It’s one of New Zealand’s most photographed towns and it’s easy to soak up the feeling of a special place. It’s so memorable! Here’s some easy ways to discover the history of this working village alive with contemporary cafes, shops and bars. Whether you have just an hour, or several days it’s awe inspiring connecting with the history in such a beautiful place. Many stay longer than a few hours.
Visit the Lakes District Museum and explore the 1862 gold rush stories taking you back in time. There's old streetscapes, artifacts, archives and a range of books. And it's great for children! The museum complex holds the original bank stables and the brick baker's oven, dating back to 1875. There's everything you need to know about Arrowtown and the wider Queenstown area. The trail map gives tips to explore the scenery and history of the town. Museum visit allow 40-90 minutes.
Be wowed by the stunning miners cottages - the famous "high street" string of miners' cottages, a beautiful streetscape and part of the Tohu Whenua network of sites connecting New Zealanders with their heritage and the defining stories of Aotearoa NZ. These quaint Buckingham Street cottages are among over 70 historically listed buildings, features and trees in a one kilometre radius, and date back to the 1860s.
Take an easy walk to the Chinese Settlement – the other key Tohu Whenua site in Arrowtown is just 2 minutes’ walk from the main street. It takes 15 to 30 minutes to explore how the early Chinese miners lived beside the river. See some restored huts and imagine the hardship and living conditions of the ‘other half’ in the gold mining days. Chinese gold miners flocked to this area later than the first European miners and settled from 1869. They set up two Chinese stores, market gardens and modest huts.
Browse along the Arrowtown Heritage Town Centre Walk – this Must-Do self-guided walk passes old-time commercial buildings, through the quaint miners’ cottages precinct and finishes at the Chinese Settlement. This can take half an hour or a couple of hours and you can easily fit in a café stop on the way with several historic buildings housing places to eat and drink. The self-guided is in the Arrowtown Official Guide, free from the museum.
Imagine being locked up in the gold days! Explore the Gaol and Reserve in Cardigan Street was built in 1876. The solid stone gaol was used until 1987, and replaced an earlier wooden hut. The original gaol was a log, to which offenders were chained. Just two minutes from the museum.
Look up to the Avenue of trees – the Mary Cotter tree is one of an avenue of English trees planted in 1867 all of which are renowned for autumn colours in April each year. The now huge tree shown is named for 2 year old Mary Cotter who danced around the sapling at the suggestion of the workmen planting the trees.
Arrowtown represents one of just 24 Tohu Whenua heritage sites.
Tohu Whenua are the places that have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Located in stunning landscapes and rich with stories, they offer some of our best heritage experiences.
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