Glenorchy or Bust


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Glenorchy
May 2nd 2021
Published: May 5th 2021
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The fine and sunny weather keeps on keeping on and is not spoiling our plans to get to a new location for us or back to places we have been to before.

You might think we would lie in bed a bit longer and enjoy the views over to Kelvin Heights because it is Sunday.But,no,with a planned trip to Glenorchy, some 50km north of Queenstown at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, we need to be a bit more on the ball this morning.

But before we get to the Grand Tour’s top undiscovered location we have a couple of other places to revisit that we have been to before.

First though we have a mystery to solve.

Since we arrived we have watched cars travel slowly up and down a road on Kelvin Heights above the housing that appears to end at the top of the hill where there seems to be communication aerials etc.It isn’t that we necessarily have to get to the top but it would be interesting to look back over at where our apartment is situated from the other side of the stretch of water known as Frankton Arm. How to get to where the road starts though could be interesting as when we have checked Google Maps, no road is shown!

Heading past the airport we located the road to Kelvin Heights and started our exploration of how to get to the summit of the hill opposite our apartment.

The suburb is less compacted with houses as the downtown area is and although there are houses perched on the side of the cliffs above the water they seem more accessible than some on the other side of the water including the access to our apartment.

One mystery that we think we solved was where the bright light in a row of lights was coming from. It turned out to be a Christian camp with a lot of buildings which had the ‘Full’ sign up.

We drove to where the houses ended with only one obvious road into a domain being the likely access up the hill.

We found the local croquet greens, which looked in very good order, but no road up the hill.

With other places to go today we gave the idea of making our way up the hill away and drove back past the airport and turned towards Lake Hayes and Arrowtown.

We thought that taking a stop at Lake Hayes rather than just driving past might reveal some trees with the autumn colours we were after. But no such luck and we must say we were a bit disappointed leaving that expectation unsettled.

Arrowtown was a different story and although we entered from a direction we weren’t familiar with the small town did not disappoint.

Gone are the schoolchildren and their parents that were evident in Queenstown and we guess they have all headed back to wherever their homes are located. So Arrowtown has been given over to the over 65’s and the couples whose children are off their hands. There are plenty of us and the narrow main street is full of people strolling along admiring the original buildings from the late 1800’s which make up the set of shops, cafes and small restaurants that make up the commercial area of the town.

The scene looking along the main street was as we remembered from past visits and in reality nothing much looked like it had changed.

The autumn colours in the street looked a bit more vibrant and we put that down to perhaps the overnight temperatures being colder than Queenstown.

With a distance of around 50km from Queenstown to the new location to discover we completed our stroll around Arrowtown and headed for Queenstown.

We are unsure of what there will be to discover at Glenorchy as we hadn’t done any research so whatever turns up will all be new to us.

Driving through Queenstown confirmed what was apparent in Arrowtown that school children and their parents had finished their holiday and headed home as the streets were fairly deserted even at midday.

We are using our trusty 2001 NZ Road Atlas for our driving guide and we expected to find that about 2/3’s of the road to Glenorchy would be unsealed. However to our surprise the road was sealed all the way with a dotted line down the middle all the way.

We passed by a number of small newish small settlements and stopped at a couple of points on the road where the views up and down as well as across the lake were outstanding.

Soon after passing Pig Island and then Pigeon Island in the middle of the lake we came into the outskirts of Glenorchy which we could now tell was going to be a much larger location than what we had imagined.

There are a number of places to have a coffee including the Glenorchy Hotel but we chose a café with comfortable leather couch to sit back in and enjoy the ambience of the village and the surrounding mountains from the large window adjacent to where were sitting. And of course cheese rolls were on the menu and hard to resist.

Taking the short drive down to the lakefront we noticed a van load of Asian people which continued to stretch our imagination that NZ does still in fact have ‘tourists’. This is not the first occasion since the start of the Grand Tour that we have had the feeling that there are people touring the country that don’t actually live here permanently. How can we make that assumption you may ask? Well, often it is the language/dialect we hear and the way some people conduct themselves.

Down at the lakeside is the iconic Glenorchy labelled red railway shed which we have seen in photos. Getting a moment when there wasn’t someone taking photos of their group meant that you almost had to line up for your turn.

In the late 1800’s when the railway line reached Kingston steamers plied to and from around Lake Wakatipu including to Glenorchy and in 1902 NZ Rail took over the service and hence eventually the railway red shed was built as the depot for goods coming and going from the area.In 1962 the road from Queenstown was opened and the steamer TSS Earnslaw stopped the service it was providing from Queenstown.Today the red shed looks to be in great condition and long may it stay that way even though it looks out of place with no rail line heading past it.

With only one way in and out of Glenorchy we retraced our steps back towards Queenstown and back to our apartment.

Tomorrow we head south to Invercargill to prepare for our flight to Stewart Island in what will almost certainly be the highlight of the Grand Tour.


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7th May 2021

Inspiration received
Have loved your blog once again and want you to know that we have decided to have a rental car in Queenstown after all. May even get a trip down to Glenorchy if weather plays ball.
7th May 2021

Glenorchy and the drive won't dissapoint
Good idea on the car.You will have so much more freedom and there are so many undiscovered places to see.We count the Glenorchy drive as one of the best on the Grand Tour....so far.Off to Tekapo today if we can find our way out in the pea soup fog at Lawrence.

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