YOU'RE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MIDDLE-EARTH
If you've see the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you're already familiar with some of Queenstown's most picturesque places. Rugged mountains, lush beech forests, golden hill country and crystal clear waterways made Queenstown, Glenorchy and Arrowtown perfect for many Middle-earth locations. Fans will recognise the Ford of Bruinen, Dimrill Dale, Ithilien, Isengard, Lothlorien, Amon Hen and the Pillars of the Kings.
Several operators conduct specialised tours of Lord of the Rings filming sites. These tours are increasingly popular with LOTR fans; they're also great for those who just want to see the magnificent back country.
TAKE A WALK THROUGH HISTORY IN ARROWTOWN
Less than half an hour from Queenstown, Arrowtown is home to the superb Lakes District Museum, often described as one of New Zealand's best small museums. Much of Arrowtown's history is very much alive and in daily use. Wander the banks of the Arrow River and discover life as it was for the Chinese gold miners - their humble village can still be seen tucked into the riverbank. The main street, Buckingham Street, is testament to the town's determination to preserve its illustrious past. Historic buildings house a stylish shopping and dining precinct. Pick up a directory of historic buildings from the museum and spend an afternoon exploring Arrowtown's unique history. In April and May, the town's trees are a magnificent sight - one of the best autumn displays in the country.
GLENORCHY - THE GATEWAY TO PARADISE
Bordered by a World Heritage area, the frontier village of Glenorchy at the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu is completely surrounded by mountains, glacier fed rivers and beech forest. The road to Glenorchy promises breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu and glacial geological formations, including sheer mountain sides and hanging valleys. 20 kilometres further on is Paradise, a tiny farming settlement where the road evolves into a 4WD track and, eventually, a walking path. Many of New Zealand's great walks start or finish just beyond Glenorchy. You can walk across the great divide via the Routeburn, Greenstone or Caples tracks or across the Mt Aspiring National Park on the Dart/ Rees Track.
SKIPPERS CANYON - THE ROAD TO HIGH ADVENTURE
From the 1860’s until quite recently, Skippers Canyon was the centre of gold mining activity in the Queenstown region. Historic sites still exist today, so it's easy to imagine the harsh life of a gold digger. A number of original gold mining workings are being progressively restored.
Hand carved out of solid rock, the Skippers Road is an adventure in itself. Pause to take in the stunning views - looking down is likely to make your toes tingle. There are several adventure operators making good use of the road and the canyon. Depending on your appetite for thrills, you can take a ride on the flying fox, go white water rafting or get a vertical view of the canyon attached to a bungy. Less terrifying options include blasting along the Shotover River in a jet boat, walking across a historic pipeline or a visit to Winky's Museum.