12 glorious things to do in Glenorchy

Are you on the hunt for the best things to do in Glenorchy? Whether you’re an adventurer, nature lover or film buff, this tiny town has something for you. Read on for our recommendations to make your trip a huge success.

Glenorchy is known for its dazzling lake, luscious forests and sprawling National Parks.

But did you know that it’s also one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings fans? Boasting several recognisable filming locations, it’s the place to be for film buffs!

Regardless of whether you’re heading to the area for several days or are headed there on a flying visit from Queenstown, you’re here because you’re looking for the best things to do in Glenorchy.

And don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

On this list, we’ve created a round-up of the best spots to visit in Glenorchy, ensuring a fabulous trip.

Covering must-visit places of interest and lesser-known hidden gems, there’s something for everyone in this handy guide!

Zip lining in the forest across the lake of Glenorchy with Paradise Ziplines.
Fly above the river with Paradise Ziplines – one of our top recommendations in Glenorchy. Photo: Paradise Ziplines.

Our Favourite Things to Do in Glenorchy

Enjoy Glenorchy’s Stunning Scenery on a Walk

1. Head to the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn Track is the first activity on our list of things to do in Glenorchy, and it’s a total knockout.

This track is one of the 10 Great Walks of New Zealand. These tracks cover areas of unparalleled natural beauty or cultural importance in Aotearoa

It’ll take you approximately three days to cover the entire 32km stretch. But you can easily chop things in half or do small portions if you’re short on time. It’s even possible to walk in (and then back out again) in a day.

This gorgeous trail features enormous snow-capped peaks, cavernous valleys and glistening lakes. It links Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park, so it’s no wonder it’s a knockout.

It’s possible to sleep in cabins on the trail or at the designated campsites, but you will need to book them well in advance. Alternatively, you can join a day tour if you’re heading down from Queenstown, or walk in as an independent traveller.

Just remember that it’s designed for relatively avid hikers and is considered intermediate in difficulty. So, beginners might want to sit this one out or take things very slowly.

Regardless of how you plan your journey through this glorious natural area, you’re bound to agree that it’s among the best things to do in Glenorchy!

Did you know? It’s free to walk the Routeburn Track, as are all Great Walks in NZ. You do, however, need to pay to stay overnight in a cabin or tent.

Backpackers looking at the mountainous view of Routeburn Track Fiordland.
Incredible views from the Routeburn Track. Photo: Stewart Nimmo.

2. Hike along the Lake Sylvan Track

For such a small town, Glenorchy is home to a surprising number of quality tramping trails. One of which is the Lake Sylvan Track.

Lake Sylvan is a gorgeous spot in Glenorchy that can be accessed along Routeburn Road.

As you move along the track, you’ll pass over a suspension bridge, a glorious red beech forest, and an amazing lookout point that provides unbeatable panoramas over the lake and Mount Earnslaw.

The entire track takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete and is flat and well-marked enough for hikers of all ages.

It’s approximately 30 minutes from the centre of Glenorchy, but it’s well worth the detour.

Rocky surface of Lake Sylvan visible with its shallow, clear waters.

3. Check out the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway

If you’re looking for a fabulous walk that’s more on the relaxing side, give the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway a whirl.

It’s a far easier alternative to the Routeburn Track as it only spans 3.2km (or 5km if you walk the bigger loop) and leads right to the uber-aesthetic Glenorchy Lagoon.

This walk is suitable for everyone, including beginners, as there’s almost no elevation gain.

Just because it’s classed as a simple nature walk, don’t think that you’ll miss out on gorgeous scenery. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

As you stroll along the trail, you’ll be treated to unbeatable vistas of the Humboldt Mountains and Glenorchy Lagoon. You’ll also spot plenty of native birdlife, for which New Zealand is so well known.

And if you’re a Lord of the Rings buff, you might recognize this area as the “Dead Marshes” from The Two Towers!

160 Glenorchy-Paradise Road, Glenorchy 9372

A lagoon boardwalk leading to a bench in front of the hazy waters.
The Glenorchy Lagoon Walk is suitable for the whole family. The mountain to the left is Mt Alfred, and the glacier-clad one to the right is Mt Earnslaw.

