On the ninth day of our Queenstown trip, we opted for a different mode of travel. We rent a car instead of joining a guided tour and immerse ourselves in the breathtaking beauty of the Queenstown to Glenorchy highway, renowned as one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand.
We started our day with breakfast at Colonial Village Motel before starting our road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy at 9 am. The weather forecast predicted a mix of sunshine and rain, and true to its words, we were treated to stunning views of majestic mountain peaks and the tranquil Wakatipu Lake.
The highway spans 46 km (29 miles), and we planned to make several stops to appreciate its captivating scenery.
1. The Queenstown to Glenorchy scene drive
We relied on Google Maps and various online resources to identify vantage points along the route. This remarkable journey was not just the final destination but to witness the ever-changing landscapes that unfold with each twist and turn. Describing the sheer beauty and allure of the viewpoints we encountered is challenging. Nevertheless, we have curated a collection of our best photos captured during the trip and the names of the stops we made.
a. Sunshine Bay
Sunshine Bay is an inlet of Lake Wakatipu and is a pretty spot with good views. The Sunshine Bay Walk is a good walk along the edge of the lake and offers great views of Lake Wakatipu. The walk provides plenty of spectacular views of the lake and mountain vistas. The first third of a mile is through beech forest on the lakeshore, and the trail opens up to beautiful cottage-like rocky beach views between the mountains and the lake.
Since we had walked this trail the day before, we didn’t stop there and continued driving to the next destination. You can view more photos we took during our walk at the end of this story.
b. Seven Mile Track Parking Lot
The Seven Mile Track is a picturesque singletrack mountain bike trail spanning 9.5 km (5.9 miles). It provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The place we stopped was at the car park, also the track’s starting point.
c. Wilsons Bay
Wilson Bay is approximately 10 km from downtown Queenstown. It has spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu from the vantage points.
d. Twelve Mile Delta Campsite
Twelve Mile Delta is a popular camping ground.
e. Glentui Heights
It is not exactly a tourist attraction point, but we were mesmerized by the beautiful view of the grassland and the mountain range as the backdrop illuminated by the golden rays of sunlight. We were glad to stop here since we drove instead of taking a group tour.
f. Bennetts Bluff Lookout
Bennetts Bluff Lookout is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and is frequently featured in New Zealand and the Queenstown region promotions. A short walk leads to a newly opened viewing area (since 2021) that offers mesmerizing vistas of the Wakatipu Lake and mountains.
g. Lake Face Creek
Due to the ongoing rain, we decided to forgo the walk to the waterfall on the side of the road.
h. Blanket Bay
While not specifically categorized as a tourist attraction, the captivating scenery surrounding this hotel compelled us to stop and capture its beauty through stunning photographs.
Watch the video we shot on our way to Glenorchy It is at the end of this article. 👇👇
At around 11:30 am, we reached Glenorchy and went to the Glenorchy Wharf at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu.
We also visited the iconic pink building near the jetty. Inside this small building are posters depicting the history and providing other information about Glenorchy.
Since limited lunch options are available in this small township, we stopped at the Trading Post. Despite the rain, we enjoy a simple lunch at this coffee house cum souvenir shop.
The rain did not stop, so we canceled our plan to walk on the Glenorchy Scenic Walkway. Instead, drove to Paradise, approximately a 25-minute drive away.
Paradise is a small settlement with breathtaking landscapes. Many scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia movies are being filmed here.
The road conditions gradually transitioned into gravel, leading us to a remote area without an internet connection. It led us to a stream flowing across the road without a bridge. A signboard labeled it as the River Jordan, which is a stream that flows into Diamond Lake.
The Diamond Lake Picnic Area is not too far ahead, a campsite where you can enjoy the picturesque view of Diamond Lake with the gorgeous backdrop of the mountain ranges.
4. Returning trip to Queenstown
Amidst the pouring rain, we left Paradise, taking the Queenstown-Glenorchy road back to Queenstown and returning the rental car to RAD Car Hire. It was a worthwhile trip, and the best way is to self-drive to fully appreciate the stunning scenery at every stop.
We missed a few best spots as we only planned for a half-day tour. You can include Moke Lake And Bob’s Cove in your itinerary, plus hiking at one of the trails for a full-day adventure.
5. Sunshine Bay Walk (more photos)
Two days ago, we also took one of the great walks along the Glenorchy-Queenstown road. We took the bus to Sunshine Bay in the afternoon and leisurely strolled back to central Queenstown for dinner. This easy walk took us about 1.5 hours. Here are some photos we captured at the Sunshine Bay Track.
Watch the video we shot during our trip.👇👇
We also upload a video we shot during our trip to Glenorchy. Please click the image below to bring you to our YouTube channel (shot in high definition!). You may also want to check out our Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound visit.