The road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most breathtaking in New Zealand. As a local to Queenstown, I drive Glenorchy-Queenstown Road a lot. Whether it’s playing tour guide with friends and family who have come to visit me, or just heading down to enjoy one of the best free things to do in Glenorchy, I swear I must drive the highway multiple times a year!
Honestly, I don’t mind. The road to Glenorchy from Queenstown is filled with epic places to stop, and at every time of the year, there are unique views to see. However, as a visitor to Queenstown, it can be hard to know exactly where to stop. Let’s face it, many of the best stops between Queenstown and Glenorchy can easily be missed.
To help you plan your trip to Glenorchy, this blog includes the 12 best places to stop along the way in order from closest to Queenstown to furthest. The best part about this list is, you can visit all of them in a day! Of course, if you want to hike all of the trails then you will need a little more time!
About the Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy
Glenorchy-Queenstown Road is a 46-kilometer (29 miles) highway that follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu until it reaches the small town of Glenorchy. Driving the highway is not only considered one of the best things to do in Queenstown but also in Glenorchy.
It takes around 45 minutes to complete the drive without stopping if you’ve done it before. Because I know the road well, it’s easy to drive within the speed limit. However, for visitors who don’t know the highway’s sharp turns and narrow parts, it will take a little longer. That shouldn’t be a problem because you’re on holiday and you’ll likely be stopping lots along the way.
Unfortunately, there is no public bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy, only organized tours which I talk about below. So, the best way to explore is to rent a car in Queenstown (I always use Discover Cars for the best deal) and go. Make sure to check out all my tips on renting a car in New Zealand before you do!
If you choose to do all of the stops on this list and maybe hike one trail, then you’ll need around 3 to 4 hours. If you plan to leave Queenstown early in the morning then you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy some of the best things to do in Glenorchy.
Queenstown to Glenorchy FAQs
12 BEST Stops on the Scenic Drive to Glenorchy
1. Sunshine Bay
Sunshine Bay is the first place to stop on the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. The small secluded beach is really popular among locals who come to avoid the crowds of Queenstown Beach. As the name suggests, you can come here to enjoy the sunshine! Of course, the water is freezing but if it’s hot enough outside you’ll be tempted to jump in! Personally though, I just tan on the beach!
There are two ways to access Sunshine Bay with the first being the Sunshine Bay parking lot. From the parking lot, you are only seconds from the beautiful beach and on a road trip to Glenorchy, this is likely what you’ll do. The other way involves hiking Sunshine Bay Track. This 2-kilometer (1.2 miles) trail is one of the best easy hikes in Queenstown and it starts just past the traffic circle (roundabout) on Lake Esplanade Road.
2. Little Thailand Rock Jump
This next stop is a quick one, but one I actually recommend skipping. As you drive past Sunshine Bay look to your left for a small gravel pullover bay. Here, you can park up for views of Lake Wakatipu and it’s also the location of a cliff jump in Queenstown.
In all honestly, this stop is one you can easily skip. For one, the pullover bay is dangerous (especially with the windy roads,) not to mention there is a better, and safer, viewpoint just up the road at Seven Mile Point.
3. Seven Mile Point Track Parking Lot
Next up is one of my favorite viewpoints and hikes along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. Seven Mile Point is, you guessed it, around 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Queenstown. Located on your left, this small parking lot is actually the trailhead of the 7 Mile Point Track.
This short but beautiful hiking trail passes 7 Mile Point (that’s why the parking lot isn’t exactly 7 miles from Queenstown) before finishing in Wilson Bay – another stop on this list. It takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to walk the trail at a slow pace.
Even if you don’t plan on hiking the trail, this is a great place to stop to enjoy views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. You may even catch a glimpse of the TSS Earnslaw cruise in Queenstown sailing back.
4. Moke Lake
Moke Lake is my all-time favorite place to stop between Queenstown and Glenorchy. Not only are there lots of awesome things to do at Moke Lake, but the lake and surrounding landscapes are stunning!
To reach Moke Lake you’ll need to turn right onto Moke Lake Road right at the 7 Mile Point parking lot. From there, it’s a 15-minute drive to the lake with part of that being on a gravel road. Once there, you can simply enjoy the views, and hike the Moke Lake loop or Moke Lake Viewpoint Trail. On top of that, you can go fishing, kayaking, and even spend the night at the DOC campsite!
For more, be sure to read my complete guide to visiting Moke Lake. It includes all the best things to do and tips for visiting!
5. Wilson Bay
If you decided not to hike the 7 Mile Point Track the good news is you can still visit Wilson Bay. As you drive past Moke Lake Road continue on for a few kilometers before you see Wilson Bay on your left. The bay is huge and there is a large parking lot right on the edge of the lake.
I love stopping at Wilson Bay to skip some rocks, watch the ducks, and even get some great snaps. Stopping here doesn’t take long, but is a must on any Queenstown to Glenorchy road trip.
6. Lake Dispute Walkway
Starting near Wilson Bay on the other side of the highway is the Lake Dispute Walkway. To reach the lake it only takes about 45 minutes of walking each way, but you can also link the Lake dispute Walkway with the Mt Crichton loop (which I mention below.)
I’ve personally not yet hiked the Lake Dispute Walkway but plan to one day. Reviews of the trail from friends are all positive, but they don’t consider it one of the top hiking trails in Queenstown.
