Glenorchy & Paradise don't typically make it on the itinerary for most New Zealand venturers but this short day trip from Queenstown was an absolutely stunner. We like to leave at least one open day in our schedule for each destination to allow for some whimsy and recommendation from locals. When we asked our Airbnb hosts how to occupy this time they, without hesitation, recommended the beautiful, 45 minute drive up the east coast of Lake Wakatipu to these peaceful, rural towns.
Make sure to pack the Dramamine for this one, kids. Similar to the winding, cliffside paths of The Great Ocean Road, the drive hugs to the edge of the lake and offers breathtaking views (and reflections if you're lucky!) of first The Remarkables mountain range and then the Southern Alps. For those willing to geek out a bit, its along this drive that Peter Jackson set up the location for The Lord of the Rings' Amon Hen with this amazing lake as the backdrop.
The tiny town of Glenorchy serves as a quaint gateway to the Southern Alps at the most northern tip of the lake. With only two roads and a local population of 200 (no, I did not forget any zeros...200 people), the eating options are quite limited. Our recommendation would be to grab lunch at the tasty Glenorchy Cafe which looks straight out of the wild west and then picnic on the local wharf overlooking the lake and the mouth of the Dart River...you won't regret either decision.
Just up the road from Glenorchy is the perfectly named, Paradise. The farm, dirt roads go back for miles into the forest and mountains otherwise referred to as Middle Earth. This area was the LOTR filming location for Lothlorien, Isengard, and a butt-load of Ents but also starred in the Chronicles of Narnia. You can almost smell the orcs...or it could be all the sheep. Even without all that, it's just plain awesome. If you have extra time and an affinity for trekking, the Routeburn Track starts nearby and is considered to be on of NZ's more incredible hikes...and that's saying something.
Right before this little day trip I had the best idea EVER: Buy an aux cord, get a free trial of Spotify premium, download the entire LOTR / Hobbit movies soundtracks and BLAST them as we drive through Middle Earth. It made our drive even more epic and we proceeded jam out to it for the next three weeks in NZ (that and the newest Lone Bellow album when we needed a break from Hobbit tunes.) We seriously recommend making custom playlists for your travels and Spotify makes it so easy -- we first started doing this in Iceland and it blew our minds.
What are some of your favorite road trip / adventure jams? Lord Huron is definitely one of our standards for exploring new places.