Arrowtown: A Step Back in Time

Rolling into Arrowtown, New Zealand, feels a bit like stepping into the set of a spaghetti Western. Wooden Shop signs look they haven’t changed since the 1860’s when the town was built. After the discovery of gold in 1862, thousands flocked to the river hoping to cut themselves a piece of the golden pie. That mining history is tastefully preserved to this day, in the general aesthetic, in the Chinese Settlement and in the much lauded Lakes District museum and gallery. Even the town’s pharmacy stays true to its roots.

Things to do in Arrowtown: arrowtown pharmacy
Arrowtown Pharmacy

Things to do in Arrowtown

Visit The Chinese Settlement

On the fringes of the town you’ll find the Chinese Settlement, where over 3,000 Chinese lived. Almost all settlers were male, invited to the goldfields to work after much of the gold had already been excavated by the Europeans.

Things to do in Arrowtown: Hut at the Chinese Settlement
Hut at the Chinese Settlement

The Chinese suffered brutal racial discrimination and very few succeeded in making enough money to return home. In fact most of them died here. It was 2002 before New Zealand issued a formal apology. The settlement now serves almost as a memorial to this time, and is a combination of reconstructed and restored huts.

Things to do in Arrowtown
More huts

Photograph the Trees and Churches

Arrowtown is famous for its trees, which give it a scenic beauty all year round. The European settlers planted them in the 1800’s to make the place look more like home. The Roman Catholic church and cemetery are also worth a wander for budding photographers.

Things to do in Arrowtown
Towering trees Arrowtown

Other Things to do in Arrowtown

Arrowtown is an ideal place to spend the day , but much longer than that and you might find yourself bored. Kids will love panning for gold at Arrow River and it’s a great way to teach them a bit of history while keeping them entertained.

Things to do in Arrowtown
Catholic Church Arrowtown

After walking through the settlement and the museum, it’s a good idea to stop for a bite at one of Arrowtown’s many great cafes or restaurants. Arrowtown has a vibrant dining scene. La Rumbla and Saffron are two local favourites. If it’s just a drink you’re after, The Fork and Tap is a cool and cosy spot.

If you have the time to catch a movie, do so in Dorothy Brown’s. It’s a classy boutique cinema playing a mix of mainstream and arthouse films. I would recommend cuddling up on the beanbags at the front with a cheeseboard and a glass of red, the perfect way to end any day.

Things to do in Arrowtown
Anglican Church Arrowtown

There are many ways to get to Arrowtown, and one of the most popular via Queenstown. Another is by cycling on one of the Arrowtown trails, a great way to take in some spectacular views along the way. If you’re looking for something more leisurely though, a car rental is the way to go.

About keeva

Wandering freelance copywriter from Ireland. Trying to squeeze in as much travel into my twenties as I can. Right now, that involves a lot of camping in New Zealand, my home away from home.

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2 Responses

  1. 10 Things To Do In Queenstown | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] to Queenstown means you can easily explore the nearby towns of Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Kingstown. Each of these destinations has a strong heritage and scenic backdrop […]

  2. Middle Earth Locations around Queenstown - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] hobbits and absolutely no dwarves would want to miss a visit to Arrowtown, just northwest of Queenstown. In this historic gold mining town, visitors can try their hands at […]


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