Arrowtown is a very special place in winter, and until now it’s been a well kept secret. This charming heritage town is just 25 minutes away from Queenstown by car but it’s a world away in spirit. It’s a peaceful haven but there’s still so much to do – intimate bars, awarding-winning restaurants, a cinema, a museum and heaps of boutiques, plus a vast network of walking and biking tracks to explore.
The après-ski scene in Arrowtown is welcoming and sophisticated. After dark, Buckingham Street transforms into a unique and atmospheric nightscape as heritage lighting reveals the details of gold rush era buildings and the textures of old schist walls.
Make sure you investigate the alleyways that run off main street…there you’ll find some real gems. Open up that unmarked low blue door and you’ll be in a secret bar with a roaring fire and leather armchairs. Walk through the cinema foyer to the balcony and you’ll find yourself in a tiny bar with funky decor and a huge selection of gin on offer. Head into the various courtyards, you’ll come across even more bars as well as restaurants and cafés, many of them in historic buildings, that feel just like coming home.
Shopping is a genuine pleasure in Arrowtown’s boutique stores. Here you’ll find unique, locally made gifts, quirky home decor, a stunning range of clothing and footwear from local and international designers and a mouthwatering selection of fine wine and gourmet food. There’s not a soulless chain store in sight – instead you’ll get personalised service and advice, often from the owners themselves.
Our galleries have an eclectic collection of art from New Zealand all over the world. Arrowtown is a magnet for visual artists, some of whom have their own gallery spaces or have their studios open to the public, so you'll get to see the best of local arts and crafts too.
There's more to Arrowtown shopping than Buckingham Street – make sure you go down the steps to Ramshaw Lane too, there are some great finds down there!
Arrowtown started life in the gold rush of 1862, and so much built heritage from the early days remains that it is recognised as one of the Tohu Whenua landmarks that tell our stories.
Our beautiful main street is chock-a-block with history – the iconic miners’ cottages just a few of more than 70 historic features in a one kilometre radius. After dark, special lighting showcases the heritage buildings, trees and façades. Down near the river, a visit to the restored shacks of the Chinese Settlement gives an insight into how the early Chinese gold miners lived. On a cold winter’s day down in the shaded valley it’s easy to imagine the hardships endured by the ‘other half’ in the gold rush days.
To get just a taste of what it was like to mine for gold, try renting a gold pan and go prospecting in the river...get a lesson if you want to improve your chances!
Arrowtown is surrounded by scenery that will take your breath away, and this gorgeous landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers and forests is crisscrossed by tracks and trails. In winter the shaded paths beside the Arrow River sparkle with frost, and a short, sharp hike up a hill will take you up into the alpine zone, maybe even to the snow line.
Or you could hire a bike and wheel along the purpose-built trail to the wineries at Gibbston for wine tasting or a meal. If you haven’t been on a bike for a while you can always get an e-bike for that extra push.
Not every day can be a bluebird day – but don’t let a bit of cold or wet weather put you off making the most of all Arrowtown has to offer. Maybe it’s not the best time to go hiking or biking but there’s still lots to do.
Be pampered at a day spa with a massage, mani-pedi or facial or take it to the next level with a skin peel or a body wrap. Grab a glass of wine, a cheeseboard and a blanket and cocoon yourself at our delightful cinema. Settle in for a long brunch (complete with perfect espresso coffee) at one of our many cafés. Prop up the bar, craft beer in hand, at a pub or find the perfect wine – or whisky, gin or sake – for you with a unique self-serve tasting experience. While away a couple of hours in the Lakes District Museum, finding out about early Māori life, the gold rush, and the pioneering days of the European and Chinese settlers.
You can pick up information about all Arrowtown has to offer from the friendly folks at the visitor centre in the Lakes District Museum in Buckingham St.
Photo: Martin Sliva
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