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New Zealand’s South Island is full of quaint and charming small towns, one of my favorites being Arrowtown! Just a quick drive north of Queenstown, there are plenty of things to do in Arrowtown that make for a great escape from the bustle of Queenstown.
I frequently visit Arrowtown for a day trip from Queenstown, as it’s full of old historic architecture, amazing cafes and bars, and is also a hub for outdoor activities. Arrowtown is on the way from Queenstown to Wanaka, so a lot of those famous Wanaka hikes can be reached from Arrowtown. Arrowtown is also close enough to Queenstown that you can bike there, making for a gorgeous adventure!
Since Arrowtown is so accessible from Queenstown, I thought it would be helpful to put together the top Arrowtown tours from Queenstown. If this is your first time visiting Queenstown or even your 10th, taking a tour is an easy way to explore one of the best places on the South Island, and Arrowtown is a spot you don’t want to miss out on!
Don’t have time to read the full article? You can’t go wrong with this half-day tour to Arrowtown! The tour includes transportation and a guide, and you get to see Lord of the Rings filming locations and a meadery on the way there all for $139 NZD per person.
Arrowtown is a quaint town just 25 minutes from Queenstown. It has that small-town charm with old architecture, a slower pace of life, and the majestic mountains and alpine lakes that surround it! Arrowtown was voted “the most beautiful small town in New Zealand” and in a country as beautiful as New Zealand, it is quite an honor to hold that title!
Arrowtown has an interesting history that puts it on the map. It dates back to 1862 during the Otago Gold Rush when Maori Jack found gold in the Arrow River. It quickly became a hub for miners and a settlement of 1,000 people was established, building cottages, churches, hotels, and shops that still stand today. It’s known as a “living historic settlement” because so much of the original town remains.
There were also a large number of Chinese settlers who were forced to live in huts along Bush Creek. Looking back, this gives us a look at what life was like as people migrated to this area in search of gold.
At its height, Arrowtown had a population of 7,000 people, which is more than twice as big as its current size! Arrowtown is one of New Zealand’s most important historic towns, and its heritage significantly shaped the country as we know it today.
While the Gold Rush era has died out, Arrowtown is a great tourist destination for local Kiwis and foreign travelers alike. Buckingham Street is the main downtown area where you’ll find boutique shops and some of Arrowtown’s best bars and restaurants (and there’s a lot!).
There are a lot of amazing South Island hikes and biking trails that surround Arrowtown, and since it’s such a small town, it’s easy to reach these trails and enjoy the outdoors. Arrowtown in the fall (March to May) is the best time to visit, as the fall trees are incredible – it’s a sea of red, orange, and yellow that will make you gasp at its beauty!
Related Read: If you have time, you can stop for brunch in Queenstown before your Arrowtown tour!
What are the best tours to Arrowtown from Queenstown?
1. Arrowtown and Wanaka Platinum Tour from Queenstown
Wanaka is another hub for outdoor activity, being home to my favorite hike in New Zealand, the epic Roy’s Peak, and close proximity to the best ski fields on the South Island. But it also has a quirky vibe that is undeniably gorgeous, so there is a lot to explore in Wanaka!
This full-day tour showcases the best parts of Arrowtown and Wanaka and all the things to see along the way! It is a relaxed tour led by a local. You’ll depart from Queenstown in the morning and head towards Gibbston and Cromwell. Make a note for later, Gibbston is home to some of the best wineries near Queenstown!
You’ll reach Wanaka, which is just over an hour from Queenstown, and have an hour to explore on your own, with recommendations from your local guide. While in Wanaka, you can check out the Instagram-famous “That Wanaka Tree” and the gorgeous Lake Wanaka or hit downtown for some of the best sightseeing outside Queenstown and shopping. I love Wanaka so much that I even thought about living here for a bit, so I know you will find lots of fun things to explore.
As you make your way south towards Arrowtown, you’ll stop by the iconic Cardona Hotel, which is another historic building from the Gold Rush days. The tour includes a beer (or nonalcoholic drink if you prefer) so you’ll have time to enjoy a pint and take in the views at this quaint and cute hotel.
