Glenorchy is a cute town just 40 minutes from Queenstown. One of the best things to do in Glenorchy is, of course, to explore the beautiful Glenorchy Walkway which takes you to the Glenorchy Lagoon, or what is commonly referred to as Mirror Lakes.
Not only is the Glenorchy Walkway scenic, but it’s also really easy, accessible all year round, has tons of birdlife and takes you to a Lord of the Rings filming location! That’s right, the Glenorchy Walkway is an epic hike not too far from Queenstown that’s well worth checking out.
But if you want to hike the Glenorchy Walkway for yourself there are a few things you should know before you lace up your shoes and leave. In this blog, I’ll tell you all about exploring the Glenorchy Walkway and the Glenorchy Lagoon Boardwalk.
Glenorchy Walkway Overview
Distance: 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) return
Elevation gain: 0 (this track is flat – yay!)
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Type of Trail: Loop
The Glenorchy Walkway is the easiest of all the hiking trails in Glenorchy (located only a short drive from Queenstown.) It starts at the main jetty (dock) in Glenorchy town and takes you along Lake Wakatipu’s foreshore until you reach the Glenorchy Lagoon. Here is where you’ll be able to explore the lagoon on various boardwalks as you loop back around to the beginning again.
The Glenorchy Lagoon is also commonly referred to as Mirror Lakes because of how calm the water is. That combined with the many birds around makes for some beautiful photo opportunities!
Oh, and did I mention that they used this location for filming in the Lord of the Rings?! The Dead Marshes were created in a studio in Wellington, and landscape shots were taken near Te Anau. However, the shots of Gollum leading Frodo and Sam through the marshes were filmed here!
So, whether you’re looking for a LOTR film location or just one really beautiful walk, the Glenorchy Walkway is somewhere you’ll definitely want to check out!
Glenorchy Walkway FAQs
What to Pack
Bug repellent – The Glenorchy Walkway takes you to Glenorchy Lagoon which is famous for having sandflies. These little guys bite and leave an itchy mark (somewhat like a mosquito.) Use bug repellent or cover-up to avoid this.
Walking shoes – You don’t need any heavy-duty hiking boots for this walk. In fact, you could probably do it in sandals without a problem. Just do beware that in parts it can be very muddy (especially in Spring).
Sun protection – There isn’t much shade along this walkway. Sunscreen and a hat will come in handy on sunny days.
Water – Although an easy walking trail, there is nowhere to fill or get drinking water. So, bring your own and be prepared for a hot day (especially in the summer months!)
Getting to Glenorchy
The first step to hiking the Glenorchy Walkway is getting to the town of Glenorchy where the trail is located. From Queenstown, Glenorchy is located 46 kilometers (3.1 miles) away, or about a 40-minute drive.
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is absolutely stunning, and in my opinion, it’s easily one of the best things to do in the area. There are viewpoints and other trails along this road too like Moke Lake or Bob’s Cove Track, and you could easily spend a few hours stopping along the way.
I recommend taking an entire day to drive to Glenorchy, stop lots along the way, and then hike the Glenorchy Walkway before returning to Queenstown.
Alternatively, you can actually stay in Glenorchy. It is much smaller than Queenstown and therefore more relaxing. However, there are lots of fun things to do in Glenorchy and even some great places to stay. It isn’t a bad idea to spend a night or two here to check out the Glenorchy Walkway, Paradise, and maybe even day hike the Routeburn Track.
It’s also important to note that the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy is notorious for road closures and accidents in bad weather. Take it slow and carefully. Also, watch for road conditions and don’t drive in the snow!
Tour Option: If you don’t have a vehicle, you can visit Glenorchy on a guided tour. While these tours don’t include time for the Glenorchy Walkway, they do hit a lot of the highlights in the area.
The Glenorchy Walkway Trailhead and Parking
Conveniently, the Glenorchy Walkway starts right at a large parking lot. This parking lot is called the Glenorchy Waterfront Car Park and it can be easily found on Google Maps. It’s located right in the town of Glenorchy and is a place you’ll want to check out anyways.
Here, you can explore the waterfront including the Glenorchy Warf with some incredible views of the Humbolt Mountains and Kinloch Valley across Lake Wakatipu. There is also the historic Glenorchy Railway Shed that was once a steamship depot, receiving and dispatching goods to steamships in the area. Today, it contains information about the shed and Glenorchy – it’s like a tiny museum!
