Things to do in Arrowtown in New Zealand: Guide to all you need to know

Things to do in Arrowtown

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    Nestled in the heart of New Zealand's South Island lies Arrowtown, a picturesque settlement with a rich history and an array of activities to offer. Whether you're a history buff, an adventure seeker, or someone looking for a serene getaway, Arrowtown has something for everyone. Let's dive into what makes this town so special.

    History of Arrowtown

    Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town situated in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. The town's history traces back to August 1862 when Jack Tewa, also known as Maori Jack, discovered gold in the Arrow River. This discovery led to the rapid establishment of a township, initially named Fox's after William Fox's claim to have found gold first. 

    However, it was soon renamed Arrowtown. The town saw an influx of Chinese settlers in the 1870s, who were compelled to reside in huts along the banks of Bush Creek. At the peak of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population surged to over 7,000, making it the hub of a larger municipality that included new settlements like Macetown, Skippers Canyon, and Bullendale (which are now ghost towns). 

    Arrowtown was officially constituted as a borough in 1867, and Samuel Goldston became its first mayor in 1874. The town faced challenges, such as a significant fire in 1896 that destroyed several establishments. After the gold rush era, Arrowtown transitioned to providing services to local farms. In 2020, it was recognized as "the most beautiful small town" in New Zealand.

    Arrowtown in New Zealand

    Geography and Climate

    Arrowtown is located on the banks of the Arrow River, approximately 7.5 km from State Highway 6 and 19.5 km east of Queenstown. The town boasts a picturesque setting, surrounded by majestic mountains and lush landscapes. Buckingham Street, the main street of Arrowtown, is situated at an elevation of 410 meters above sea level. 

    The town experiences four distinct seasons. February is the driest month, receiving an average of 96mm of rain, while December is the wettest with an average of 144mm. January is the warmest month with average maximum temperatures ranging between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius, and July is the coolest with an average maximum temperature of 5 degrees Celsius.

    Things to do in Arrowtown


    Arrowtown is a hiker's paradise, offering a myriad of trails that cater to all levels. From gentle walks along the Arrow River to challenging hikes up the surrounding mountains, the views are consistently breathtaking. One popular trail is the Sawpit Gully Trail, a loop that takes you through a mix of forested areas and open spaces, offering panoramic views of Arrowtown and beyond. 

    For those interested in the town's gold mining history, the Arrow River Trail takes you past historic mining sites and offers the chance to pan for gold.


    For those who prefer two wheels, Arrowtown doesn't disappoint. The town is a hub for both road cycling and mountain biking. The Queenstown Trail connects Arrowtown to Queenstown and offers a scenic ride through the region's stunning landscapes. 

    For the more adventurous, the trails in the surrounding hills provide thrilling downhill rides and technical challenges. Local businesses, like Better By Bike Arrowtown, offer bike rentals, including electric bikes, making it easy for visitors to explore.

    Bike in Arrowtown


    The Arrow River, once the site of a bustling gold rush, is now a favorite spot for anglers. Rich in brown and rainbow trout, the river offers excellent fly fishing opportunities. Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner, local guides are available to provide insights and enhance your fishing experience.


    While Arrowtown itself doesn't offer kayaking, the nearby Lake Hayes and Kawarau River are perfect spots for this water activity. Paddle through calm waters, surrounded by mountains, and enjoy the serene beauty of the region. Local operators provide kayaking equipment and guided tours for those unfamiliar with the area.

    Lakes District Museum

    Dive into the rich history of Arrowtown at the Lakes District Museum. This museum offers a comprehensive look at the region's past, from its Maori origins to the gold rush era. Interactive exhibits, historic artifacts, and well-preserved photographs provide a vivid picture of life in Arrowtown during its heyday.

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    Goldfields Trading Company

    Relive the gold rush era with a visit to the Goldfields Trading Company. Here, visitors can experience gold panning and, with a bit of luck, find their own gold flakes! It's a fun and educational activity that both kids and adults will enjoy.

    Explore Boutique Shops

    Arrowtown's shopping scene seamlessly blends the old with the new. Wander through historic streets lined with boutique shops offering everything from local handicrafts to high-end fashion. Whether you're looking for unique souvenirs, artisan jewelry, or contemporary clothing, Arrowtown's boutiques have something to offer.

    Shops in Arrowtown in New Zealand

    Go to Cafes and Restaurants

    Arrowtown's dining scene is as diverse as its history. From cozy cafes like Provisions of Arrowtown, known for its delicious pastries and pies, to upscale restaurants offering gourmet dishes made from local produce, there's a culinary experience for every palate. Don't miss trying some local wines, which perfectly complement the region's cuisine.

    Restaurants in Arrowtown

    How to get to Arrowtown

    Whether you're traveling from Queenstown to Arrowtown or making the journey from Arrowtown to Queenstown, the trip is a scenic 25-minute drive. Regular bus services are also available, making the commute convenient.

    Best Time to Visit

    Autumn (March to May):
    Arrowtown is most famous for its vibrant autumn colors, making it a top destination for photographers. The annual Arrowtown Autumn Festival celebrates this picturesque season.

    Arrowtown in Autumn

    Winter (June to August):
    For winter sports enthusiasts, this season offers snowy landscapes ideal for skiing and snowboarding at nearby resorts.

    Spring (September to November):
    Spring sees the town come alive with blossoming flowers and mild temperatures, perfect for outdoor activities.

    Summer (December to February):
    Warm days and longer daylight hours make summer great for exploring the town's natural beauty and enjoying water activities at nearby lakes.

    In conclusion, Arrowtown, with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and plethora of activities, is a must-visit destination in New Zealand. Whether you're planning a short trip or an extended stay, this town promises unforgettable memories.

    Considering exploring New Zealand in a unique way? Why not rent a campervan and embark on a road trip? Check out for the best campervan rental deals and experience Arrowtown and its surroundings at your own pace.

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