The Glenorchy District…or Paradise

There have been several movies filmed in the Queenstown area in the past few years. Some of these include the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the first two installments of the Chronicles of Narnia, Wolverine, and now the Hobbit. Today I joined a Pure Glenorchy Tour to the Glenorchy/Paradise area, which is an hour’s drive from Queenstown. Pure Glenorchy is a small, family run business that does scenic and historical tours to Glenorchy. In Queenstown, land of big tourism, it’s a nice touch to see a family business flourishing along with the big boys.

Twelve Mile Delta

Mark, the tour guide

I took the afternoon tour, and the weather was perfect. The 45 km road from Queenstown to Glenorchy follows Lake Wakatipu and is filled with jaw dropping scenery. Several scenes from The Two Towers were shot along this road. According to Mark, our guide, many Queenstown locals were employed as extras during the filming of Lord of the Rings back in 1999. Their pay rate was $300/day. So of course, many Kiwis called in sick to their real jobs during filming!

We stopped at several overlooks along the route to Glenorchy alongside Lake Wakatipu. Lake Wakatipu is a brilliant blue color due to the glacial sediments suspended in the water. It’s 82 km long and almost 400 meters deep, and hovers around 10° C all year, which is even too cold for a polar bear swim.

Lake Wakatipu

Mount Albert is the cone peak with Mount Earnslaw (Misty Mountains) to the right hidden in the clouds. The two islands in the foreground are Pig and Pigeon Islands, which are predator-free bird sanctuaries for Yellowheads and Wekkas.

Glenorchy is a really small town, even for New Zealand, with only 200 residents. However, it supports two pubs. It’s also the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, a world heritage site, and the start of the Routeburn Track, which I hiked last March.

The world's smallest library.

Amon Hen, The Fellowship of the Ring

The road leading out of Glenorchy heads to Paradise, where Lothlorien, Amon Hen, and Isengard were filmed. The sign posted at the junction is one of the most photographed signs in New Zealand, thanks to Lonely Planet. It has also been stolen several times.

The forest of Lothlorien

The famous Paradise sign

This scene has been featured in several movies.

This scenery has been featured in the following films: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Wolverine, and most recently the Hobbit. The farmer that owns this land has made a killing over rental fees for film makers. According to Mark, the farmer charged Peter Jackson $3000/day to film the Lord of the Rings here

The Dart River

Continuing down the road from Paradise, we crossed several small streams, before reaching the end of the road at the Dart River. From this point, it’s only 14 km to Milford Sound, but the mountains are in the way.

On the way back, I had to stop and take a photo of the following sign, which sums up the small town feeling of Glenorchy.

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