Visiting Queenstown? Then don’t miss this nearby former gold mining town, now a hub for golfers, gourmets, lovers of adventure and of breathtaking scenery
Arrowtown is just a scenic 20-minute drive away from downtown Queenstown, but a world away, with its charming village atmosphere, pioneering heritage and stunning natural beauty.
While the first-class cluster of cafés, boutique stores, gourmet eateries, galleries and activities welcomes visitors year round along the main Buckingham Street, late April is the perfect time to visit and enjoy the 30th annual Arrowtown Autumn Festival. The popular festival begins with a colourful street parade of community groups cheered by thousands of spectators lining the streets. It continues with a market day, Art 2 Wear competition, golf club festival, art exhibition, gold panning tours, guided historical walks, vintage car rally, live music and theatre, performances by the Buckingham Belles dance troupe and many more free and family-friendly attractions until May 4. The festival celebrates the wondrous turning of countless tree leaves from lush green to red, russet and gold in and around the tranquil 152-year-old village.
See and do
The Lakes District Museum and Gallery is an excellent introduction to Arrowtown and is the keeper of the historical flame of early Maori life and pioneering European and Chinese settlements over two floors and three preserved buildings. The 66-year-old institution boasts art gallery, bookshop, archives and research facility and a leading education program. The museum also owns and operates Arrowtown's historic Post Office, directly opposite. 49 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 1824.
Golf fans will know Arrowtown as the home of the New Zealand Open, which ended this year when Australian golfer Dimitrios Papadatos took home the silverware and NZ$153,000 on March 2. Arrowtown is bordered by three courses to suit all abilities and wallets. Arrowtown Golf Club is one of the finest country clubs in New Zealand and one of the most accessible 18-holers. 166 Centennial Ave, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 1719.
Millbrook Resort’s par-72 championship golf course, designed by the grandmaster of golf Sir Bob Charles, was transformed into 27 interchangeable holes courtesy of an extra nine holes in 2009 designed by former golf pro Greg Turner, of Queenstown, and Scott McPherson, of Edinburgh. Malaghans Rd, Arrowtown. +64 3 441 7010.
The Hills is the world-class course owned by entrepreneur Sir Michael Hill, who has festooned the exclusive seven-year-old venue with sculptures from around the globe. The immaculately landscaped 200ha course is limited to 200 members. Rapid 164 McDonnell Rd, Arrowtown. +64 3 409 8290.
Those looking to discover Arrowtown off the beaten track, literally, will enjoy 4WD scenic tours of the backcountry with Southern Explorer. 4 Merioneth St, Arrowtown. +64 3 441 1144.
The boutique Dorothy Brown's Cinema & Bar is named after one of Arrowtown's many legendary figures. Dorothy was a turn-of-the-century photographer who lived with a Chinese gold miner. Whether or not she ran an opium den is unclear, but her namesake is the only picture house where you can enjoy the latest independent, alternative and foreign language films. Settle back in plush seats with a drink from the well stocked bar and a cheeseboard. 18 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 1968.
Eat and drink
Fresh produce from around the food basket that is the South Island of New Zealand makes its way from gate to plate in Arrowtown, be it stylish cafés, family eateries to trend-setting restaurants. Authentic fare from India and Thailand are also on the menu.
A favourite meeting place for residents over a coffee or lunch is Provisions of Arrowtown, found in the midst of the historic precinct garden, which features the beloved miners’ cottages. Everything is baked on the premises and the licensed café is renowned for its sticky buns. 65 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 0714.
Saffron Restaurant is one of the best in New Zealand and the quality cuisine is the passion of owner-chef-author Pete Gawron. The innovative seasonal menu can be enjoyed al fresco in spring and summer, or inside the modern establishment near the crackling fireplace in autumn and winter. 18 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 0131.
Gawron also owns the neighbouring little secret, The Blue Door, an intimate bar hidden behind a (well, you know), ideal for an aperitif or digestif with someone you want to impress. 18 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 0885.
Arrowtown is a gateway to nearby Gibbston, the valley of wines, one of three subregions of vineyards in Central Otago. Autumn offers a perfect opportunity for a firsthand wine experience by sampling award-winning pinot noir from cellar doors while 200 vineyards begin the harvest.
Time your Arrowtown visit for April 13, 2014 and you may see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visiting Amisfield Wine, just down the road from the village, as part of their tour of New Zealand. 10 Lake Hayes Rd. +64 3 442 0556.
There are many bed and breakfasts, guest houses, apartments, cottages and lodges to choose from and all offer the weary traveller home-from-home hospitality.
For those on a budget and looking for the time-honoured Kiwi experience of camping, make tracks for the Arrowtown Born of Gold Holiday Park. 12 Centennial Ave, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 1876. .
Established in 1866, the original country pub New Orleans Hotel is right on the main street. The family-owned business provides comfortable Queen or twin rooms, some with views across the Arrow River. 27 Buckingham St, Arrowtown. +64 3 442 1748.
The luxurious Arrowtown House Boutique Hotel stands out from the crowd as winner of the 2013 Travellers Choice Award – voted number three in New Zealand for romance. 10 Caernarvon St, Arrowtown. +64 3 441 6008.
Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand all run direct flights between Melbourne and Queenstown. All rental vehicle companies have desks at Queenstown Airport. The public Connectabus service is regular and reliable, and three taxi firms operate in the Wakatipu basin.