Last Updated on July 14, 2022 by ashleighsatlas
Are you considering hiking the Rob Roy Glacier Walk in Wanaka?
When I moved back to New Zealand recently, I spent hours on Pinterest trying to find the best hikes in New Zealand. One walk that kept coming up again and again: the Rob Roy Track. I’d never heard of it, but added it to my bucket list.
So when I moved to Wanaka, the first hike I did was the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Winter.
Keep reading for my ultimate guide to Robs Roy Glacier: Should you go to the Rob Roy Glacier Lower Lookout or Upper Lookout? Can you hike the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Winter? Should you choose Rob Roy or Roys Peak? And everything else you need to know about the Rob Roy Glacier Track.
If you’re still unsure if you should hike the Wanaka glacier walk, check out my post 25 photos to inspire you to hike the Rob Roy Glacier Walk Wanaka.
Should you go to the Rob Roy Glacier Lower Lookout or Upper Lookout?
There are two main viewpoints: the Rob Roy Glacier Lower Lookout and the Upper Lookout. You’ll get to the Lower Lookout and think wow these views are amazing. Some people only walk to the Lower Lookout and then go back. Don’t do this. Keep going to the Upper Lookout. The views are so much better at the Upper Lookout. You get much closer to the glacier and have a much more unobstructed view of it.
I didn’t share any of my photos of the Lower Lookout in my post 25 photos to inspire you to hike the Rob Roy Glacier because they were so bad compared to my photos from the Upper Lookout.
Just be aware you might not be able to go to the Upper Lookout between May to November because of avalanche risk (see below for more details).
Can you hike the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Winter?
You can walk to the Rob Roy Glacier Lower Lookout during Winter, but whether you can walk to the Upper Lookout will depend on the avalanche risk.
The DOC website says access is restricted to to the Lower Lookout when avalanche danger is present between May and November. In reality, DOC doesn’t actually block off the track above the Lower Lookout. There are just signs up recommending that you shouldn’t go past the Lower Lookout during May and November because of avalanche danger.
I obviously recommend following all the DOC signs. It’s not worth taking any risks if there’s an avalanche danger. But if you’re considering hiking the Rob Roy Glacier Track during May and November, I recommend calling the DOC Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre beforehand and they can advise you about the latest conditions.
I hiked the Robs Roy Glacier Track in Winter in June, and went to both the Lower Lookout and Upper Lookout. I called DOC in the morning before I left and they said there was no avalanche risk because it hadn’t snowed recently and it was safe to hike to the Upper Lookout. I obviously never would have done this without DOC’s advice first.
The same time a year later, there was a lot of snow and the Upper Lookout was unsafe to visit because of avalanche risk.
If you’re planning a trip to Wanaka and have flexibility with when you come, I recommend avoiding May to November. You can’t guarantee that it will be safe to go to the Upper Lookout during Winter, so if you really want to do the Robs Roy Glacier Track go in Summer. The best views are at the Upper Lookout and you don’t want to miss out on them.
But if you’re visiting Wanaka during Winter (perhaps for skiing), it’s still worth calling DOC just in case the Upper Lookout is safe to visit.
Review of Rob Roy Glacier Walk Wanaka: Is it the best hike in New Zealand?
The Rob Roy Track is one of my favourite walks I’ve ever done.
When you think of glacier walks in New Zealand, you think of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. I think the views at Rob Roy are better. You have such a clear view of the glacier and you can see miles and miles of ice. Sadly, you can’t see much at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef now. You can’t get that close to the glacier face; you have to squint to make out the ice.
(I was lucky enough to hike onto Franz Josef from the glacier face ten years ago. Before it melted. It was one of the best experiences of my life. You can now only walk on the glacier if you do a heli-hike to Franz Josef or Fox (which is amazing and you should do it – you can book here). But I’m just comparing Rob Roy with the short walks to the Fox and Franz glacier faces).
It’s also such a good payoff for how much effort you put in – I feel like you should have to walk days to get views that incredible, not just a few hours.
It’s harder to compare Rob Roy with other popular hikes in New Zealand like the Tongariro Crossing or Milford Track because they’re so different – glacier vs volcano vs fiord. But I’d say it’s comparable for how amazing the views are.
I tell everyone visiting Wanaka to do the Rob Roy Wanaka glacier walk. It’s without a doubt one of the best walks in Wanaka.
If you’re thinking of going to Franz Josef Glacier too, make sure you read:
Which walk should you do: Rob Roy Track or Roys Peak?
Rob Roy Glacier and Roys Peak have very different scenery, so it depends what you’re looking for.