Finally, you’ll reach Arrowtown! Your guide will lead you on a driving tour through the city, so you have some context, and then you’ll have an hour to explore on your own. This is just enough time to check out the historic Chinese settlement, pan for gold, and check out Buckingham Street.
This 7.5-hour tour is a great way to explore the quaint areas of Queenstown. I love that it travels at a relaxed pace and focuses on sightseeing and learning history. The tour includes transportation from the designated meeting point in Queenstown, your guide, and a pint at the Cardrona Hotel. You’ll have time to grab lunch and souvenirs along the way, so bring some cash with you! The tour costs $259 NZD per person.
For a day filled with beautiful scenery and a chance to learn about the history of Arrowtown, be sure to reserve this highly-rated tour in advance.
2. Arrowtown and Around Half-Day Small-Group Tour
If you’re a bit short on time and still want to experience Arrowtown (plus a few bonus stops!), this half-day tour to Arrowtown is a great option. I love that it balances some of the iconic sights with activities that are off-the-beaten-path, so you can really experience all this area has to offer!
This tour to Arrowtown departs from Central Queenstown and heads to a high viewpoint of Lake Wakatipu, which will surely blow you away – this lake is gorgeous and the crown jewel of Queenstown!
As you drive to Arrowtown, you’ll stop by the Kawarau River to see the iconic bungy bridge and Lord of the Rings filming locations. Then you’ll stop by the Lake Hayes Walkway, which is yet another gorgeous lake in the area!
My favorite stop on this tour is the local mead and honey farm. Manuka Honey is from New Zealand, and it is even better when you can taste it straight from the source! It’s also not every day that you can find a good meadery, so this is a fun addition to the day’s itinerary!
You will then make your way to Arrowtown where your guide will lead you in a driving tour of the town, stopping at the top historic sights and pointing out the best places to explore along the way.
You’ll then have an hour to explore on your own. I recommend stopping for lunch at Provisions of Arrowtown, as this is my favorite brunch spot! You’ll also have time to visit the Lakes District Museum & Gallery, which is a fascinating look into Arrowtown’s past. It’s not huge but has the town’s original bank building and replicas of a schoolhouse and blacksmith shop!
This small group 4-hour tour includes your guide, transportation, and the honey tasting! The tour begins at 12:40 pm from the meeting point in Queenstown. It can be booked in advance for $139 NZD per person.
To see the best of Arrowtown in a limited amount of time, book this Arrowtown half-day small group tour online here.
3. Arrowtown to Queenstown: A Full-Day Mountain Biking Adventure
While the past two tours on this list have been more relaxed, this one is quite the opposite! This self-guided mountain bike tour provides all the equipment for you to traverse the trails between Arrowtown and Queenstown. So if you’re looking for an adventurous day exploring the gorgeous New Zealand scenery, I’ve got you covered!
This tour stands out because as much as I appreciate taking guided tours in New Zealand, sometimes it’s nice just to explore on your own! But if you’re not familiar with the area, it can be difficult to navigate on your own, so this tour provides a trail map and recommended stops along the route to optimize your time. Plus, they provide all equipment and a shuttle service, so all of the logistics are taken care of!
You’ll meet in central Queenstown to get either a mountain bike or e-bike, helmet, and trail map before loading in the shuttle to Arrowtown. From there, the agenda is yours to make, so you can spend some time exploring Arrowtown before you hit the trails.
The trail covers about 30 kilometers (18 miles) and can get moderately difficult, but it’s nothing most people can’t handle! The route can take anywhere between 3-6 hours, depending on how many stops you make.
You’ll start by riding along the Arrow River Trail, one of the best bike trails near Queenstown, which will then join another trail to follow the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, giving spectacular views of the Remarkables and Coronet Peak all the way until you reach Lake Wakatipu!
I’ve done this bike route before and had so much fun on it! The views are top-tier the whole way, and it’s lovely in any season. You can book a mountain bike for $90 NZD or an e-bike for $140 NZD.
I recommend booking this mountain biking adventure in advance, as bikes are limited and this is a popular activity when it’s nice out!
4. eBike Adventure: Arrowtown to Queenstown with Shuttle
This eBike Adventure is similar to the tour above, but an electric bike makes the whole experience move a little quicker! This is a great half-day activity to add to your busy Queenstown itinerary, as you can explore Arrowtown, enjoy the trails and scenic outdoors, and get back to the city within a few hours.
