Glenorchy is a perfect family holiday spot, writes Kate Watson
If you are looking to reconnect with nature and get a bit of a workout while you're at it, Otago's Glenorchy is just the ticket. On the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, this petite township is the gateway to a number of excellent walks, including the Routeburn Track, and its stunning scenery features in the 2001 Fellowship of the Ring film.
Queenstown, a 45-minute drive away, is convenient for stocking up on groceries pre-arrival, though essentials can be purchased from either of the two main stores. There is also a handful of cafes and restaurants in the town if you need a break from cooking.
Day 1 – The Climb
Need a thigh-burning walk to remind those desk-bound legs what exercise is? Take a 20-minute drive up the Glenorchy Paradise Road, crossing the Rees River and continuing along a narrow gravel road until you reach the Invincible Goldmine Track. There is a small ford just before the track starts that confident drivers may be able to traverse depending on water levels, otherwise be prepared to take your shoes off and walk across. Offering an insight into the gold-mining history of the 1880s, this walk rewards you with some incredible views that are well worth the two-to-three-hour climb.
Day 2 – The Fish
Fancy a spot of fishing but don't have any rods? The small liquor store in the Glenorchy Hotel hires out fishing rods and spinners at a very reasonable price subject to obtaining a fishing licence. With trout and salmon being the main fish in the area, there are catch limits depending on where you choose to fish from.
Our family of four opted for Diamond Lake and spent a very relaxing few hours getting into the meditative fishing zone – unfortunately for us the fish also chose that day to meditate in hidden depths unseen by us.
Day 3 – The Splurge
For a truly memorable experience, book a half-day horse trek with High Country Horses. The two and a half hour trail is suitable for beginners and kids 7 years or older. Accompanied by an experienced guide who will take the time to match you to a compatible horse depending on your level of experience and confidence, the trek takes you across an ever-changing landscape of bushland and the odd rather exciting river crossing that offers plentiful opportunity for great photos. The horses are well-maintained and frequently rotated and rested to ensure they aren't overworked.
Day 4 – The Loop
A 30-minute drive north and across the Dart River will take you to The Lake Sylvan loop walk. At under two hours, this easy-going track meanders through stunning beech forest on a gentle gradient that is ideal for families. The lakefront offers plenty of options for a picnic lunch and, depending on the time of year, a dip.
If food supplies are running low or you're keen for some respite from cooking, finish your day with a meal at the Bold Peak Lodge restaurant which offers generous servings and entertainment courtesy of a pool table or dartboards for a koha donation.
Day 5 – The Thrill
Kids hankering for a change of scene and food supplies running low? Head into Queenstown and ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of the hill and enjoy 220-degree views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables from a 450-metre height. Take your pick of one or both of the two luge tracks for a dose of adrenaline that will please kids and parents alike. I recommend choosing a package that offers a minimum of five rides for the ultimate experience.
When you're finished, grab a meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants in town catering to all budgets before stocking up on food supplies in town or nearby Frankton for the return to Glenorchy.
Day 6 – The Workout
A 45-minute drive circumnavigating the Dart River takes you to the entrance to the Lake Rere Walk. Though graded easy, the track's terrain is mixed, with a few steep climbs in places. Lake Rere itself offers some lovely swimming spots and on the day we went, the water temperature was pleasantly tepid. Later in the walk there are opportunities for more refreshing river dips in selected spots, though do take care to avoid areas with fast-moving currents.
Pack plenty of water for this four-to-six hour hike, particularly on a hot day. This is a highly satisfying walk that will leave you pleasantly weary and ready for a good night's sleep.
Day 7 – The Local
Give the car a day off and stay local. Just past the Trading Post on Mull St, Glenorchy Walkway is an easy one to two-hour boardwalk track on the flat that takes in views of Mounts Earnslaw and Pikirakatahi and circles Glenorchy Lagoon through wetlands where native birdlife abounds.
Afterwards, head to Mrs Woolly's General Store and reward yourself with homemade vanilla bean ice-cream or a slice of their delicious cheesecake or lemon meringue pie to finish off your week of activity.