4. Visit Lord of the Rings Filming Locations

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, we suggest adding a few of New Zealand’s famous film locations to your list of things to do in Glenorchy.

The best way to cover them quickly and in detail is by heading on a specialist guided tour. We recommend joining our friends at Pure Glenorchy on their guided tour – what’s more, they even give our readers a discount.

These tours take you right into the heart of Middle Earth and through most of the film locations that are in Queenstown and Glenorchy.

Mount Aspiring National Park (which is UNESCO World Heritage-listed and home to the Lothlorien Forest) is a major highlight of this tour. But you’ll also head to 12 Mile Delta and Paradise which is home to major sets.

And if the tour itself wasn’t enough to convince you, the experience includes an incredible picnic and a dress-up session with Lord of the Rings costumes and replica swords!

Talk about value for money.

Raising swords and a staff on top of a hill while overlooking a valley, in reference to the film LOTR.

5. Go Ziplining

Calling all adrenaline junkies and nature lovers!

Ziplining with Paradise Ziplines is the perfect heart-racing fun that’s doable for almost anyone.

This company offers next-level ziplining on their 8-line zipline course. They’ll take you through an impressive 1,000 meters of gorgeous Glenorchy scenery. From native beech forests to impressive alpine rivers, this is among the finest things to do in Glenorchy if you want to blend adventure with aesthetics.

Just make sure that everyone in your travel party is older than 10 years old, or they won’t be allowed to take part.

Pick up: 25 Mull Street, Glenorchy

Book: Paradise ziplines [discounted] 🎟️

Did you know? This trip departs from Glenorchy but they also offer transport from Queenstown.

A tourist holding his selfie stick camera while zipping across a river in Paradise Ziplines.

6. Take the Kiddos to the Glenorchy Animal Experience

Those travelling with kids will want to add the Glenorchy Animal Experience to their list of things to do in Glenorchy.

It’s essentially a family farm surrounded by the most spectacular scenery you’ll ever lay eyes on (hello soaring mountain peaks!)

The animals are incredibly friendly and well cared for, and you can expect to pet everything from guinea pigs and llamas to young lambs and feisty chickens.

The entry fee is fairly affordable and we promise it more than pays for itself if you’ve got animal lovers in the family.

If you’re travelling with more than 1 child, it’s a great idea to grab a family pass at $50NZD which covers two adults and up to three kids.

225 Glenorchy-Paradise Road, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Kids feeding a young lamb with adult supervision.

7. Go Jet Boating or Funyaking on the Dart River

Our next pick for the best things to do in Glenorchy has got to be jet boating and funyaking on the Dart River.

It’s fun, it’s unique, and it’s a wonderful way to see the local area while feeling the wind rushing through your hair!

Choose between:

  • Wilderness Jet: an extended jetboat ride (both up and down river) through Dart River’s glacier-fed waters
  • Funyaking: a jet boat ride upstream, and an inflatable canoe (known as a funyak) ride back downstream, including a delicious lunch.

Whatever you choose, you’ll have professional, experienced guides to keep you safe. And of course, they’ll supply expert commentary on each of the areas you pass through.

This landscape really is second to none, so we highly recommend you pay the team a visit.

Did you know? This trip departs from Glenorchy but they also offer transport from Queenstown.

Two people riding in a red kayak boat in the blue waters of Dart River.
Funyaking on the Dart River is a real Glenorchy highlight.

8. Visit Mrs. Woolly’s for a fabulous pie

If you’re on the lookout for low-key things to do in Glenorchy that’ll also fill you up for the afternoon, then you need to stop by Mrs. Woolly’s General Store.

This place is a local staple and is a fabulous pitstop for sundaes, fresh takeaway food, and of course – their world-famous pies.

It’s frequented by tons of tourists who are looking for a break while driving, but we think their Fairlie pies are genuinely worth going out of your way for.

After you’ve had your fill of kai, check out the arts and crafts, artisan gifts, outdoor gear, and homeware that lines the shelves.

