time if you must, but do this drive. On a clear day, the royal blue of Lake Wakatipu will look incredible. In case you do not have a car, take a jet boat tour with Dart Wilderness, as that tour (from Queenstown) would include the drive to Glenorchy as well.