Arrowtown is a fascinating little town where history meets shopping meets dining. With stunning scenery on offer throughout the year, Arrowtown is an unbeatable day excursion. And just 20 minutes from central Queenstown, it's about as perfect as you can get.
Arrowtown has a rich gold mining history. Gold was first discovered on the Arrow River in 1862, sparking a gold rush that brought miners from the Australian and Californian gold fields seeking their fortune. When gold was also discovered on the Shotover River, the prospectors were rewarded with riches, but it was not easy work.
Despite the conditions, the Shotover River would go on to become the second-richest gold-bearing river in the world.
Originally known as Fox’s, Arrowtown was transformed from a remote farming area to a bustling gold town in the late 1800s. Soon the makeshift tents and stores became a township of hotels, banks and stores home 1,100 prospectors stretching their way up the Arrow Gorge.
Not long after the first gold was discovered, Chinese prospectors began arriving. By 1870, over 5,000 Chinese were hard at work throughout the goldfields of Otago. They were miners, builders, storeowners and market gardeners. Today, a walk through Arrowtown’s Chinese Village provides a fascinating insight into what life would have been like for the town’s Chinese population. It is a sometimes stark reminder of how tough life would have been living in the gorge during the freezing Otago winters.
The Lakes District Museum on Arrowtown’s main street gives a hands-on exhibition of the history and the people who shaped this district.
ART & DINING
Arrowtown is a great place to browse for art and gifts. For original New Zealand art check out the Nadene Milne Gallery on Buckingham Street or The Arrowtown Gallery on Wiltshire Street. Cruikshank Furniture on Buckingham Street is the home of New Zealand-made bespoke furniture.
There are a number of shops along Buckingham Street selling unique gifts. Arrowtown is one of the best places in the district to buy New Zealand-made merino clothing, including the famous merino-mink (a super-warm wool and possum fur blend).
There is no shortage of places to eat in Arrowtown. Take your pick from a light café snack, a Patagonia ice cream, tapas or an a-la-carte meal from one of the many exceptional restaurants.
Just down the road from Arrowtown is Amisfield Winery, one of the region’s premium cellar door restaurants. After a morning exploring Arrowtown, Amisfield is the perfect spot for a long lunch. With amazing locally grown wine and views over Lake Hayes, this is worth the trip to Arrowtown on its own.
The main street of Arrowtown is like taking a step back in time. Many of the old shops and worker’s cottages have been preserved as shops and restaurants, giving visitors a glimpse into what life would have been like 150 years ago. But don’t let the old look fool you, these heritage buildings are home to some of the best shopping and dining in the area.
Just below the shops and galleries of Arrowtown is the Arrow River. This tranquil spot offers a range of walking trails. Take an easy stroll along the riverside track, or head up the river valley for a full day hike to Macetown. If walking's not your thing, find yourself a quiet spot under the shade of the trees and enjoy the view. Arrowtown is an easy 15-minute drive from Spinnaker Bay.