New Zealand is dotted with tiny townships we often drive through on the way to our next adventure. But in doing so, we might just bypass some of our greatest treasures. Each month, MCD highlights one of Aotearoa’s smaller towns so you can plan a stop, show them your support, and discover their hidden gems. This month, we’re stopping in Arrowtown.
Arrowtown might be tiny in size, but it packs a sizeable punch if you’re looking for beautiful scenery and a relaxed holiday vibe. Claire Smith checks out some of the great things to do while you’re there.
Visit the Chinese village
Central Otago is well known for its gold mining history, and Arrowtown is no exception. In the mid-late 1800s, Chinese miners flocked to Arrowtown and were given an allocated area to build their own stone huts to live in, along with stores and market gardens. Many of the huts remain and have been restored. The settlement, located in Dudley’s Cottage Precinct, provides a fascinating look back at Arrowtown’s mining history and is just two minutes’ walk from the town centre.
Grab a bite to eat
It’s been a tough time for Arrowtown cafés and restaurants over the past two years, so they’d really appreciate you stopping by for lunch or a bite to eat. A couple of good options (both on Buckingham Street) include the Postmasters Cottage Café which is set in a restored cottage that was once home to the postmaster. The menu is mouthwatering with all the usual favourites, plus vegan and gluten-free options. We recommend the Buckingham Burger – made from slow-cooked pulled beef and caramelised onions… yum! And if you fancy a decent New Zealand craft beer, stop by The Fork and Tap. This family friendly restaurant and bar has 17 Kiwi craft beers on tap, as well as local wines and a hearty menu including excellent pizzas. The kids have their own play area outside to keep them amused, and you can enjoy live music every Sunday from 3-6pm over summer.
Catch a movie with Dorothy Brown
If the weather isn’t great and you’re in the mood for some good entertainment, head along to Dorothy Browns on Buckingham Street. This lovely little boutique cinema, bar, and bookshop has been touted by moviegoers as the best in New Zealand. The seats are huge, the décor blends romantic charm with funky modernism, and the movies are arthouse and eclectic. And when you’ve finished your movie, browse through the bookstore, relax in the cosy couches, and enjoy a glass of local wine.
Plan your visit for the Autumn Festival
Arrowtown’s scenery is unbeatable in autumn as the rows of trees on the main street and surrounding areas put on a spectacular display of colour. To celebrate, Arrowtown holds an annual Autumn Festival in April. The past two years have had to be cancelled, but the festival is scheduled to be back in 2022 from 21-25 April. Festival attractions include a street parade, art exhibition, market day, and more. Find out more at arrowtownautumnfestival.co.nz.
Enjoy a game of golf
Arrowtown is a hidden gem for golfing fans, with several excellent courses including the Arrowtown Golf Club which is open year-round and provides a challenging 18-hole course backdropped by spectacular scenery. Golf clubs, trundlers and electric carts are all available for hire. Another top option is the award-winning Millbrook Resort – one of the most scenic courses in the world. This 36-hole championship course offers two 18-hole courses. All visitors are welcome with in-house guest and casual visitor rates, and golf cart and club hire options. Find out more at arrowtowngolf.co.nz.
Walk or bike the trails
For a relaxing post-lunch walk, try the Arrow River Trail which takes you through picturesque trees and woodlands and past a waterfall. The walk is an easy 4.2km loop, starting at Butlers Green, and takes around an hour. Another great one-hour walk is Tobin’s Track. This walk has some steep sections, so you’ll need a good level of fitness, but the views at the top looking down over Arrowtown and the Wakatipu basin are worth the effort. The track starts at the bottom of Ford Street.
Pan for gold
Gold was first discovered in Arrowtown in the mid-1800s, and soon after the township was bursting with miners all keen to claim their stake. The good news is, there’s still gold in them thar hills, and you can have a go at finding your own piece of treasure. Arrowtown Gold Panning will give you a panning lesson and all the equipment you need to pan for gold in the Arrow River. Find out more at arrowtowngold.com.
Visit the museum
Step back in time and learn more about the fascinating history of Arrowtown at the award-winning Lakes District Museum. The museum has a surprisingly large collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the stories of the area’s history and its early days as a thriving gold mining destination. The museum also houses an art gallery, bookshop, archives, and a research facility. Located on Buckingham Street, the museum is open from 10am – 4pm daily. And at just $10 for adults and $3 for children, it’s an inexpensive and enjoyable way to keep the whole family occupied for several hours.
Stay over at Arrowtown Holiday Park
If you’re heading through Arrowtown, make sure you plan to stay and enjoy everything on offer. Arrowtown Holiday Park has powered sites, full camp amenities, and a dump station. Responsible freedom camping for fully self-contained vehicles is available in some areas around the Arrowtown region. For a full list, including maps, visit qldc.govt.nz/recreation.
Looking for motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ? Browse our latest listings here.