The allure of Arrowtown as a central point for some great day walks links back to the regions 1862 ‘gold rush’ that attracted hundreds in search of their fortune.
The sun drenched hills and dry, tussock clad mountain tops were enthusiastically claimed, sluiced and dug over for several decades leaving a fascinating legacy of miners roads and bridle trails. Today these form the backbone for a new network of walking tracks.
Arrowtown proudly celebrates its gold mining past. The village itself has blossomed into a modern day ‘charm offensive’ with a happy mix of high-end shops, cafes, bars, and award winning restaurants jostled amongst the ornamental facades of yesteryear. The trails are literally a stone’s throw away, (100 meters) from the main thoroughfare, Buckingham Street.
On arrival in the village it's a good idea to find a park (plenty of free parking by the Arrow River) and head to the Lakes District Museum to obtain a detailed trail map. The museum doubles as the official info centre and you can even hire gold pans.
The Arrow River, still a source of a few decent sized gold discoveries, bubbles along below the township and the riverside park, Butlers Green, is from where most tracks originate. To get your bearings just look for the Trail Map Notice Board at the Green opposite the entry to the old Chinese Village.
Rest assured all trails offer captivating mountain and river views with plenty of local flora and fauna. Foxgloves, lilac bushes, and wild rose hips grow in abundance during summer. The roses apparently originating from cuttings sent out from England to miner’s wives ‘back in the day’. Autumn is simply breathtaking with red and golden leaves covering the township and surrounding hills.
Walking into Macetown is a favourable ‘all day’ option but if time is limited the Arrowtown Anniversary Walk or Arrow River Trail will fit the bill nicely at just one-hour return. Sawpit Gully and Tobin's Track are firm favourites amongst locals, both offering extraordinary views. A couple of newbie tracks well worth checking out are New Chums (accessed off Tobin's or Arrow River trail) and Bush Creek.
Be aware that some tracks travel over farmland and access has been granted courtesy of the run holders so caution is advised around stock and gates.
Just 30 minutes drive from its flashy neighbour Queenstown; Arrowtown is fast becoming a celebrated walking destination in Central Otago. You will find the locals friendly and relaxed and if you do get muddled…. just ask someone the way.
Walk one: Sawpit Gully
Sawpit Gully is a lovely loop track that you can enter at either end but this is a slightly easier way to approach it. From Butlers Green, head over the Bush Creek footbridge and right to the start of the Arrow River trail. Follow the top track beside the Arrow Irrigation Waterpipe with lovely river views and 20 - 30 minutes in a sign on the left directs up to Sawpit Gully.
Now you’re on a single track climbing steeply through Beech trees, prickly Matagouri, and rose bushes. Sidling up and around the gully's right flank on original water races it eventually meets up with a creek. Look for gold mining tailings as the track crosses the creek several times.
The remains of an old stone hut at a flat area near the top of the creek is a great lunch stop.
From there one last grunt upwards along farming tracks (this is private land so no dogs or fires) will reward with the wide open expanse known as Eichardts Flat. The tussock plains with a grove of native Beech are a welcome sight offering picture postcard views over Millbrook Resort, Lake Hayes and The Remarkable mountain range.
A steady downhill descent (some wooden steps help on the very steep parts) will deliver you back down to Bush Creek below and around to Butlers Green. Optional extras include tacking on the Bill Hill trail at the top of Eichardts Flat or Bush Creek trail at the bottom.
Start/finish Butlers Green below the main street of Arrowtown – plenty of parking and public toilets
Time 2 – 3 hour loop track
Grade Moderate – High with some steep sections. Total ascent 287.39m Distance 8km
Walk two: Arrowtown Anniversary Walk
Within five minutes you will be enjoying dappled sunshine through overhanging Willow trees and admiring the delightful ebb and flow of the Arrow River.
Built in 1998 by the Otago Regional Council to celebrate 150 years of European settlement in the region, the walk is a circuit that takes in both sides of the Arrow River. It’s easy and undulating with just a couple of hillocks.
At 4.2kms long, this wide flattish track is suitable for dogs, children, prams and older people. Leave your car at the Arrow River car park (off Ramshaw Lane) and head right, along the path and past the skateboard park. Approximately 1 km in is the first wooden bridge where you can cross to the left or stay on the right.
The trail then follows the river down both sides to a second bridge where you cross over and loop back towards town.
Tobin's Track is a great side walk that adds instant elevation. Pick up it up across the first bridge where the track climbs steadily up to a trig station and some magnificent views.
Down on the Anniversary Walk look for local kids handiwork in the form of tree huts and rope swings. There are bench seats along the way and plenty of river access for families and dogs to splash around.
Start/finish Main Arrow River car park off Ramshaw Lane. Or 400 meters to the right of Butlers Green.
Time 1 hour return
Grade Easy – mostly flat with some sandy areas underfoot. Distance 4.2kms
The Arrow - a new private hotel that combines landmark architecture around a historic stone cottage. Modern and contemporary offering plush personalised service at the luxury end of the market. Rates include a gourmet breakfast for two. The Arrow OR
Pittaways Historic Cottage – a refurbished old miners cottage (NZ Historic Place Trust) on the main street of Arrowtown. Beautifully presented, preserving the history while offering all the mod cons including double spa bath. 2 min walk to cafes and restaurants.
The Postmasters Residence – a real gem of a restaurant that offers relaxed, casual dining in the old Postmasters historic residence. Sit outside on the wide veranda set in a delightful cottage garden or beside the cosy fireplace inside on cooler days.
Owners Sam Laycock, Maria Kealy and Ian MacLennan deliver fresh seasonal food sourced from local ingredients and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. You know you’re in good hands when the food arrives at the table. Simply delicious.
Arrowtown Chinese Village - try to allow 15 to 30 minutes to explore the Chinese Village beside Buckingham Green. It offers an intriguing insight into how the early Chinese miners lived beside the river with relics of their mud sod huts and market gardens. http://www.arrowtown.com
The Lakes District Museum - allow 1 to 2 hours to do justice to the fascinating historical displays that will transport you back in time with streetscapes, artifacts, impressive archives and a range of books and information on Arrowtown. You can also book accommodation and activities here. http://www.museumqueenstown.com
A Taste of Gibbston Valley - taste test the award winning wines from Gibbston Valley at this eclectic cellar door in Arrowtowns main street. Located in an historic building it also doubles as an artisan deli and café with a premium range of gourmet food items. http://www.gibbstonvalleynz.com/arrowtown-expansion
Story by Margo Berryman. Wilderness Magazine.
Register Here for access to our Trade & Media Downloads