It’s best to park at Wilson Bay and walk to the trailhead along the road. This is because there is no parking lot at the actual trailhead and people often park on the side of the road, which is very dangerous.
7. Twelve Mile Delta Campground
Only a few minutes up the road from Wilson Bay is Twelve Mile Delta Campground. Located on the edge of the lake, this is a gorgeous place to explore even just for a few minutes. If you drive down and keep left towards the boat launch area, you can park up and look back at Queenstown enjoying spectacular views of The Remarkables Mountain Range.
Another interesting attraction here is Ithilien Camp, which is where a famous scene from the Lord of the Rings was filmed. The scene shows Frodo and Sam with Gollum cooking a rabbit on a small fire. The fire pit was left behind (I don’t know if it’s the exact one used in the films though) and remains today.
If you are looking for a place to camp for the night then Twelve Mile Delta Campground is a great option. It’s located close to Queenstown and camp fees are standard just DOC rates which are $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 for kids.
8. Mt Crichton Loop Track
Mt Crichton Loop is a super unique hike in Queenstown. The trail, although not the most beautiful, visits a few historical attractions including an old mining tunnel (that you can safely explore) and a mining hut called Sam Summers Hut. The hut itself was built in the 1930s and you actually used to be able to stay there for free, I think they stopped allowing it because it’s pretty run down.
The full Mt Crichton Loop is 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and takes around 2 hours to walk. If you walk clockwise, the trail is pretty easy with a gradual climb. There is a beautiful viewpoint of Lake Wakatipu along the trail as well as a waterfall. Kids love the trail and it’s an activity suitable for the entire family.
9. Bob’s Cove
Bob’s Cove is one place every visitor doing a road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy should visit. Not only is it absolutely stunning but it’s also home to one of the best easy hikes in Queenstown.
Bob’s Cove Track is a short but rewarding hike that leads to a viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu. It’s the easiest hike with the most rewarding view in Queenstown. In fact, it only takes 30 minutes to hike the entire Bob’s Cove Lookout Track. If the picture above shows the view from the top of the track at Picnic Point.
If you do choose not to do the hike, then at least stop at Bob’s Cove and take look around. You can relax on the beach, walk around the jetty, or just take a few pictures before moving on! Hanging out at Bob’s Cove is one of the most relaxing things you can do in Queenstown.
10. Bennetts Bluff Lookout
For the best views of Lake Wakatipu, you need to make the short but sweet stop at Bennetts Bluff Lookout. This lookout used to be a small pullover bay, however, due to its popularity, the DOC has turned it into a large parking lot with a small walking track to the lookout.
The trail only takes a few minutes and at the viewpoint, you can stare into the distance at Glenorchy and the surrounding mountain peaks.
For me though, it’s the views of the road and lake that make me stop here literally every time I make the trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy!
11. Little Paradise Wharf
The last stop before Glenorchy is a small freedom camping site called Little Paradise Wharf. This place is famous among photographers who come to the lake to photograph an old wooden jetty that’s completely fallen apart. Aside from that, it’s a beautiful place to visit and in the spring you’ll often find colorful lupins (flowers) growing near the lake.
You can find Little Paradise Wharf just near the Little Paradise Lodge. It’s on your left-hand side. This is another really short stop unless of course, you choose to spend the night!
UPDATE: Unfortunately the small gravel road that was used to access this area has been closed down by the DOC. You can still visit by parking on the road but it’s not always safe so I’d recommend skipping it.
The number one reason to drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is to explore Glenorchy. This small town is so cute and with the gorgeous surrounding landscape, you’ll never want to leave.
Of course, there are lots of amazing things to do in Glenorchy, and a few of the best include the Glenorchy Walkway, joining a tour at the Glenorchy Animal Experience, hiking the Routeburn track for the day, and the famous jet boating tour.
You can also head off a little further and explore the beautiful region of Paradise. That’s right, there is a place in New Zealand that’s actually called Paradise. Many of the best hikes in Glenorchy are located in Paradise including one of my all-time favorites the Earnslaw Burn Track. This completely free overnight hike has you camping right below the Earnslaw Glacier! You can read about it in my hikes in Glenorchy blog!
Queenstown to Glenorchy Tours
If you don’t have your own car and don’t want to rent one in Queenstown then you can join a huge range of organized tours instead. The two main types of tours in Glenorchy are Lord of the Rings tours and scenic tours.
Both are very similar, but on a Glenorchy Lord of the Rings tour, you’ll visit specific film locations with your guide. I’ve done a Lord of the Rings tour before and loved it. Even though I’m not a huge LOTR fan, I still really enjoyed the tour and the scenery.
So, if you don’t have wheels but still want to explore the stunning drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, a tour is the best way!
Essential Things to Know Before You Go
- Driving in the winter or during heavy rain is dangerous on Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. Heavy rain can cause landslides so be sure to check the weather and only travel when safe to do so.
- There is a fuel station in Glenorchy, however, it is pricey. To save money, fill up in Queenstown beforehand.
- There are a few cafes and restaurants in Glenorchy, so if you don’t bring food, don’t worry. A favorite of mine is The Trading Post Café.
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!
A road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy is a bucket-list experience in New Zealand. It is one of the best road trips on the South Island and one you should definitely consider. With the above stops, the journey is sure to be one to remember.
Thanks so much for reading! If you found this guide helpful then browse around My Queenstown Diary. This blog is filled with lots of amazing guides from Queenstown and the surrounding area! Or check out so of these guides below: