Arrowtown in summer is heaven for walkers as the many tracks that radiate out from the village are firm and dry, and the long daylight hours and lack of snow mean hikers can head high into the mountains on an alpine adventure. If your ambitions are less lofty, you can always settle for a stroll in the shade of the willow trees beside the Arrow River, the mountain stream that descends from the mountains to skirt the village.
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. If you’ve got some experience on a mountainbike there are also more challenging options, including singletrack that links Coronet Peak with Arrowtown.
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 outdoor pool, and this year for the first time it’s heated – to a toasty 28°C!
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 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. And 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 free Department of Conservation campsite in the historic reserve.
Arrowtown is uniquely well set up for kids: there’s a skate park, playgrounds, swimming pool, pump track and cinema. But sometimes the simplest things are the best and the Arrow River offers all sorts of opportunities for paddling, dam building and rope swinging – as well as panning for gold, something the whole family can enjoy.
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.
Of course it does rain in Arrowtown in summer sometimes – it’s good for the fruit trees and grapevines! – but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Just a stone’s throw away at Gibbston are wineries that produce some of the best cool-climate wines in the world. You could go to the cinema, explore the museum and take in some art galleries, indulge yourself with a spa day or go shopping at Arrowtown’s boutique stores.
There’s plenty on the events calendar to take advantage of the summer weather, including a farmers market every Sunday. In early December the village’s restaurants celebrate the start of the season by taking over the main street for the Long Lunch. In January the century-old Lake Hayes A & P Show is a genuine Kiwi farming tradition, with show jumping, dog trials, sheep shearing and children’s entertainment. And for the music-lovers there’s generally an outdoor rock concert or two out at the vineyards in Gibbston.
If you’ve got the energy, you can be part of the Lake Hayes Christmas Triathlon or, in March, the Motatapu mountain bike and mountain running races. But if you’re more inclined to watching than participating, there’s the NZ Open golf championship hosted by The Hills and Millbrook in March.
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