99. A history lesson in Arrowtown
Exploring New Zealand’s vibrant street art, quirky museums, cutting-edge architecture and more is one of the best ways to uncover the stories of the nation: here is No. 99 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
In the historic gold mining village of Arrowtown, near Queenstown, the quest for gold lives on. In 2006, a Southland man reportedly unearthed a nugget worth $15,000 from the Arrow River. There’s no reason you can’t find some too. Start by learning to pan for gold at Dudley’s Cottage, before trying your luck in the Arrow River itself. There’s more gold mining heritage in Arrowtown’s Chinese settlement near the river. Take an easy walk from the village centre to see what life was like in the 1870s when more than 3500 Chinese gold miners lived in Otago. Stroll the settlement and poke around the meticulously restored huts, all of which are heritage listed.
If hiking or cycling is more your thing, you can bike or hike any one of the town’s many trails. Drop into the local museum on Buckingham Street for trail maps or to sign up for a walking tour. The Heritage Loop Walk takes you to the village’s main heritage sites, including the Chinese settlement, Arrowtown’s historic gaol and St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Hereford Street, where the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop, was based for a time. Before you finish the tour, check out the hilltop cemetery on Durham Street for a panoramic view of the picturesque alpine village.
Arrowtown is also a great place to eat and drink, albeit in heritage surroundings. You can breakfast at Provisions of Arrowtown, a cafe set in a restored cottage dating back to the 1870s. Sit by the fire in the New Orleans Hotel, built in 1866, and sip on a top-notch Central Otago pinot noir as the snow falls outside, while next door you’ll find the Remarkable Sweet Shop for old- style gobstoppers. The Fork And Tap, a restaurant and bar set in the town’s original stone bank, is a great place for pizza and craft beer, and for dinner, try the Stables Restaurant And Tavern located in the town’s historic horse stables.
Arrowtown, just 20 minutes’ drive from Queenstown, is a must-do for anyone with a soft spot for heritage buildings and townships that exude an authentic, yet quirky feel. And, while you’re in the area, you may want to head upriver to the historic mining village of Macetown. Long abandoned, the town is now a historic reserve, complete with relics from the gold-rush era including beautifully upgraded heritage huts and an all-metal stamping battery complete with high-quality signage. You can hike to Macetown yourself if you are that way inclined, or you can take a four-wheel drive adventure with Nomad Safaris with lots of historical insights along the way.