View from the Historic Bridge over the Shotover River in Arrowtown, New Zealand.
View from the Historic Bridge over the Shotover River in Arrowtown, New Zealand. iStock

Seriously, this New Zealand town is history

Arrowtown's slogan is 'where history meets nature' and the town is rightly proud of it. It has history aplenty and Mother Nature provides a vivid backdrop of deciduous trees by the Arrow River. It's a photographer's dream. Then there are those magnificent mountains - The Remarkables - keeping vigil over it all.

Just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown's beguiling centre in New Zealand's South Island, Arrowtown is on most visitors' bucket lists.

It's small, walkable in an hour, but you'll want to spend at least a day here. You may (should) stay overnight and there are plenty of accommodation options from the budget-friendly to the high-end.

Can you resist the chocolates at Patagonia?
Can you resist the chocolates at Patagonia?

At first sight Arrowtown looks like a re-created Disney town, perhaps a little on the twee side, but it is much more than that. It is a working village with old-fashioned commercial buildings and rows of quaint miners' cottages.

It is packed with unique shops, quirky cafes, lively bars and good wine shops stocked with pinot noir (and other varieties of course). The region is famous for its pinot noirs, none of them cheap, but all of them excellent.

Life took off for Arrowtown in 1862 when a shearer called Maori Jack Tewa found gold in the Arrow River. The brasher William Fox quickly leapt in, took over operations and soon more than 1500 gold miners were working the river.

You can imagine the chaos, buzz, fun, highs and lows as dreams were pursued, few achieved, most lost. Most of the miners were Chinese, they built a settlement just outside the town. Some of the settlement's buildings are original, some re-created, all maintained to ensure the small Chinese hamlet is a place of its own.

Arrowtown Chinese Settlement.
Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. iStock

We circumnavigated Arrowtown in a couple of hours, the main street, Buckingham St, is criss-crossed with charming alleyways full of surprise shops and more cafes. We stopped for coffee then wine, then small purchases, then watched others sit out in the November sunshine on terraces in front of cafes.

It's that kind of dreamy place. Nothing must be rushed.

We loved the handcrafted chocolates at Patagonia Chocolates and ventured into Arrowtown's famous Remarkable Sweet Shop in the main street (which provided familiar lollies, but they give free fudge tastings every day and that's worth a visit alone.)

There are no chain shops or cafes in Arrowtown, what a blessing.

When the gold ran out all those years ago and the miners left, Arrowtown faded but it kept its heritage and thank goodness people with vision began its resurgence in the 1950s and managed to maintain more than 70 historic sites.

Now Arrowtown is a drawcard, it buzzes all day and at night the locals and overnight visitors come out to meet in the bars and restaurants and indulge in a bit of gentle knees-up.

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