Arrowtown: A Charming Historic Town in Southern New Zealand


Arrowtown is a small town in the Otago region in Southern New Zealand, a short way from the better known Queenstown. We spent the night here after finishing skiing at Cardrona. There was no direct transport from Cardrona to Arrowtown, so we took the return bus to Wanaka as part of our pre-booked skiing package and headed back to Arrowtown in a Yello! cab. Yello! is a local company operating in the Wanaka – Queenstown area. It offered us an excellent door-to-door transport service from iSite Wanaka to Shades of Arrowtown, where we stayed for the night.

Shades of Arrowtown, the motel

One reason we decided to spend a night in Arrowtown was the town’s unique architecture. Miners flocked to this place in the 1800s looking for gold in the Arrow River and built the town. Many of the structures erected during these early days can now be appreciated in their original state. Both historically and architecturally, Arrowtown is to New Zealand as Hội An is to Vietnam.

The backbone of Arrowtown is Buckingham Street. Strolling on the sidewalks, visitors can find cafes, stores, restaurants, and other exciting stops along the way, all in a relaxing, nostalgic atmosphere.

Buckingham Street in Arrowtown

Arrowtown Post Office

Buckingham Street also boasts the Lakes District Museum, a historic building in itself and now housing the town’s history.

Lakes District Museum

Skis from the old days being dsiplayed at Lakes District Museum,

A bit off the town’s centre is the Chinese miners’ settlement area which dates back to the gold rush era. Here you can see very simple huts where Chinese gold seekers lived as they continued to look for gold when the Europeans, who thought that gold was exhausted, had left.

Chinese miners’ huts

A typical Chinese miners’ hut with a chimney near the door

One of the most important structures to be seen here is Ah Lum’s store. Owned by Ah Lum (Lau Lei), it was once a store, a bank, and a meeting place for Chinese miners. Not far from Ah Lum’s store is a historic police hut that is also well preserved.

Ah Lum’s store

View from Ah Lum’s store with the historic police hut in centre

Visiting Arrowtown in winter, we were able to see snow everywhere along the banks of the Arrow River. The scenery was all white and impressive. This was totally unexpected and another fine reason that justified our decision to come here!

A snow-covered street in Arrowtown

Romans Lane in snow

A fallen tree, also covered in snow

Snow everywhere

Beautiful snowflakes

Arrowtown is also known for trails that are suitable for walking or cycling. If it had not been for a lack of time, we would have tested ourselves on one of those.

A list of Arrowtown trals

A cyclist on one of Arrowtown’s trails

A day in Arrowtown was perhaps too short for us to find out everything about the town. But it was enough to give us a lasting impression of this charming place.

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