Arrowtown is a small settlement and former gold mining town in Otago, New Zealand. Just a short drive away from Queenstown you couldn’t be any further from the hustle and bustle and adrenaline-fuelled adventure activities.
The historic gold mining town counts around 2500 souls and is as tranquil as it is enchanting. Arrowtown’s picturesque centre is lined with old wooden buildings that remind of wild west movies.
The history of Arrowtown
Jack Tewa, a worker on one of the first settlers’ farms in the area discovered gold in the Arrow River in 1861. William Fox and others followed and the town grew to over 1500 miners in 1862. As the word spread, more and more miners flocked to Arrowtown in pursuit of riches and the town’s population rose to 7000. However, when the initial phase of easily extractable gold passed, the miners headed to the West Coast goldfields by the mid 1860s.
Chinese workers were invited to mine for gold in Otago to lessen the impact of the leaving miners on the Otago economy. The remnants of the Chinese settlements, which were finally abandoned in 1928, can still be seen above Arrowtown on the banks of Bush Creek.
After the big gold rush era, the transient settlement of Arrowtown transformed into a more permanent town with tree-lined avenues, servicing the outlying farms. Subsequently the population declined, but since the 1950s the town has seen a steady increase in permanent residents, visitors and holidaymakers.
Things to do in Arrowtown
Today, Arrowtown is a very popular holiday destination for local and international visitors alike. It’s a peaceful little place with tree-lined streets, complete with small 19th century-style shops and some fantastic eateries. Visitors can pan for gold in the Arrow River, take tours around the historic buildings, play golf, visit art galleries and embark on walks and hikes on the many trails around the Lakes District.
If you have a day to spare, why not head out to the backcountry to explore the remnants of the gold era yourself? Macetown is one of the three settlements near Arrowtown that were founded during the big gold rush but quickly fell into decline as miners headed elsewhere. By the early 1930s all of them had become ghost towns. Macetown is accessible via a 4WD track that crosses a river 22 times (!) and is a historic site restored and managed by the Department of Conservation.
When to go
Anytime is a great time to visit Arrowtown. But perhaps the most enchanting scenery presents itself in autumn. Arrowtown annually hosts an Autumn Festival, when the red and golden leaves of the many trees make the quaint little town all the more appealing. This year’s festival takes place from 29 April – 8 May.