What To See And Do

At the heart of the Southern Lakes District, Arrowtown’s long hot summer days and stunning autumn colours are followed by crisp clear winters and a verdant spring.

The seasonal changes are best reflected in the historic tree lined avenue, where in autumn the leaves of gold and red are celebrated with an annual autumn festival, and provide photographers and artists with inspiration.

Arrowtown is built on the banks of the Arrow River, and is the home of unique attractions.

Visitors can enjoy:

  • gold panning, tours around historic buildings
  • tours to Macetown and the back country
  • the Chinese Miners Settlement
  • the Lakes District’s Museum
  • a boutique cinema
  • shops, shops and more shops
  • restaurants, cafes, coffee shops
  • art galleries
  • cycle tours
  • numerous walking trails, around the river and into the back country
  • the region’s best wineries
  • artist galleries, golf courses, fishing and ski areas

Tour options

Queenstown Area Tour

Arrowtown Gold Mining Tour

The former gold mining town of Arrowtown is a living, historic holiday destination. Spectacular scenery, four very distinct seasons and a tranquil atmosphere attract visitors from New Zealand and around the world.

The Arrow Basin was formed when the great glaciers carved out the Wakatipu Basin.

ArrowtownLocal Maori passed through the area on seasonal trips to hunt native birds and extract pounamu (greenstone). Waitaha, the first tribe, were later joined by Kati Mamoe who were driven south after fighting with Kai Tahu. By the 1700s the three tribes were locked together by marriages and peace alliances.

William Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelmann were the first Europeans to establish farms in the area. Rees’ cadet, Alfred Duncan, provides us with one of the first descriptions of the Arrow River ‘flowing like silver threads through the blackened [matagouri] scrub-clothed plains.’

It was not the silver look of the river but the gold it contained that saw Arrowtown evolve. Jack Tewa, a shearer for Rees, was the first to discover gold around May 1861, followed by either William (Bill) Fox or the team of Thomas Low and John MacGregor late in 1862. It is unclear who was next. Being a forceful character, Fox took credit for the discovery and for a while the town was called Fox’s.

Although there were attempts to keep the discovery secret, there were 1,500 miners camped down on the Arrow River by the end of 1862. 12,000 ounces (340 kgs) of gold were carried out on the first gold escort in January 1863.

Gold eventually became harder to extract and the opening up of the West Coast goldfields in 1865 saw European miners heading for the riches there. This impacted on the Otago economy and in an attempt to restimulate it the Otago Provincial Government invited Chinese miners to come to the Otago goldfields. The Chinese created a separate settlement in Arrowtown, remaining until 1928.

ArrowtownAfter the initial gold rush, a more permanent town began to establish itself. The avenues of trees were planted in 1867 in an attempt to make Arrowtown look more like the European towns the settlers had left behind. Arrowtown began to stretch beyond Buckingham Street when the town was surveyed in 1869. The first mayor, Samuel Goldston, was elected in 1874.

Fire was always a constant threat. A large fire in December 1896 resulted in the destruction of the Morning Star Hotel, Campbell’s bakery and the top storey of Pritchard’s Store. The store was rebuilt whilst the site of the Morning Star Hotel was left empty and is now known as Buckingham Green. In spite of fires, and more recently development pressure, Arrowtown has around 70 buildings, monuments and features remaining from the gold rush era.

Arrowtown continued to survive after the gold ran out by becoming a farm service town. Although the permanent population declined, during the 1950s it gained a reputation as a popular holiday destination. This saw New Zealand holiday makers restoring the historic cottages and building holiday houses. Most of these have now become permanent residences.

By the turn of the 21st Century Arrowtown had become a popular visitor destination and one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand.

ArrowtownBuckingham Street, the town’s main street, and the lanes and arcades around it are a shopping attraction, offering a wide range of quality products including fashion, jade, gifts and local wines.

Food has a special focus in Arrowtown from fine dining restaurants serving the freshest New Zealand products to international cuisine, from cafes and bars to sweet treats and takeways.

Arrowtown has a population of 2,400 who share their village atmosphere with visitors. It has an excellent pre-school and primary school, and the quality amenities include a library, museum, swimming pool, lawn bowls, skate park and internationally acclaimed golf courses. Services include a medical centre, post office and pharmacy. Nearby are an international airport, hospital, ski areas, ice and curling rinks, sports, events and aquatic centres.

Arrowtown is 20 minutes from Queenstown, and 15 minutes from the Queenstown international airport.

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