You’ll meet at the Pig and Whistle Pub in Queenstown at 10 am and get fitted with your bike, helmet, and trail map. This tour also offers a shuttle service to Arrowtown, which is a 25-minute drive north of Queenstown. After you’re dropped off in Arrowtown, you can explore the town and start your bike trail through the beautiful New Zealand landscape!
Along the route, you’ll pass by a few Lord of the Rings filming locations (noted on the map) and have stunning views of mountains, rivers, and greenery. I love these self-guided style tours because you can move at your own pace, which allows you to get the most out of this experience.
Once you reach Queenstown, you can simply leave your bike and helmet at the designated drop-off location, so it’s more convenient for you! You can book this tour for $135 NZD for an eBike or you can rent a normal pedal bike for $87 NZD.
This experience is very popular and bikes are limited, so check out the options and book your bike in advance here!
5. Arrowtown and Wanaka Highlights Tour from Queenstown
Last but certainly not least, we have a half-day tour of Arrowtown and Wanaka from Queenstown. There’s so much to learn about Wanaka and Arrowtown and while you can visit on your own, it’s harder to find out about the history and see significant landmarks like you do on a tour. This is a great tour option if this is your first time in New Zealand and you want to hit the highlights in a convenient half-day tour.
You’ll meet your tour guide and a small group of up to 13 people in Queenstown and start by exploring Crown Range Road. This is actually New Zealand’s highest road (and one of the best drives for a South Island road trip) so you get incredible views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown below.
Just down the road is the Cardrona Hotel, a historic hotel that has been featured all over New Zealand. Stop here for a pint and enjoy the history and charming hotel!
Next, you’ll hit Wanaka where your guide will give a brief tour of the city, showing the iconic Wanaka Tree, the best cafes, and telling you the history as you go! You’ll have an hour to explore Wanaka on your own. I recommend stopping by The Coffee Shack on Brownstone Street, which has one of the best flat whites I’ve ever tried!
After you’ve thoroughly explored Wanaka, you will head to Arrowtown for another guided tour and an hour of solo exploration! I love visiting both Wanaka and Arrowtown because while they are both gold rush-era towns, they have their own unique charms. Explore the Chinese Settlements, see the gorgeous Arrow River, and walk down Arrowtown’s Buckingham Street before taking the quick drive back to Queenstown.
This tour lasts about 6 hours and includes transportation, a beverage at the Cardrona Hotel, and your guide. It is a fantastic way to dive into these historic small towns and see some of my favorite parts of the South Island! The tour leaves at 10:40 am and costs $209 NZD per person.
To see both Wanaka and Arrowtown when your schedule is tight, book this highlights tour online in advance.
Related Read: To explore Wanaka even more, check out our guide to the best tours in Wanaka.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
Once you’re back in Queenstown after exploring Arrowtown, there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy. Honestly, there are so many things to do in Queenstown, that it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites:
- Take a cruise – Aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise you’re in for a scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown that’s great for any afternoon. This is one of the last coal-fired steamships in the world and you get to watch the crew add coal to the flames to power the vessel as you take in mountain ranges and lush green valleys. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Watch a sunset – As the day draws to a close in Queenstown, make sure to head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu to watch a sunset. It’s one of the best viewpoints to watch the sun sink behind the Southern Alps. I like watching from Queenstown Beach or Perky’s Floating Bar where you get a view of the lake and delicious food and drinks too!
- Go canyoning – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek as part of this Queenstown Canyoning Adventure with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
- See Milford Sound – This day trip to Milford South with a picnic lunch will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included.
- Wine tasting – This Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money as for $239 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.
Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!
The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.
Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
There you have it, the best Arrowtown tours from Queenstown! The trip from Arrowtown to Queenstown takes you through beautiful landscapes, and the town itself is full of historic spots as well as cool cafes and bars. Arrowtown is such a quaint, charming town that is well worth exploring!
For more tips and inspiration for visiting Queenstown, have a look at my other Queenstown blogs. After living here in Queenstown, I have so much to share on what makes this city so special! Leave a comment if you have any questions! Here are a few related reads to get you started: