12 amazing things to do in Arrowtown

Small but surprising, discover the best things to do in Arrowtown.

Located in the South Island, just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a real gem.

Nestled along the Arrow River, this town has a fascinating history as a former gold mining town. For this reason (along with its natural beauty and attractions), it welcomes plenty of visitors every year. Its close proximity to Queenstown makes it the perfect place for a day trip, but there’s also more than enough to do in town if you’d like to spend the night – or perhaps, just use it as a base to escape the hustle and bustle of the neighbouring adventure capital of the world.

If you’re wanting to get involved with the town’s heritage, this is one of the best spots for gold panning. However, you’ll also find plenty of other things to do in Arrowtown.

Whether you’re a keen hiker or you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, this picturesque town has something for everyone.

Dining area outside Al Fresco Dining in Arrowtown.
Enjoy one of Arrowtown’s many restaurants, pubs, and cafes.

The Best Things to Do in Arrowtown

In Arrowtown, there’s a unique adventure awaiting you at every corner. You can head to the town’s iconic sweet shop, hike the Tobins Track, or visit one of the local wineries – and that’s just scratching the surface.

So, let’s take a look at the best things to do in Arrowtown…

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1. Explore the Historic Buildings that Line Buckingham Street

The first thing you’ll want to do is head down to Buckingham Street – Arrowtown’s main heritage area. It is absolutely stunning, lined with historical buildings on both sides and a scenic mountain backdrop behind.

As you wander down the street you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Marvel at these unique buildings and the miner’s cottages that date back to the 1870s.

Not only is the architecture incredible, but you’ll also find a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants along Buckingham Street.

All of the businesses found here are unique too – you won’t find any big chain stores in this scenic town.

People crossing the road and walking on the side walks with autumn leaves above them in Miner's Cottage.

2. Visit the Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery

Visiting the Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery is one of the best things to do in Arrowtown. The museum has been around since 1985 and is one of the country’s leading small museums. Plus, it’s cheap as chips to enter.

The museum is home to a variety of fantastic exhibits that depict early Māori and pioneer life in the area. As you’d imagine, the Lakes District Museum is a great place to learn about Arrowtown’s gold mining days.

There’s also an art gallery that displays a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, so make sure you head there too.

In a town which such a rich history, don’t miss this spot off your itinerary.

49 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9302

The Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery viewed from the outside.

3. Head to the Chinese Settlement within Arrowtown

If you want to learn about Arrowtown’s history then you’ll also want to visit the Chinese Settlement.

During the gold rush era, the town was home to both European and Chinese communities. Whilst the Europeans got to live in the picturesque Buckingham Street, Chinese miners were forced to live in tiny huts on the outskirts of Arrowtown.

There was a huge difference in living conditions between the two communities, and once you visit the settlement you’ll totally understand what we mean.

Today, some of these huts have been restored so you can see what it would have been like to live here.

The Chinese Settlement is free to visit and is found along Bush Creek.

The north-western end of Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9302

A historic Chinese Settlement made of rocks, hardened clay, and metallic sheets.
Photo credit: Troy Smith.

4. Pan for Gold in the Arrow River

You can’t visit Arrowtown without having a go at gold panning on the Arrow River.

The river is just a minute’s walk from the main town centre, and there are plenty of nearby places where you can hire gold pans. They’re rented out at surprisingly affordable rates, like at the Lakes District Museum, where you can borrow a pan without a time limit for just $5.

However, if you’re looking for lessons first then we’d recommend checking out Arrowtown Curios.

They offer a tutorial before you head off to the river, where they’ll teach you the most effective ways to pan for gold. They’ll also point you to the best spots, and give you a vial so you can keep any gold you find.

Gold panning is a family-friendly activity that the kids are sure to love.

Arrowtown Curios: 4 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9302

Pro Tip: The sun in New Zealand is particularly harsh, so be sure to have a sunhat and plenty of sunscreen if you’re panning for gold on a summer’s day. Learn more about what to expect from New Zealand’s weather before packing for your trip.

A dad showing his son how to sift gold from rocks in the river.

5. Wander Along the Arrowtown River Trail

If you’re looking to take a stroll in the area, then head down to the Arrowtown River Trail.

Starting at Butlers Green, this trail takes you on a 4.2 km (2.6 mile) loop along the Arrow River. It’s a relatively easy walk, but the trail can get slippery (especially after lots of rainfall) so mind your footing.

Along the way, you’ll pass a scenic waterfall and stroll through lush woodland making this a real hit with all ages.

You’ll need to allow yourself around an hour to complete the trail. This includes plenty of time to admire the scenery along the way.

This is just one of many lovely walks in Arrowtown.

Pro Tip: If you’re travelling as a family and have the kids’ bikes in the car, you might like to pull them out for this trail.

Kids riding a bicycle assisted by their mom in Arrow River Trail.

6. Enjoy a Self-Guided Bike Tour

If you’re a fan of cycling, then we’ve got the perfect activity for you! We recommend hopping on a self-guided bike tour to explore Arrowtown, Gibbston Valley, Lake Hayes and the surrounding area.

The team will give you a safety briefing, before letting you loose on their state-of-the-art bikes. Choose from a premium e-bike or a Hardtail cruiser.

You’ll also be given a map with the routes you’ll need, with options for every fitness level too. Then you’ll be free to explore at your own pace.