After you’re done checking out the lakefront, head to your right (if you’re facing the lake) to find the Glenorchy Walkway trail. It is the only trail in the area so you can’t miss it!
Parking is free and there is lots of it, so getting a space shouldn’t be a problem.
Tour Option: Dart River Speed Boat operates from here, so if you’re up for an adventure consider booking a speed boat tour! There’s also a short wilderness walk at the end.
Lake Wakatipu and Rees River
The first portion of the trail takes you along the edge of Lake Wakatipu where it connects with the Rees River. You’ll walk next to the river for a short while before the trail takes you inland past a golf course.
This portion of the trail is a nice and easy stroll. The trail is flat and well maintained. Although the views of the lake and river are nice, this isn’t the highlight of the trail and you must keep going to reach the lagoon.
Glenorchy Lagoon Boardwalk
Once past the golf course, you’ll reach the Glenorchy Lagoon and boardwalk. The boardwalk allows you to explore the lagoon without getting your feet wet which is great! The boardwalk loops all the way around the lagoon with a shortcut through the middle. There are also viewpoints with benches and areas to hang out. It’s really a gorgeous place to explore.
I recommend walking to the far side of the lagoon. From here you’ll have views of the Humbolt Mountains in the distance. On a calm day, the mountains reflect perfectly in the lagoon (hence the nickname Mirror Lake Boardwalk.)
If you have time, I would find a bench and sit for a while. In the stillness, you’re more likely to see birds. The Glenorchy Walkway is not generally very busy, and oftentimes you’ll have the entire boardwalk area to yourself!
Related Read: The Glenorchy Walkway is one of the best free activities you can do with kids in Queenstown!
Parking on Glenorchy-Paradise Road
The Glenorchy Walkway Boardwalk is actually located right next to Glenorchy-Paradise Road. Many people cut the walk short by just parking on this road and walking about 50 meters (150 feet) or so directly to the lagoon and boardwalk.
I have to admit, I’ve done this once before myself. It was a super calm day and I wanted to photograph the lagoon reflections without having to walk the entire trail.
With that said, the Department of Conservation does not recommend doing this. There is no proper parking lot or pull-over bay on Glenorchy-Paradise Road and that has made it a high collision location.
So, maybe think twice before doing this. Instead, park in the proper parking lot and complete the entire Glenorchy Walkway trail – it’s a beautiful hike!
Essential Info to Remember
- Try to visit the Glenorchy Walkway on a calm day without any wind. This way you can see the lagoon reflections.
- Bring bug repellent as sandflies can be around.
- Don’t park on Paradise-Glenorchy road to access the lagoon. Instead, park at the allocated parking lot in town and walk the trail.
- If you’re coming all the way to Glenorchy, pair your trip to the Glenorchy Boardwalk with other cool attractions nearby
Where to Stay in Glenorchy
Glenorchy is a beautiful place to spend a night or two. Honestly, the atmosphere is so peaceful and nothing like Queenstown. It’s the perfect place to take a break and unwind. The best places to stay are:
The Headwaters Eco Lodge – This place has it all! It’s a holiday park and has dorm rooms all the way up to luxury accommodation. Breakfast and a 3-course dinner are included daily. The hotel focuses on being environmentally conscious which I love.
Kinloch Wilderness Retreat – Kinloch Retreat is located a short drive out of Glenorchy in an even quieter location on the other side of Lake Wakatipu. Next to Kinloch Retreat is a DOC-owned (but operated by the retreat) campground with non-powered sites for $15 NZD per person per night. Of course, if you want some luxury stay at the retreat where they have dorm beds and luxury rooms.
EcoScapes – EcoScapes is a luxury hotel with the most amazing views. Each room has a large glass wall so you don’t miss a single sunset or sunrise if you don’t want to. They also include a superb breakfast.
There are a few other places to stay in Glenorchy that you can check out on Booking.com. Otherwise, check out some great holiday home rentals in the area.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for Reading!
Overall, the Glenorchy Walkway is one of the best easy hikes around Queenstown. It’s short, offers stunning mountain reflections, and is different than other hikes in the area with a boardwalk through a lagoon! Not to mention, it’s one of the few free things you can do in Glenorchy – bonus!
If there is anything I didn’t already answer in this blog, comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Be sure to also check out all of my other blogs about hikes around Queenstown or hikes around the South Island for some more inspiration! Here are some other specific blogs to give you more inspiration for exploring the Glenorchy area.