- Rob Roy Glacier – You walk up a valley. You’re surrounded by trees. At the top you pop out at the bottom of a glacier. You feel like you’re wrapped up in the mountains and you can’t see beyond them. All you can see is miles and miles of incredible frozen ice.
- Roys Peak – You walk up a fairly barren hill. At the top you look down and see a beautiful blue lake which stretches every direction, with mountains surrounding it, and lots of little islands poking out of the lake.
If you have the time, I would do both Rob Roy Glacier and Roys Peak. They both have amazing, but very different, views. If you only have time for one, it depends on what types of views you prefer: glacier or lake.
If you want to see more photos of the views to help you decide, have a look at my post 25 photos to inspire you to hike the Rob Roy Glacier Walk Wanaka.
Other top tips for Robs Roy Glacier
- The driving distance in Google maps is wrong. It’s a one hour, not a two hour, drive from Wanaka. The directions are correct though.
- There are fords to cross on the drive there. I don’t know anyone that’s ever had a problem with them, but be aware in case there’s been lots of rain.
- The walk is in a National Park. There’s nowhere to stay or eat nearby. Base yourself in Wanaka which is an hour drive away. Stay for a couple of nights if you can – there’s lots of other lovely walks near Wanaka too. See my ultimate Wanaka guide for the best things to do in Wanaka.
Distance: 10km return
Time: 3-4 hours
Round track or one way: Round trip
Elevation gain: 450m
How to see Rob Roy Glacier?
The only way to see the Rob Roy Glacier is to hike there – on the Rob Roy Glacier Track.
You can also do a scenic helicopter flight over Rob Roy Glacier.
Is the Rob Roy Glacier Walk open?
Yes. The Rob Roy Glacier walk was closed in 2020 due to a slip, but it’s open again now (as of December 2021 when this was written).
Can you walk on the Rob Roy Glacier?
No, the Rob Roy Glacier Walk doesn’t provide any access to walk onto the actual glacier. You can just see the glacier from a distance.
How long is the Wanaka glacier walk?
It depends if you only go to the Rob Roy Glacier Lower Lookout, or if you go all the way to the Upper Lookout.
- Lower Lookout – 8km/2 hours return
- Upper Lookout – 10km/3-4 hours return
I’d definitely recommend going to the Upper Lookout though – the views are so much better.
Is the Rob Roy Glacier Walk a round track or one way?
It’s a round track.
How difficult is the Rob Roy Glacier Walk?
The DOC website says it’s easy, but I’d say it’s more easy/medium. There’s a bit of elevation, but it’s a well-formed track and if you’re reasonably fit you should be fine. I’d say it’s somewhere in-between a casual stroll around the lake and hiking up Roys Peak.
Can you hike the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Winter?
There’s an avalanche risk above the Lower Lookout between May and November. This is the best part of the track – it has the best views of the glacier – so you shouldn’t miss it. I’d wait until Summer so you safely do the whole track.
If you want to go during Winter, it may be fine. You can call the DOC Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre and they’ll tell you if it’s safe. I went in June. There hadn’t been much snow and DOC said there was no avalanche risk.
Is there a guided walk to the Rob Roy Glacier?
Yes, there are companies that do guided walks. You can book it through the Wanaka i-Site. It’s a well-formed track and signposted though, so I don’t think it’s necessary or worth getting a guide.Wanaka-Travel-Guide
WHERE IS THE ROB ROY GLACIER
Rob Roy Glacier is in the Mount Aspiring National Park, in the South Island of New Zealand. The nearest town is Wanaka, which is around an hour drive away. The nearest town with an airport is Queenstown, which is about 2 to 2.5 hours away.
There’s no public transport and the only way to get there is driving. If you need a rental car, I recommend using rentalcars.com. I always use them because you know you’ve searched every rental car company and found the best deal.
Top tips for getting there
- Google maps is wrong. It says it’s a two-hour drive from Wanaka, but it’s actually only one hour.The directions are right though.
- You have to drive over some fords to get there. Before I went, I was worried about how deep they are and if you need a 4WD. I was overreacting and it was completely fine in our standard car. It may be deeper if it’s been raining a lot though.
Where does the Rob Roy Glacier Walk start?
The track starts and ends at the Raspberry Flat Carpark (sometimes also called Raspberry Creek Carpark). You can type either “Raspberry Flat Carpark” or “Rob Roy Glacier Trail Head Carpark” into Google and it will take you to the same place.
There is free parking at the Raspberry Flat Carpark. There were plenty of carparks available when I was there.
How to get to the Rob Roy Glacier Walk from Wanaka
- Drive: It’s around an hour drive from Wanaka.
- Shuttle: There are shuttles that can take you to the track. Check out the Wanaka Tourism website who can help you book.
