Safari of the Scenes – Glenorchy Tour (departs 8.30am & 1.30pm, NZ$175 pp)
This tour offers a comprehensive look around the Glenorchy are, including the Dart River valley and Paradise. There is a lot of driving (around 170km), but the scenery is incredible. I would recommend this tour to nature lovers and serious film buffs.
Glenorchy is a small village at the head of Lake Wakatipu. Formerly only accessible by boat, the road was opened in 1963 and only sealed in the late 1990s. In 1999 (around the time of the biggest flood in the history of the area), Peter Jackson and his team started shooting scenes for the Lord of the Rings trilogy at Paradise, about 20 km beyond Glenorchy.
Nomad Safaris take you on a beautiful drive along the shore of Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy, stopping briefly for photo ops and some local history at Bennett’s Bluff along the way. At Glenorchy you have your last chance for a pit stip before continuing into the remoteness of the Dart River Valley. You will pass by Diamond Lake which offers near perfect reflections on a calm day. Film locations out here include Isengard (yes, the same Isengard that exists in Harcourt Park, Wellington), the native Beech forest that portrayed the Lothlorien woods, and Mount Earnslaw. The view of Mount Earnslaw is the same as the shot of the wizard Saruman sending a storm towards the Fellowship as they try to climb Caradhras. Other film sites in this area include scenes from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian.
On your return from Glenorchy, you will stop at the 12 Mile Delta, a campsite and recreational area on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. This is where Frodo and Sam saw the Oliphant, shortly after Sam cooked up Smeagol’s fresh rabbits (much to Smeagol’s disgust). Faramir and his Rangers ambush the Harad soldiers here, and Frodo & Sam were taken captive. If the conditions permit, you may walk to the exact spot where Elijah Wood and Sean Astin lay on the ground.
You return to Queenstown soon after this, for drop off downtown or at your accommodation.
I would advise when booking this tour that you tell Nomad Safaris if you are a big time LOTR fan. They have a lot of great guides, but some of them are bigger LOTR fans than others. Let them know, and they will try to fit the appropriate guide to your trip.
- Departs 8.30am & 1.30pm
- Duration approx 4 hours
- Price $175NZ per person (cheaper for kids)
- Wear good footwear and dress for the weather
Disclaimer time – I used to work for these guys. I am a little biased towards Nomad Safaris, but it also means I never had a need to try any of the other companies offering similar tours in Queenstown. I’m sure they are good too, but I like to stick with what I know!