Glenorchy is known as the gateway to a number of New Zealand’s iconic walking tracks, including the Routeburn, Rees-Dart and Greenstone-Caples. But it pays to take your time here – the town has so much more to offer for the discerning outdoors connoisseur. Local Vladka Kennett shares some of her favorite spots and activities for a day at the Head of the Lake.
Dawn: If you happen to be an early bird, this is the time to walk the recently extended Lagoon Walkway and watch the sun rise above the Richardson Mountains. Take your time and contemplate the views and tranquillity of wakening nature – reflections in the lagoon, black swans, morning mist, rich colours.
Dawn plus 5: Extend your walk to the end of the historic Glenorchy Wharf with NZ’s shortest railway line and greet Lake Wakatipu. While there, visit the Red Wharf Shed and explore the history of the area from the interpretation panels inside.
0800: To face the day’s adventures you need a hearty breakfast. Choose between the Glenorchy Hotel and Foxy’s Café.
0845: Depending on the weather and the lake conditions paddle across to Pigeon and Pig islands to explore the scenic reserves (if you don’t have your own kayak, try a guided tour with rippledearth.co.nz) or take the easy beech forested stroll into Lake Sylvan. A hidden gem nestled in surrounding bush with good views of Mt Earnslaw’s Turret Head. In summer, take your togs and have a swim in the lake or just enjoy the rich bird life. If you are lucky, you’ll see a mohua/yellowhead.
1230: Time for a culinary delight at Glenorchy Café. To really fill up, try either the salmon bruschetta or the monster steak sandwich. Go for it, you’ll burn off those extra calories later. Afterwards, walk to the Trading Post where you can also spoil yourself with a fresh made smoothie or fruit juice.
1400: Time for some tramping – or mountain biking – in one of the most interesting historic sites in Glenorchy: the Whakaari Conservation Area scheelite mining trails. The tracks were opened to the public in 2007 and offer a unique insight into the scheelite mining industry and the miners’ hard lives. From the tops you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu and the Humboldt Mountains.
1900: Back at the car, drive to Kinloch Lodge on the opposite side of Lake Wakatipu for your pre-booked dinner.
Take the Glenorchy Heritage trail, opened to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the settlement of the district. With a wee map you can see the refurbished library, visit the museum or just get some inspiration from the local shops and art galleries.
Take a picnic hamper and drive about 20min north of the village to Diamond Lake to the top end of Mt Alfred. The Middle Earth scenery here – it was a location in the Lord of the rings and Hobbit movies – is second to none.