- Taxi/Uber: There are two taxi companies in Wanaka – Yello Cabs and Wana Taxi. (There’s no Uber). I wouldn’t get a taxi. It’s an hour drive and very remote so would be very expensive.
- There’s no public transport to the track.
How to get to Wanaka from Queenstown
- Drive: You can either drive over the Crown Range Rd via Cardrona (about one hour), or through Cromwell on State Highway 6 (about one and a half hours). The Crown Range Rd is faster, has lovely mountain views, and has the famous Cardrona Hotel pub, so I usually go this way. There are also amazing views the Cromwell way, especially as you follow the bright blue river through the Gibbston Valley on your way out of Queenstown. If you’re doing a return journey I’d recommend going both ways. Book your rental car through rentalcars.com – the best way to make sure you’ve compared all the different rental car companies.
- Shuttle: You can get a shuttle between Queenstown and Wanaka for around $30 each way. See the Wanaka Tourism website who can help you book.
- Taxi: A taxi would be $250-$300 so I wouldn’t recommend this.
- Sadly there’s no public transport between Wanaka and Queenstown.
Planning a trip to Queenstown? Read my Ultimate Queenstown Travel Guide.
Are there shuttle buses?
Yes, you can get a shuttle from Wanaka to the Rob Roy Glacier Walk. You can book through the Wanaka Tourism website.
Is there public transport?
No, there is no public transport from Wanaka to the Rob Roy Glacier Walk.
Map of the Rob Roy Glacier Walk
There’s a map of the Rob Roy Glacier Walk on the DOC website. The map shows multiple tracks in the Matukituki Valley so it’s a bit hard to see which one it is. If you find the Raspberry Creek carpark, it’s the track to the left of that which goes straight up.
You won’t need a map of the track though. It’s very well signposted and easy to follow.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
On the track. There are no cafes or restaurants on the Rob Roy Glacier Walk or nearby. The closest place to eat is Wanaka.
Wanaka. There are so many amazing cafes and restaurants in Wanaka. My don’t miss places are:
- Scroggin (for brunch).
- The food truck park on Brownston Street (Burrito Craft and Firebird are my faves).
- A local brewery like Rhyme and Reason, Ground Up or b.Social.
WHERE TO STAY
On the track
There’s no accommodation on the Rob Roy Glacier Track or nearby. It’s in a National Park and it’s very remote.
If you have a self-contained van, you can freedom camp in the carpark at the start of the track (Raspberry Flat Carpark).
There are DOC huts/camping grounds on other tracks in the Mt Aspiring National Park, but they’re quite far away. I wouldn’t use them as a base for the Rob Roy Glacier Walk.
- Aspiring Hut and Camping Ground – 2 to 2.5 hours walk one way from the Raspberry Flat Carpark.
- Liverpool Hut – 5 to 6.5 hours walk one way from the Raspberry Flat Carpark.
The best place to stay is in Wanaka. It’s about an hour drive and there’s lots of accommodation, amazing places to eat and things to do (you can read the best things to do in Wanaka here).
Most of the hotels in Wanaka are quite dated, generic, and overpriced. Wanaka is small so location isn’t important. Prioritise finding a nice hotel over location – everything is in close distance and there’s lots of free parking.
Looking for the best luxury hotels and cute B&Bs in Wanaka? Add these to your bucket list:
- Mahu Whenua (The most luxurious hotel in Wanaka. It’s outside town near Glendhu Bay – one of the most beautiful areas in Wanaka.)
- Wanaka Haven (A beautiful bnb. Just out of town near the Wanaka Lavender Farm).
- Distinction Wanaka Serviced Apartments (A resort made up of around 30 private apartments. I lived in an apartment here for six months. Pros: two hot tubs/pools with beautiful views, sauna, tennis court, large apartments with full kitchens, good location. Cons: decor was a bit modern for me, nice but not 5 star luxury. Would def recommend for families and large groups.)
- Wanaka Homestead Lodge & Cottages (Gorgeous bnb. Amazing location in walking distance to the Wanaka Tree, main township, and Wanaka lakefront).
- Cross Hill Glamping (I’ve never been a fan of glamping (it sounds too much like camping), but these domes look very luxurious and I’d love to stay. I’ve had friends who stayed here and loved them. They overlook Lake Hawea – a prettier lake than Lake Wanaka and only a 15 minute drive from Wanaka.)
- Cardrona Hotel (Beautiful historic building, charming rooms with cute interiors, and good food. A great base if you’re skiing at Cardrona).
- The Lindis (This hotel has been on my bucket list for years – the architecture and interiors are incredibly beautiful and it’s very luxurious. It’s between Lake Tekapo and Wanaka. I wouldn’t use this for a Wanaka base, but it would be amazing for a weekend away or if you can work it into your road trip itinerary.)