Swing past a vineyard, ride over a swingbridge or just soak up the beautiful scenery – the choice is yours.

Bike trailing near a river in Arrowtown.
Summer Leisure Biking. Biking in Arrowtown. DQ Full Use. DQ Commissioned Photoshoot.

7. Visit the Remarkable Sweet Shop

This is an unmissable Arrowtown spot for those of us with a sweet tooth.

The Remarkable Sweet Shop is found along the iconic Buckingham Street, set in a unique heritage building.

It’s home to the largest sweet selection in New Zealand (which is quite an impressive feat), plus they even offer free fudge and nougat tastings!

As you wander through the store, you’ll have endless goodies to choose from including hard-boiled sweets, tasty gummies, delicious chocolates, and of course, a wide variety of fudge.

Whether you buy some treats to nibble on, take them home as gifts for friends and family, or just try the samples, visiting this iconic shop is one of the best things to do in Arrowtown. Don’t miss out!

27 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9302

Items displayed through a glass window of the Remarkables Sweet Shop.

8. Hike Some of the Fantastic Trails that Start in Town (Tobins Track & Sawpit Gully Track)

If you’re a keen hiker (or tramper, as we like to say in New Zealand), you’ll enjoy the trails within the surrounding area.

Both Tobins Track and the Sawpit Gully Track start from town, and as they’re relatively short, you’ll have plenty of time left in the day to enjoy everything else there is to do in Arrowtown.

Tobins Track is the shorter option with a distance of 4.5 km (2.8 miles). You’ll need to allow around an hour for this trail.

The Sawpit Gully Track is the more challenging hike, covering 7.9 km (4.9 miles) in a loop. It takes between 2 and 3 hours.

No matter which one you choose, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views!

A panoramic view of Arrowtown showing the fields, mountains, rising sun, feathery skies, and the town.
The view from the top of Tobins Track during autumn.

9. Spend an Evening at a Boutique Cinema

After a day full of exploring, you might be looking for somewhere to relax as a family or for a romantic evening. For this, we’d recommend visiting the Dorothy Browns Boutique Cinema.

With a licensed bar, a cosy fireplace, and comfortable seats, this is one of the best spots to watch a movie in New Zealand.

As well as new releases, Dorothy Browns also shows independent films so there are plenty of choices. There’s also an intermission break, so you can pop out for more snacks! Perhaps a glass of wine or a tasty cheese board?

Though a movie isn’t necessarily top of your travel wish list, we recommend you check out this theatre.

18 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 9302

Pro Tip: You’ll find another one of our favourite little movie theatres in Wānaka. Like Dorothy Browns, Cinema Paradiso still have an old-school intermission there, where you can enjoy freshly baked cookies and delicious gelato, plus you’ll sit on comfy sofas!

Guests hanging out with beverages on their table in Dorothy Browns.
The Balcony Bar at Dorothy Browns.

10. Play Golf at Some of the Most Beautiful Courses on the South Island

With three great golf courses in the area, Arrowtown is the perfect place to visit if you’re keen to hit the fairway.

You’ll have the choice of Arrowtown Golf Club, The Millbrook, or the Hills Golf Club – each offering something special.

Arrowtown Golf Club is the oldest course of these courses, having been established in 1937. It offers dramatic scenery and challenging fairways.

Millbrook is another world-class course, that’s famous for its picturesque scenery and variety of holes.

Last but not least is Hills Golf Club. This is where the New Zealand Open is held, so you know it’ll be in top-notch condition.

Arrowtown Golf Club: 166 Centennial Avenue, Arrowtown 9371

Millbrook: 1124 Malaghans Road, Arrowtown 9371

Hills Golf Club: 164 McDonnell Road, Arrowtown 9351

A golfer swinging his club in a grassy plain in front of a mountain range.

11. Visit One of the Local Wineries

New Zealand is famous for its delicious wines, many of which are grown in and around Arrowtown.

One of the most popular spots for wine tasting is The Winery, which you’ll find in the town centre. It offers the largest range of New Zealand wines in the world, so is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a huge selection. Impressively, there are between 60-80 wines in total at the Winery!

Other popular wineries in the area include Wet Jacket Winery, Amisfield Winery, and Chard Farm Winery.

With so many great options, be sure to allow some time in your schedule for a wine-tasting experience.

The Amisfield concrete winery beside a hill.

12. Drive the Crown Range Road

The Crown Range Road is the highest main road in the country and is found off State Highway 6. Driving it is the best way to travel between Queenstown and Wānaka, though it actually starts from Arrow Junction. This is just 5.3 km (3.3 miles) from Arrowtown.

The Crown Range Road reaches an altitude of 1,121m (3,678 feet) so it’s not an easy drive, and you’ll need to be especially careful during the winter months.

However, if you decide this route is for you make sure you take your time as the views are breathtaking!

We recommend heading up and over the Crown Range as you head to Cardrona for skiing/snowboarding or a visit to their famous pub, or for a getaway to Wānaka.

A trail leading from the mountain ranges and going to the lake of Crown Range Road.

As you can see there are a number of awesome things to do in Arrowtown!

Whether you’re looking to hit one of the hiking trails, pan for gold, or relax at a local winery, there’s something for everyone!

Have you ever visited Arrowtown?

If you have, where’s your favourite place to visit? We’d love to know!

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