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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 your 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 for 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 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!
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 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
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!