Arrowtown Area Guide
Arrowtown in Autumn - © Naturespic.com
The town sprung up in 1862, when gold was discovered in the Arrow River, and in the ensuing gold rush more than 7,000 Europeans and Chinese flooded into the area, seeking to make their fortunes. The Lakes District Museum in the historic Bank of New Zealand building on Buckingham Street paints an authentic picture of the gold rush days, and has artefacts from the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement on display.
Arrowtown's old heart has been beautifully restored, with many of the 19th century wooden miners' cottages in original condition. The Visitor Centre, in the same premises as the museum, has a good leaflet on the historic buildings of Arrowtown - many of which are unusually small and close together, perhaps because of the shortage of local timber. The evocative Chinese Settlement at the western end of Buckingham Street on the banks of Bush Creek is the most well preserved of New Zealand's Chinese mining communities, its focal point the 1883 Ah-Lum's Store, which sold European and Chinese goods, and operated as an opium den and bank.
Within walking distance of the town are two sites used as locations for filming the Lord of the Rings: the Arrow River, which portrayed the Ford of Bruinen, where Arwen carried Frodo across the river on horseback with the Black Riders in pursuit; and the wide expanse of Wilcox Green, just a short walk away, which became the wintry Gladden Fields.
For an authentic ghost town atmosphere, travel 14 kilometres north from Arrowtown along the original miners' wagon track to the deserted old gold town of Macetown, where a few old buildings are all that remains of the once bustling town. The four-wheel-drive road to Macetown crosses the river more than 20 times, and is a popular route for mountain biking, horse trekking and hiking.