- Minaret Station (Only accessible by helicopter and very luxurious. One for the bucket list.)
You could stay in Queenstown if you’re just doing a day trip and don’t plan to do anything else in Wanaka. It’s a 2-2.5 hour drive each way, so it would be quite a long day though.
There’s also a lot of other great hikes near Wanaka (like Roys Peak, Isthmus Peak and the Diamond Lake Track), so I’d recommend spending a couple of nights here so you can do a couple of walks. Read my Ultimate Guide to Wanaka to find the best things to add to your Wanaka bucket list.
Looking for the best luxury hotels in Queenstown? Add these to your bucket list:
- Hulbert House
- Dairy Private Hotel
- Eichardt’s Private Hotel
- The Spire Hotel
- Stoneridge Estate
- Gibbston Valley Lodge and Spa
WHAT ELSE TO DO NEARBY
The best things to do in Wanaka
Wanaka is one of the best places in New Zealand to hike, so you should stay at least a couple of days so you can do a few. These are some of my other favourite things to do near Wanaka which you shouldn’t miss.
- Blue Pools Wanaka – Beautiful and easy short walk to a bright blue lake you shouldn’t miss. Make sure to stop at the Lake Hawea Lookout on the way. Read my ultimate guide to the Blue Pools here and Lake Hawea Lookout here.
- Roys Peak – Famous and busy walk in Wanaka with beautiful lake views.
- Isthmus Peak – One of my favourite walks I’ve ever done. Beautiful views like Roys Peak, but not as popular or touristy (yet). Read my ultimate guide to Isthmus Peak here.
- Diamond Lake Track – Fairly easy walk with beautiful lake views. Much easier than Roys Peak and a local’s favourite.
- Millennium Walkway – One of my favourite walks in Wanaka with beautiful. Most tourists have never heard of it. Read my complete guide to the Millennium Walkway here.
- Wanaka Lavender Farm – Beautiful lavender field you shouldn’t miss if you visit in Summer. Read my ultimate guide to the Wanaka Lavender Farm here.
- Mou Waho Island: Boat cruise to a tiny island on Lake Wanaka (it has an island on a lake, on an island on a lake). You can also do a boat cruise to Ruby Island, another popular island on Lake Wanaka.
- Skiing at Cardrona or Treble Cone: The best place to go skiing in New Zealand. Read my Ultimate Guide to Skiing in Wanaka and 33 Best Things to Do in Wanaka in Winter.
- Winery tour: Go on a winery tour to explore the local vineyards. Read my Guide to the 5 Best Bannockburn Wineries.
- Shop at local boutiques: Wanaka has no large chain stores. Instead, there’s lots of lovely locally owned small boutiques.
- Cardrona Distillery and Cardrona Hotel: There’s always lots of tourists taking photos of the Cardrona Hotel, but it’s a really cute building and the food is good. The Cardrona Distillery is just across the road and does a great whisky and gin tour.
Other hikes you shouldn’t miss in New Zealand
These are some of my other favourite hikes in New Zealand you shouldn’t miss.
- Kepler Track – If you fancy doing one of the Great Walks in Fiordland, this is a four-day hike with incredible alpine and fiord views. Check out my full guide to the Kepler Track here.
- Tongariro Crossing – If there’s one hike you do in New Zealand, do this. One minute you’re walking on the moon, the next a forest, and then you’re at the top of a volcano looking down on emerald crater lakes.
- Abel Tasman – Four-day hike weaving along golden sandy beaches and the bright blue ocean (and, if you’re feeling lazy, you can stay in hotels and a boat will carry your bags between them). You can also just do a day trip boat cruise.
- Mount Cook – There are so many amazing hikes around Mount Cook.
WHY YOU CAN’T MISS THE ROB ROY GLACIER WALK
If the Rob Roy Glacier Walk isn’t on your Wanaka bucket list – you need to add it.
It’s one of the best walks in New Zealand. It’s just as good as the Tongariro Crossing, Milford Track and Roys Peak.
It’s also one of the best places in New Zealand to easily see a glacier without having to get a helicopter. I’d even rank it above Franz Josef and Fox Glacier if you’re just doing the walks and not doing a heli-hike.
If you’re tossing up between doing Rob Roy or Roys Peak, you should do both. They offer completely different scenery. Rob Roy gets you close to a glacier, and Roys Peak has stunning views looking over Lake Wanaka. I couldn’t pick just one.
Still unsure if you should hike the Rob Roy Glacier? Have a look at my photos from when I did the Rob Roy Glacier Track to help you decide.