Arrowtown: a bit of goldrush history

A short drive from Queenstown, lies Arrowtown, an historic town sitting by the Arrow River. This area was once a rich source of gold, and attracted many people who arrived intent on seeking their fortune, panning for gold. By 1862, there were several thousand miners, and at the height of the gold rush, the population reached 7,000. After the gold ran out, it became a small town servicing the farming community, and the population shrunk considerably. However, since the 1950s, it has became a popular holiday destination, with its proximity to Queenstown, and the population has risen back up to around 3,000.

Luckily, the legacy of those early settlers has been retained in Arrowtown, making it a really interesting place to visit. The heart of the town is Buckingham Street, which is made up of a series of heritage buildings that stretch into a tree lined avenue of small miners’ cottages. Buckingham Street is also home to the Lakes District Museum, which was where we started our visit on Saturday morning. Below you can see the outside of the building and the view over to the post office from the museum.

The museum was established in 1948, apparently starting life in the billiard rooms of the Ballarat Hotel which sounds a rather different place for a museum! Anyway, the museum moved to its current home, the former Bank of New Zealand building, in 1955. It is one of those fun museums that has recreations of old interiors as well as other exhibits. Below you can see an old printing press, a carriage, an old school room and a bakery. I confess that I love this type of museum, as you kind of get a feel for what things might have been like.

We stopped for a coffee at Provisions of Arrowtown after the museum visit, and admired an amazing quince tree, full of fruit as you can see below. I was lucky to sit next to this lovely bright pot of geraniums which were a lovely contrast to the slightly grey day. In fact, the whole town was filled with colourful flowers and autumn shades. I particularly liked the white Japanese anemone (just a change from all our pink ones at home!).

Revived, we took a walk along Buckingham Street, stopping to look at The New Orleans Hotel. Established in 1866, it is the original pub in the town. I am not sure why it is called this, but from what I could see, it hasn’t changed its name since it opened.

Arrowtown today has around 70 buildings and features left from the gold rush era. Below you can see an example of some of the houses to be found along the main street. It was really quite beautiful, with trees lining both sides, not what you might expect.

The town is filled with lots of little shops, cafes and even has a small cinema. I treated myself to some locally produced cheese from Gibbston Valley Cheesery, and Karl bought some wine from the Arrowtown Wine Store. To the south of the town, lying on the banks of the river, lies the Chinese settlement, which I will feature in the next post as I think it worthy of a post on its own.

Anyway, please check out my previous post on our Queenstown weekend. For some reason, it didn’t appear in the normal reader feed, so do please go and have a read.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on


  1. I grew up on a small South African gold mine and my father wrote a brief history of the discovery of gold in the Barberton area, so this would have been a wonderful place for me to have visited. Thanks to you I have a glimpse!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband and I love going to small, regional museums, and this one in Arrowtown is definitely one of the best ones. Oh thanks Laurie for liking my pink anemones! They are looking quite spectacular at the moment I do have to say.

      Liked by 1 person

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