There's so much offered by nature’s outdoors around Arrowtown, it’s almost silly. Walking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, golf and much more. Welcoming Arrowtown, with its shops, cafés and bike hire firms, is the perfect setting out point for your next outdoor adventure.
Here in Arrowtown we're blessed to be the gateway to Mahu Whenua, New Zealand's largest privately owned park. The walking trails are famous and take you through forests, beside streams and waterfalls, to the very tops of the mountains – and the network is growing all the time. In just half an hour you'll find yourself high above Arrowtown with your breath taken away with views down into the Whakatipu basin or across the mountains and valleys. Bring your walking shoes and take your pick from a huge range of tracks from gentle riverside ambles to experts-only alpine expeditions.
The network of cycle trails is growing quickly too, and there's a option for everyone whether you're an gung-ho downhiller or haven't been on a bike in decades. Wheel along the purpose-built trail to the wineries at Gibbston or go for a spin beside the river or around Lake Hayes. Hire an e-bike to get an extra bit of energy if you need it. If you’re up for something more challenging, ride single-track from Coronet Peak all the way back to Arrowtown or head up the Arrow River to the goldmining ghost town of Macetown.
And that's just the beginning of what you can do in the outdoors. Pages on this website give you more information on:
Arrowtown's surrounds were shaped over millions of years. Extremes of heat and cold formed its base landscape and geology. The most common local rock is schist, which has been used to build homes and walls since the earliest European settlers.
Schist was formed by a process called metamorphism, where layers of 250-million-year-old volcanic rock and sedimentary material were combined with huge pressures and temperatures of up to 400°C.
Schist was interspersed layers of quartz, seams of gold, and copper. The viewpoint at the top of the zigzags on the road to Wānaka is a good place to see how the glaciers then carved the Whakatipu basin, as periods of ice advanced and retreated.
This ice began to melt 14,000 years ago. Slowly, the plant species colonised the area.
Māori explorers had travelled through the Whakatipu basin for about a thousand years before the gold rush in 1862. Archaeological finds of pounamu (jade) workings at Lake Hayes, moa hunting at Arrow Junction and artefacts near Gibbston and Macetown trace their steps.
Before gold miners and pastoralists, the Whakatipu Basin was a shrubland with species like manuka and the thorny matagouri common. The cover of native bush and mountain beech forest in the shady gullies was home to many species of birdlife, and the hillsides tussock herbfields, with sharp pointed taramea (speargrass) punctuating the slopes.
Fire and invasive plant species and animals introduced by Europeans altered the ecological balance.
The moa became extinct through hunting in pre-European times, and many other native birds have vanished in the last 150 years.
Rabbits were introduced in Southland in 1867 and within about fifteen years, bred to plague proportions, and spread throughout the South Island, eating pastures and starving the farmed sheep. Many farmers were bankrupted or forced to leave their land.
The 1880s introduction of stoats, weasels and ferrets was meant to control rabbit numbers, but native birds were easier prey. Plants like blackberries and briar rose were introduced by settlers as hedges and as a source of Vitamin C. However they also spread out of control and became weeds covering large areas.
Today, the hillside around Arrowtown is covered in mainly exotic or introduced trees and shrubs, many turning the hillside to the autumn flame reds and yellows, for which Arrowtown is famed. A long-term project is under way to remove invasive weed plants and trees while retaining the autumn colours.
The pretty calls of native song birds, such as the bellbird and tui, are heard in the trees and gardens in town.
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