Just 20 minutes’ drive from Queenstown Airport, Arrowtown is a village with a special vibe in summer. The days are long, the weather’s good and the atmosphere is laid-back as families live the outdoor life. There are heaps of fresh-air activities to do, an abundance of outdoor dining options to choose from and plenty of places to cool off when the hot weather kicks in. Here are just seven suggestions!
Arrowtown is the gateway to some of the best short walks in New Zealand. Our mammoth trail network takes you into the spectacular back country, through forests, beside rivers and lakes, to the very tops of the mountains. In just half an hour you can go from main street to high above Arrowtown with a breathtaking panorama or deep in untouched native forest beside a chuckling stream.
So lace up your walking shoes and get ready to breathe the fresh alpine air and connect with nature on an impressive range of tracks from gentle riverside ambles to experts-only expeditions.
Part of the Queenstown Trail, a well-maintained network of shared tracks, Arrowtown is a hotspot for biking. It’s possible to ride almost entirely off road beside rivers and lakes to Lake Hayes and beyond to Queenstown, but perhaps you’ll be tempted to head the other way, to the famous wineries at Gibbston for lunch among the vines. You can hire a bike in Arrowtown, and there’s always the option of a pick-up if you feel like you can’t make it back after a couple of glasses of chilled rosé. Or hire an ebike to get some extra oomph. If you’ve got some experience on a mountainbike there are also more challenging options, including singletrack that links Coronet Peak with Arrowtown.
Arrowtown’s golf courses rate among the best in New Zealand – all three made the top 15 in New Zealand Golf magazine’s 2020 rankings. Which course will you choose? Exclusive The Hills, home of the New Zealand Open? Gorgeous Millbrook with its 36 championship holes and attached resort? Or Arrowtown Golf Club with its spectacular views and welcoming club atmosphere?
If all this activity on a summer’s day gets you hot and bothered, there’s plenty of water around for a dip. The Arrow River has a wealth of swimming holes, and peaceful Lake Hayes makes a great swimming spot as it is not used by jetboats and water skiers and, unlike the glacier-fed larger lakes, the water gets quite warm in summer. If wild swimming’s not for you, Arrowtown also has its own heated outdoor pool right in the centre of town!
There’s nothing that says summer like dining outside, and Arrowtown has no shortage of possibilities. Take your pick from over a dozen pubs, cafés and restaurants that offer al fresco dining. Find some shade under a fruit tree or sun umbrella during the day or enjoy the cool of the evening at an outdoor restaurant or bar table. Or just take a picnic to Lake Hayes or throw a sausage on the barbie at your accommodation. The choice is yours.
You can delve deep into Arrowtown’s gold rush history just by going on a walk around town. Be wowed by the beautiful streetscape with more than 70 heritage buildings, features and trees. Stroll around the restored huts of the Chinese Settlement and learn how the early Chinese miners lived in brutal conditions. Don’t miss the 1876 stone gaol, the three historic churches and Mary McKillop cottage. And do try your luck panning for gold like the old-timers did!
For more information, pick up your free copy of Historic Buildings of Arrowtown from the museum or follow the self-guided Heritage Town Centre Walk in the official Arrowtown guide. Also ask there about hiring gold panning equipment.
For a back-country experience with a side serving of history, head to the vanished gold-mining settlement of Macetown. There’s no road access, so find an alternative mode of transport – ride a mountainbike or take a 4WD tour up the Arrow River, or walk on your own two feet over Big Hill. Along the way check out the relics left from the gold rush that began in the 1860s. When you get there, be sure to carry on to the Homeward Bound stamper battery, New Zealand’s grandest. If you pack a tent, you’ll even be able to stay overnight in the Department of Conservation campsite in the historic reserve.
For more information about these and other Arrowtown activities, drop in to the visitor centre at the Lakes District Museum.
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