“Do you want to drive to Paradise?”
It’s the sort of offer a girl can’t refuse on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, even if her to-do list is growing terrifyingly long. So I slung my camera in my bag, hoped there was enough space on my memory card and pulled on whatever vaguely outdoorsy clothing I have (there are 26 dresses in my wardrobe, and only 1 pair of jeans. Sensible).
The drives in New Zealand are, naturally, bat shit crazy beautiful. But the drive towards Glenorchy might be one of the best. Curling around the edge of Lake Wakatipu, the road offers endless mountain views across its unnatural blueness. As you get closer to Glenorchy the peaks of Mt Aspiring national park come in to focus, along with the Earnslaw Burn glacier shimmering in the distance.
But we weren’t here for the drive, it was what was at the end of it that mattered. Today was all about one thing – finding Paradise.
Located a short drive out of Glenorchy (and one most definitely not suitable for hire cars or campervans!), Paradise is a beautiful property with rolling green hills set in the middle of frosted mountains. It was either named for its natural beauty or the many paradise ducks that live in the area. Either way, the name seems very apt.
The Paradise trust is a property set in the wilderness, and for a small donation visitors are welcome to explore it for themselves. Spoiler alert: we totally did.
Set on the edge of the Mt Aspiring national park, even in summer the highest mountains are still covered in snow. Contrasted with the greenery we were walking through I had a bit of a Julie Andrews moment. The urge to belt out “the hiiiills are aliiiive!” and spin in circles was overpowering.
Neither Josh or I have any idea if we followed the correct walking track as it is not very well signposted at all. Rather than worrying we simply ambled along and took the least sinister looking route through the trees. The area is also famous for its horse treks, evidence of which occasionally lay on the path requiring a deft leap over the top…
If you’re looking for a unique way to stay in the mountains, the property is dotted with adorable little huts. Not exactly luxurious but packed with character, the opportunity to wake up right in the mountains would be amazing. Plus how cosy would it be to sit around an open fire as you wait for the stars to come out?
We stumbled on a few of the huts and, as they were unoccupied, couldn’t resist taking a little peek inside. It was like something out of a film set, all open fire and hanging pots and pans. When there’s a box urging you to mouse proof your food you know you’re not in a 5* hotel. But personally? I’d take the cottages any day. Especially the one with an outdoor bath, heated from underneath by a fire. Yeah, I’m going to need to do that in winter – can you imagine taking a bath in the snow?
Keen to even out our karma after our snooping, Josh chopped up some firewood for whoever was enjoying Paradise next. Lucky things.
If you’re in Queenstown and planning a drive to Glenorchy anyway they I urge you, if possible, to visit Paradise too. The walking loop is nice and gentle, there are cute horses to stroke on the way and I imagine that in winter it’s even more beautiful with dustings of snow.
It might not be the sort of paradise I’ve been used to for the last 5 years, but it’s still definitely Paradise.
Find it: From Glenorchy take Mull St towards the Glenorchy-Paradise road. Follow signs for Paradise. It’s a 20km drive and the last 12km is unsealed – some hire car companies don’t allow you to drive. After passing diamond lake you come to a small stream crossing, keep a look out on your left for a gate with a small sign saying ‘paradise trust’ – we almost missed it, it isn’t very clear. Follow the road for a few hundred metres and boom – you’re in Paradise!
Activities: There are a number of walking tracks, check in your local DOC office for maps. Horse trekking is very popular here, although as I don’t trust horses at all I can’t recommend a particular company!
Stay: The Paradise trust has a variety of accommodation options, ranging from their very rustic cottages to fairly luxurious houses. Book here.
Do you think this looks like paradise? Or do you suspect it was named after the ducks?