New Zealand

Arrowtown – A hidden gem near Queenstown


Everyone knows Queenstown, it is the go-to spot on New Zealand’s south island, and rightly so. I am in that crowd, it is awesome.

But there is another little treasure only 20 minutes down the road called Arrowtown.

Now it is little, definitely not rival to the established and beautiful Queenstown but it is quirky and quaint, and well worth a visit.

The Gold Rush

Arrowtown is historic. Established in 1862 at the height of the Otago Gold rush. The town grew quickly on the banks of the river Arrow as settlers came fast to try their luck at finding gold.

That river was a literal gold mine. Due to the surrounding mountains where the gold forms, then with time and erosion the gold pigments get washed down the river.

It was discovered by Jack Tewa and this find led the way for a whole community to come and try their own luck.


 Chinese settlements 

On the news of the discovery of gold, Chinese immigrants fled the harsh realities of their homeland to try and change their fortunes with this venture.

They made their own community down on the river banks, but still suffered poverty and worse, often victims of discrimination by European settlers. It wasn’t an easy existence but they definitely came together as a group and would work to send any gold back to families left behind.

Today the site still exists and has been partially restored. It absolutely fascinating walking around the huts and reading the information about what their lives looked like.


Next door to the settlement is a gorgeous English style cottage that I would highly recommend stopping for a nice lunch in their garden or even better experience a gold panning lesson.


Find your own gold

Now the gold rush days are long over, however you can still find gold in the river! At Dudley cottage you can hire the equipment to go gold panning yourself, and you can even have a lesson on how. I would highly recommend the lesson, gold planning is not as easy as it may look!

Once you’ve practised with them you can wander through the woodland and follow the crystal clear creeks down to the main Arrow river and try your own luck.

Phil was desperate to find some, and definitely had more patience than me.  I quickly gave up. However because of his persistence I kept on and would you believe… I actually found some! From our previous lesson, we were able to identify what is real gold, and they even give you a little bottle to put the pigments (or small nuggets if you’re lucky) in. So we knew that I had the real deal.

Definitely got a little buzz off that.

Gold panning

The town

After this, we explored the adorable town, still with some of its original buildings and the rest of them maintained in a traditional style, they are all surrounded by stunning trees. It feels like you’re in another time and it is lovely. The town is also full of independent shops, galleries, restaurants and the Lake District museum to learn more about the area.

Nearby there are also walking and cycling trails, for all abilities, as well as 4×4 adventure experience.

We loved strolling around, with an ice cream in hand and meeting all the locals. Our particular favourite stop was Off The Wall gallery where a long chat with the owner inspired my hubby to actually take the plunge to start his own business WSO.

There was something lovely about getting away from the hustle of Queenstown and exploring some history, as well as the beautiful area. As you can see from the pictures it is quite a picturesque spot.

This was a lovely day out, but I think you could easily spend more than one day there if you wanted to really explore the surrounding countryside or just relax.

Have you been to Arrowtown? Or have you now added it to your list?

Always fab to hear your thoughts.




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