Arrowtown: the ultimate guide to exploring Queenstown’s hidden gem

written by Kate Gazzard August 27, 2021
A scenic view of the mountains in Arrowtown, Queenstown

What was once a gold-mining town is now New Zealand’s national treasure….

If you’re traveling to Queenstown then the chances are your main focus is packing as much of an exhilarating punch as you can, from bungy jumping off the Kawarau bridge to shooting across the Shotover River at breathtaking speed (no, literally, it will take your breath away). While Queenstown is known for its adventurous activities, it’s also known for its stunning scenery and insta-worthy views.

Whether you’re taking it all in from the Skyline Queenstown or cruising on Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables in sight, Queenstown is full of magnificent places where Mother Nature’s beauty is on full display. But that’s not where her hard work ends.

Introducing Arrowtown, a town not only in abundance of natural beauty with sweeping fields full of lush vegetation and quaint, oak lined streets but also steeped in gold-rush history. Located just 21km out of Queenstown’s town centre, this historic yet vibrant destination offers character, charm, and a whole lot of fun from browsing through the main street’s quirky shops to dining it up at one of its many bustling eateries.  

If you’re traveling to Arrowtown as part of your Queenstown trip or exploring this town on your own, we’ve put together a guide on the things you must do if you want to get the full experience.  

Try your luck for gold in the Arrow River

An up close view of the Arrow River in Arrowtown where you can pan for gold.

Regardless of whether you’re in Arrowtown for the day or just for the afternoon, you must have a go at panning for your own gold in the Arrow River. Located just 2 minutes from the town, gold panning is the perfect activity for both kids and kids-at-heart and won’t take up too much of your time.

Simply hire a gold pan, make your way down to the river and start searching for gold. Sounds easy enough, right? If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to pan for gold or if you just want to brush up on your skills, there are numerous places including Arrowtown Curios that’ll not only give you a lesson in gold panning but also turn you into a professional in no time.

Tee off at one of Arrowtown’s three golf courses

A man taking a swing at the Arrowtown Golf Course in Arrowtown, Queenstown.

When it comes to golf, those who visit and live in Arrowtown are spoilt for choice with 3 truly spectacular golf courses to choose from; Arrowtown Golf Club, Millbrook Resort, and The Hills Golf Club.

Arrowtown Golf Club offers sweeping views and a dramatic mountain backdrop while the Millbrook Resort provides three, 9-hole world-class courses that have been designed by Sir Bob Charles and are as fancy as you can imagine. The Hills Golf Club, while being a fantastic place to play golf, is surprisingly so much more than that. A walk through the fairways will have you admiring various sculptures, well-kept gardens and expansive wetlands with waterways sprinkled throughout.

Each golf club has their own advantages but no matter which one you pick, you’re sure to be anything but disappointed.

Learn about the history of this town on a leader-led tour

Arrowtown is a proud community that celebrates its history and encourages those who visit to soak up as much of it as they can. If you’re interested in learning about the town’s gold-mining past and the people who came here from all over the world hoping to strike it rich, then there’s no better way of doing that than on a historical, leader-led tour.

Paired with a knowledgeable and local guide, this tour will take you through the streets of Arrowtown and down to the Chinese village for a glimpse into what life would have been like for the miners, and guarantees you’ll take a little piece of this town’s history home with you.


Browse through the main street shops

Two women walking down the main street of Arrowtown carrying shopping bags.

Looking like its straight out of the wild, wild west, the main street of Arrowtown has been perfectly preserved to reflect a small slice of the history this beautiful town is known for. Dotted with boutiques that are filled with delightful gifts, funky trinkets and quirky ‘can’t-go-home-without-them’s, Arrowtown provides a shopping experience like no other.

From fashion stores to art galleries, and from jewelers to confectionary shops, this main street has a bit of everything and guarantees you’ll go home with a unique souvenir of your time in this charming town.

Soak up some culture at the Lakes District Museum

The Lakes District Museum with lush vegetation in the background.

If the walking historical tour wasn’t enough history for you, then you’ll surely get your fill at the award-winning Lakes District Museum. Located right on the main street, this history hub offers an insight into Arrowtown’s gold-mining and early settler past, helping to paint an authentic picture on the daily life, struggles and celebrations, of the people who lived in this region.

With exciting and information-rich displays that depict stories of the European settlement and the bustling goldrush era in the 1800s, this museum is not only for the history-buffs but also for those who want a deeper understanding of this fascinating town and its place in the past.

Go for a walk on one of Arrowtown’s many trails

Arrowtown is recognized as part of Tohu Whenua, a place that has helped to shape New Zealand and connect the people of the present with stories from the past, and once you go for a wander through it, it’s not very hard to see why. Take your pick of fifteen trails that’ll take you past mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers, and have you enjoying the fresh air and the sound of nature playing out around you.

Whether you want to walk for an hour or gear yourself up for a six-hour round trip, Arrowtown has some of the best walking trails including the Arrow River trail, the Big Hill trail, and the Lake Hayes walkway, to keep the explorer in you satisfied.


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