It’s one of our favourite things to do in the area. The food is great (though we must warn you, it isn’t cheap) and we’ll usually walk away with a few new knickknacks to pop on the mantlepiece!

64 Oban Street, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Pies and pastries displayed in a glass shelf of Mrs. Woolly's Store in Glenorchy.

9. Get your Adrenaline Pumping – Go Skydiving!

At the time of writing this article, Skydive Southern Alps was in hibernation due to COVID. Please check if they have reopened. If not, you can Skydive in Queenstown [promo code NZTT] or Wānaka [promo code NZTT].

If jetboating and ziplining don’t get your heart racing, you might want to take things to the next level with a skydiving experience in Glenorchy.

Skydive Southern Alps is the only company in the area and it offers a safe and secure dive.

Their guides are super knowledgeable and will answer any questions that you may have before jumping out of a plane – and you may have a few!

You can choose to dive over Queenstown or Glenorchy, but the views from Glenorchy are slightly superior (in our humble opinion).

You’ll be able to freefall from heights of 15,000 feet if you’re feeling brave, but it’s also possible to start with a 9000-foot descent if you’re a newbie. Anyone that’s jumped before will tell you – the higher the better though.

The prices aren’t cheap, but the scenic flight you get to reach the dropzone is worth the cost alone.

Glenorchy Airport, Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, Glenorchy 9372

Tandem skydive in the Southern Alps.

10. Experience One of the Best Horse Rides in New Zealand

Operating from Mid Rivers Farm, High Country Horses is widely considered one of the best horse trekking operations in New Zealand.

You’ll find them 15 minutes out of Glenorchy, at the top of Lake Wakatipu (or Lake Whakatipu as it should be pronounced in te reo Māori).

With well-mannered horses, unbeatable scenery and experienced guides, this is the perfect place to ride, whether you’re a first-timer or an accomplished equestrian.

What’s more, they’re able to take you to a number of Lord of the Rings filming locations.

We highly recommend paying them a visit.

243 Priory Road, Glenorchy 9372

Crossing a shallow river with horses under the foot of a snow-covered mountain ranges.
Photo: Miles Holden.

11. Snap a Photo by the Iconic Red Shed and Wharf

Perhaps the most famous shed in all of Aotearoa, no visit to Glenorchy is complete without swinging by the red shed.

This was where the people of Glenorchy used to store and sort goods that arrived by steamship. Strangely enough, because the steamers were owned by the New Zealand Railways Department, this officially made it a railway station – with a track that only ran from the wharf to the shed, it was also the shortest railway line in the country.

Now you’ll find information-rich panels inside the shed, sharing information about the region.

You’ll also be able to snap that must-have photo standing in the entrance to the shed, before wandering over to the nearby wharf.

When you’re ready, we suggest turning right and following the trail to the end of the lake and to the outskirts of town – it’s there that you’ll find the Glenorchy Boardwalk

Check out the panels inside about the history of the region and grab that iconic Glenorchy selfie in front of the shed. From the wharf turn right and follow the trail to the end of the lake and around the outskirts of town to join the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway (which is #3 on this list).

Trees on a sloping growth beside a lake near the red barn of Glenorchy facing the green grass.

12. Take to the Skies with Heli Glenorchy

To round off our list of incredible things to do in Glenorchy, we have a once-in-a-lifetime trip with Heli Glenorchy.

For a bit of context, this company offers fabulous helicopter flights over Glenorchy, allowing you to get super close to the mountains and scenic viewpoints (especially compared to the clearance levels required for regular small planes).

On a typical trip, you’ll land on the Humboldt Mountains to enjoy some fresh powder, and of course, you’ll enjoy stunning vistas throughout the flight.

Though all helicopter flights are on the pricey side (they start at $330), you’ll never forget this experience. If you can manage it, we think it’s worth digging around in your pockets for.

35 Mull Street, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

A person taking a photo of Glenorchy using his smartphone while riding a helicopter.

We hope that this list of things to do in Glenorchy has given you a few ideas for your next trip!

Have you ever been to this gorgeous little town just out of Queenstown?

If you have any fantastic activities that you’d like to share, just leave us a comment below!

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