Dart Stables — On Horseback in New Zealand

By Justine Tyerman

Horseback riding with Dart Stables is by far the most peaceful way to explore the exquisite part of New Zealand’s South Island known to Maori as Te Wāhipounamu: The Place of Greenstone. The stables are located at Glenorchy, 45 minutes from Queenstown along the side of Lake Wakatipu, rated one of the world’s most scenic drives.

Our guides Lindsay and Julia led us along a grassy lane to the broad shingle flats of the glacier-fed, braided Dart River, encircled by a necklace of majestic mountains named after Greek gods. The names seemed fitting since we were in a place called Paradise, deep in ‘Middle Earth’ where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. The Dart is called a braided river because it divides into multiple channels during the spring when the snow melts. Our sure-footed horses forded the braids many times on our ride.

As we rode at a leisurely pace, stopping for many photos along the way, Lindsay gave us the inside story about the filming of the movies and the star-studded equine cast which included many horses from Dart Stables. We also learned about the fascinating history and geology of the region, sculpted by glaciers in the last Ice Age.

Oats on Their Minds

The deeply-weathered silver schist face of Mt Earnslaw, the tallest mountain in the area at 2,830m, dominates the landscape, while wedge-shaped Mt Alfred, 1,365m sits right in the centre of the valley, dividing the Dart and Rees. Surrounding the valley are the magnificent Richardson and Humboldt ranges.

European settlers first came to Glenorchy around 1860 bringing farming to the region. Soon after, miners arrived searching for gold in the wake of the 1860s gold rush in the Arrowtown area. However, scheelite mining proved to be more lucrative in the Glenorchy region, reaching a peak during the World Wars as it was used in making shells and arms. Supplies were brought to Glenorchy by boat until 1962 when the road from Queenstown was finished. It wasn’t sealed until 1998, coincidentally just before the Lord of the Rings crew began filming. Glenorchy is now a thriving little village which acts as a hub for a number of tourist ventures. It’s one of my favourite places on earth, in all seasons.

I didn’t want the ride to ever end, but when the horses turned for home, it was clear they did not share my view. They had oats on their mind.

Read my full account of my ride with Dart Stables on LuxuryNewZealand.


Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.