What to Do in Arrowtown: Otago’s Pretty Little Gold Rush Town
Arrowtown is a town that looks like it’s straight from a pioneer attraction park, but better – it’s a living and breathing town complete with shops, cafes and an array of attractions. The town sprung up after gold was discovered in the Arrow River in the 1860s bringing with it prosperous-looking buildings that remain beautifully preserved to this day. Among the tree-lined streets, Arrowtown provides a wealth of photo opportunities, as well as a few extra activities which we’ll go through in this list of things to do in Arrowtown. You can find this town a mere 20 minutes drive from Queenstown.
While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.
1. Do the Arrow River Walk
Soak up the nature and scenery of the beautiful Arrow River Walk. At least enjoy the 20 minutes of the walk starting from town and taking you along the Arrow River, then turn onto the Arrowtown Anniversary Walk shaded by pretty sycamore, willow and larch trees. Alternatively, do the full river loop walk by crossing the footbridge, which takes about one hour to complete.
Location: Butlers Green
2. Indulge in the Local Cuisine
There’s no better way to get a feel for this unique New Zealand town than to sit down with a coffee or some delicious food and immerse in the atmosphere. Choose from around 20 different cafes and eateries with something to suit every taste and mood, including Italian, Spanish, Indian, Thai, Pubs, French, Japanese and more. You’ll also find speciality sweet shops and ice cream parlours should you only want a sweet treat!
Location: Buckingham Street and Ramshaw Lane
3. Visit the Chinese Settlement
Check out the restored and recreated Chinese Settlement separate from the main town. The Chinese Settlement gives an interesting insight into Arrowtown’s gold mining history. Wander around their old stores and huts among picturesque trees.
4. Check Out the Lakes District Museum & Gallery
More history can be discovered at Arrowtown’s very own museum. Located in the heart of Arrowtown, the Lakes District Museum details the social history of the gold rush era with lifelike displays of a grog shanty, blacksmiths, a school and more. While you’re there, rent a gold pan along with an instruction sheet to try your luck in the Arrow River. The museum also holds an information centre with walking and biking trail maps, as well as a book store and an art gallery.
Location: 49 Buckingham Street
5. Play Golf
Arrowtown is in proximity to some of the most scenic golf courses in New Zealand. Play 18 holes in an old glacier floor at the Arrowtown Golf Club, or test yourself at the famous Millbrook Resort with its 27-hole course or The Hills just next door. Find out more in our Top 5 Golf Courses in Queenstown.
Location: Arrowtown Golf Club – 166 Centennial Avenue, Millbrook Resort – 1124 Malaghans Road, and The Hills – 164 McDonnell Road
6. Do Some Winery-hopping
Just a short drive or cycle away is the wine-growing region of Gibbston, producing some of New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir. Try some of the local fares yourself at the tasting rooms and cellar doors throughout the valley. Or, if you don’t have the time to make it out there, there’s always the Gibbston Valley tasting room on Arrowtown’s Buckingham Street. Find out more about the local wineries in 10 Wonderful Wineries in Queenstown.
7. Watch a Movie at the Boutique Cinema
Watching a movie isn’t just “watching a movie” in Arrowtown. Dorothy Browns Cinema is a boutique cinema showing art-house films, as well as the latest blockbusters. Relax in an intimate setting with a glass of wine from the bar and one of their delicious cheese platters.
Location: 18 Buckingham Street
8. Cycle the Queenstown Bike Trail
Arrowtown is ideally situated on the 100km (62-mile) Queenstown Bike Trail at one of the easiest stretches of the trail. Hire a bike from in town and hit the Arrow Bridge Trail which stretches 16km (10 miles) down the river to the Gibbston Valley and its selection of wineries down the Kawarau Gorge.
Location: Arrow River car park
9. Browse the Boutique Stores
The historic buildings of Buckingham Street is a high street that many of us want to stay around for a while. A great way to make the most of the picturesque buildings and charming atmosphere is by browsing the shops. There is a fantastic range of stores to find souvenirs, from merino wool knitwear to golden nuggets to beautifully-carved greenstone. It’s an authentic New Zealand shopping experience.
Location: Buckingham Street
10. Hit the Slopes
Arrowtown is a beautiful place to be in winter and one of the spectacular towns to base yourself in for skiing. Arrowtown is not too far from both the Queenstown and Wanaka ski fields. Plus, it provides a much more relaxed atmosphere than the surrounding towns, while still having a good choice of bars and restaurants. Check out The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season for more information.