Need a break from adrenaline-pumping activities on New Zealand’s South Island? Spend a day in search of the best things to do in Arrowtown. The historic gold mining town of Arrowtown is one of Central Otago’s treasures. Its foundations date back to New Zealand’s 1860s gold rush when settlers stormed in to find their fortunes.
The top Arrowtown attractions reflect its gold mining history to a tee. As you wander around town, you’ll stumble upon old miner’s cottages and refurbished shophouses. Hidden among the historic buildings, you’ll find shops, restaurants, and cafés. There’s even a museum that ties all the stories together.
Wondering what to do in Arrowtown? Plan the perfect day trip or longer stay with this guide to the best places to visit in Arrowtown.
What to see & do in Arrowtown
Looking for the perfect starting point to your visit? Beeline for Arrowtown Village. The town’s historic centre is a feast for history buffs. Along the main street, Buckingham Street, you’ll see a barrage of lovely historic buildings. Inside, they hide boutique shops, restaurants, and a range of cafes.
Wander around Buckingham Street to grab a quick bite or stock up on souvenirs. For food, the Chop Shop and Slow Cuts offer some fine eats. For quirky souvenirs, try your luck at the Gold Nugget.
Arrow River Bridges Ride
Part of the epic Queenstown Trail, the Arrow River Bridges Ride is one of the top outdoor activities in Arrowtown. The 16-kilometre mountain biking trail stretches from the historic town centre to the Gibbston Valley.
As you might guess from its name, the Arrow River Bridges Ride crosses five bridges on route. Along the way, incredible scenery will entrance you. You’ll careen past green pastures, historic cottages, and gaping gorges.
If you’re a wine lover, continue the ride along the Gibbston River Trail. The track streaks past several of Queenstown’s top wineries. Settle in at one for a sip of exquisite Pinot Noir paired with local cheese to fuel up for the ride home. (Just don’t overdo it. Stay safe.)
While the historic town centre shows off the town’s European roots, the Chinese Settlement tells another story. During Arrowtown’s gold rush, a slew of Chinese miners flocked to the area to test their fortunes. Many built makeshift homes on the edge of town.
Today, the restored huts and signposts offer a glimpse at the conditions faced by Arrowtown’s early Chinese settlers. Set in a picturesque area, the Chinese Settlement is a wonderful counterbalance to the historic town centre.
Lakes District Museum & Gallery
Want to learn about the history of Arrowtown? Carve out some time to visit the Lakes District Museum & Gallery. Located in the centre of town on Buckingham Street, the museum answers all the questions you’d ever have about the region.
At the Lakes District Museum, you’ll learn about Arrowtown’s humble beginnings. From its early Maori life to the burst of Chinese and European settlement during its mining heyday, you’ll traverse it all.
Looking for a unique activity? Rent a gold pan from the museum and try your luck with gold panning on the Arrow River. With a good enough technique, you might just strike it rich! (Okay, maybe not rich. But a gold nugget will make for a great souvenir, no?)
Going after some of the finest views in Arrowtown? Hop across the Arrow River and slink over to Tobins Track. The moderate hiking trail isn’t long, but it’s well worth an hour or so of your time to soak up the panoramas.
When you reach the top of Tobins Track, you’ll find a bench donated by one of the original settler families. Sit down and watch the spectacular views unveil themselves. You’ll rest to impressive vistas over Arrowtown and of the Lake Wakatipu basin.
The trailhead for Tobins Track is at the end of Ford Street on the opposite bank of the Arrow River.
Arrowtown Golf Club
Need to add some sporty activities to your Arrowtown itinerary? Play a round of golf at the Arrowtown Golf Club. The prestigious golf course is famous in the Otago area for its scenery. Hitting the links, you’ll be distracted by a spectacular backdrop of snow-capped mountains and lush native forest.
As you might expect, a round at Arrowtown Golf Club doesn’t come overly cheap. For 18 holes, budget for greens fees of $95. (If you’re a member of the NZ Golf Association, the price slashes down to $50.)
Other popular golf courses in Arrowtown include The Hills Golf Club and Millbrook Resort & Country Club.
Located 5 minutes from Arrowtown, Lake Hayes is one of Central Otago’s finest slices of nature. The lake’s calm waters shimmer with mirrored images of the stunning lakeside mountains and hills.
The best way to experience the lake is by walking around it on the Lake Hayes Loop. The easy 8-kilometre loop is one of the most popular walks around Queenstown. Trekking along its flat terrain, you’ll breathe in spellbinding views of the countryside.
The Lake Hayes Loop should take no more than 2 to 3 hours to complete.
Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan
If you’re a wine lover, one of the best things to do in Arrowtown is to set your compass for Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan. Located near the shores of Lake Hayes, this cellar door serves innovative cuisine paired with Akarua’s finest wines.
Be sure to book your table at Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan ahead of time. It’s one of the most popular cellar doors & restaurants in the area.
How to get to Arrowtown
Arrowtown lies less than 20 kilometres northeast of Queenstown. The journey time on both the main route via Lake Hayes and the “scenic” route via Arthurs Point is about 20 minutes.
From Wanaka, it’s a 50-minute drive to Arrowtown via Cardona Valley.