If there’s one place in New Zealand that entices you to visit with its name alone it’s Paradise, a tiny town (OK, not really a town) close to Glenorchy, which is itself close to Queenstown. What is a trip to Paradise like? Well, there’s a scenic drive, an incredibly underrated hike and one of New Zealand’s most photographed road signs. Keep reading as I take you on tour of Paradise!
Driving to Paradise
I should probably clear something up early — the name Paradise is likely derived from the breed of duck (Paradise Ducks are a thing, just in case your duck knowledge isn’t up to scratch). It’s still a special place though, and the drive from Queenstown, partly along the shimmering Lake Wakatipu, is a huge part of the appeal. Once past Glenorchy the road turns to gravel and gets narrow in parts. The drive from Queenstown takes about an hour (more if you stop for photos as much as we do) or 25 minutes from Glenorchy. Diamond Lake, just a few minutes from Paradise, is a nice place to stop along the way and also make sure you do the Glenorchy Walkway — it’s the perfect short hike, especially when there’s snow on the hills.
The first thing you’ll notice in Paradise is the sign. Actually, that’s one of the only things you’ll notice. There’s pretty much nothing else there, at least that’s what I thought the first time I visited. I continued to drive until I reached a section of road my car would struggle with and then drove back to Queenstown, a little confused as to why people visit this place. Then I did some research and found there is more to Paradise than meets the eye.
A Scenic Short Walk
The hike in Paradise wins the prize for worst signage — you would never see it unless you were looking for it. Shortly after the Paradise sign you’ll see what looks like a private driveway with a sign written in Chinese. It goes uphill a little and then opens up to a collection of old buildings. This is the site of the former Paradise Homestead (which burnt down a few years ago) but there are still accommodation options there, including two large houses and several rustic huts. This is also where the walk starts.
As soon as we got out of the car we were greeted by a friendly old dog, who joined us for the first part of the walk but then obviously got too tired. The track starts off through the forest and eventually opens up to some stunning views of the valley and mountains. Some of this scenery appeared in the Lord of the Rings movies (Isengard) and it’s my favourite Lord of the Rings filming location close to Queenstown.
There are some old huts along the way and a little hill with a seat which looks out over the mountains. To find that spot you’ll have to head to the mine, a slight detour from the main track. The main track is a loop and takes you to some great viewpoints. There’s also a place for weddings set up there — if you’re looking for a rustic wedding spot in New Zealand with a mountain backdrop this could be the spot.
All up the hike should take around 90 minutes and it’s pretty easy. Wear decent shoes as it gets muddy in parts. We did this hike in October and there was still plenty of snow on the hills. We also didn’t see anyone else on the track — and people say Queenstown and its surrounds are getting overrun! It’s always possible to escape the crowds, even in (or close to) the most popular of tourist destinations.
With the end of the hike came the end of our trip to Paradise. The hike was easily the highlight and I’d recommended anyone visiting Queenstown to make the journey to this quiet spot.
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