Get a description and see a video of a 16 km scenic drive from Glenorchy to an Isengard lookout offering mountain, river, and Lord of the Rings scenery.
Isengard, Lothlórien, and Amon Hen in the Lord of the Rings was used as the location of the Tower of Orthanc nestled in Nan Curunír, a large, almost encircled valley at the southern end of the Misty Mountains.
To reach this Lord of the Rings location, you would have to drive past Paradise, a small village North of Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand.
The scenic drive described in this article does not drive to Paradise and beyond, which requires driving on a gravel road (use a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you want to venture down there or book a tour with Dart River Safaris or Dart Stables that can take you there), but rather drives to a bridge where you can get a distant, but nonetheless impressive, view of Isengard and Lord of the Rings scenery.
Driving at about 80 to 100 km/h (50 to 62 mph) – the maximum speed limit on open roads in New Zealand is 100 km/h (62 mph) – it would take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to drive from Glenorchy to the one-lane bridge that crosses over the Dart River.
The driving route from Glenorchy to the Dart River bridge consists of mostly straight stretches of roads with a few curves. You will have to cross 2 one-lane bridges (one short one that crosses a creek and a longer one that crosses the Rees River) before reaching the third one-lane bridge and the one used on this scenic drive as a stop to look towards Isengard and enjoy Lord of the Rings scenery near Paradise and Glenorchy.
I have driven this road in all seasons and have never seen it completely snowed in. Chains are generally not required on this road, but it is always good to carry them if you are doing winter driving on the South Island.
I do not recommend doing this scenic drive in winter because of the position of the sun. The Dart River looks its best when the sun is high in the sky on a cloudless day. Because the sun is positioned more north than south in winter, you are almost always guaranteed to be looking into the sun at this Lord of the Rings scenery lookout.
In addition, the best lighting for seeing (not photographing) the mountains and river near Isengard is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., because the sun will not be hitting the river in the early morning and late afternoon hours. It is during the midday hours you will be looking into the sun during winter in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to get to Glenorchy by road. So the best way by road is just to drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy on the Glenorchy - Queenstown Road.
And the quickest way to get to Queenstown in New Zealand is to fly into Queenstown airport. However, if you cannot find flights to Queenstown, you can always choose to fly into either Dunedin airport or Christchurch airport, and then drive to Queenstown.
But please bear in mind that the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown can take up to 7 hours or more. Once you’re in Queenstown, there will be only one road going to Glenorchy.
|Driving distance:||16 km (10 mi)|
|Driving time:||10 – 15 minutes|
|Road type:||Sealed (paved) road|
|Road condition:||Very good; mostly smooth driving|
|Best time to drive:||Late morning / early afternoon|
|What you’ll see:||Mountains, snow in winter and spring, Rees River, Dart River, one-lane bridges|
The following map shows the starting point (arrow with star) and end point (flag) for this scenic drive when driving from Glenorchy to the Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand. Use the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out of the map to see more or less detail on the map. The Lord of the Rings icon marks the location of Isengard, Lothlórien, and Amon Hen.
Figure 1. Map of the scenic from Glenorchy to Isengard (LOTR) lookout in New Zealand.
The following 4-minute video gives you a taste of what to expect on this scenic drive on from Glenorchy to a scenic lookout over the Dart River, looking towards Isengard, known from the Lord of the Rings on the South Island of New Zealand.
Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.