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Arrowtown is one of the cutest towns in New Zealand. Known for its old architecture, lack of traffic, and beautiful scenery, Arrowtown is a quiet place great for escaping the hustle and bustle of Queenstown. I take day trips there all the time.
In fact, one of the best things to do in Queenstown is to visit Arrowtown. With that said, Arrowtown is a destination all on its own filled with amazing things to do and places to visit. From wandering the cute streets to exploring the nearby mountains, you won’t get bored while visiting Arrowtown.
In this blog, I’ll share the 18 best things to do in Arrowtown as well as where to stay and more!
Things to do in Arrowtown
1. Wander the main street of Arrowtown
Every trip to Arrowtown should involve a wander of Buckingham Street. This vibrant street is home to many of Arrowtown’s best places to visit including restaurants, bars, and stunning architecture. I often come here to enjoy the warm weather on a nice day and visit a restaurant or bar for a drink under the sun.
If you want to pick up a souvenir or two do it in Arrowtown. There are almost more souvenir shops in Arrowtown than in Queenstown and they are all stacked with lots of cool gifts to take back home. There are also a ton of small boutique stores selling high-quality products such as clothing made of New Zealand wool and even honey at Honey & Cocoa Gift Co. What I love so much about shopping in Arrowtown is that you can pretty much see it all on one street – it’s basically an outdoor mall!
As for the architecture, well it’s everywhere! Just look around, take in the views, and be sure to visit the old post office and telephone box – lots of kids these days would’ve never seen one!
2. Visit the Chinese Settlement
Buckingham Street was the place where Europeans wanted to live back in the gold mining days. However, Chinese miners were forced to live in small huts along Bush Creek just outside the main town. These huts certainly weren’t fancy and the comparison of how both cultures lived in Arrowtown is easy to see.
The Arrowtown Chinese Settlement showcases this with actual huts from those days still standing today. Some of the huts have also been restored so visitors can step back in time and see just how hard Chinese settlers had it back then. Just imagine the cold nights!
To reach the settlement walk along Buckingham Street towards Bush Creek. Located on the grassed area is the Chinese Settlement and it’s completely free to visit.
3. Hike Big Hill
One of the best hikes in Arrowtown is Big Hill. Famous for tussock grass, breathtaking views, and the fact it remains off the beaten path, Big Hill Trail is a must-do for those who love hiking.
Big Hill Trail starts at the end of Buckingham Street in Arrowtown and follows the Te Araroa Trail until you reach Eichardt’s Flats. Here, you continue on to the Big Hill Saddle.
After reaching the saddle, you can either hike back down or take the trail to Sawpit Gully. Personally, hiking up to the saddle and back down the way you came is a great hike with stunning views over Arrowtown and the surrounding mountains. There are also options to hike a full loop that walks the ridgeline towards Coronet Peak or over to Macetown. I’ve never done these trails and instead I opt to hike up and back down the way I came.
This trail can be a little confusing to hike so it’s not recommended for young families or those with no experience back country hiking.
Related read: Big Hill is also considered one of the best hikes in Queenstown.
4. Drink craft beer at Slow Cuts
Craft beer and amazing food in a cute town? It’s really doesn’t get better than that and sometimes, the best thing to do in any city or town is just to sit back and people-watch while enjoying the atmosphere and good vibes.
By far the best place to do that is at Slow Cuts in Arrowtown. Not only is the food to die for but they serve Lake and Wood Brew Co beer which is a local brewery in Arrowtown. This small brewery doesn’t have a taproom just yet, so the only place to try their delicious craft beer is at restaurants around Arrowtown and Queenstown.
If you get to Slow Cuts before the lunch rush, grab a seat outside. It’s really the perfect place for a relaxed lunch in Arrowtown.
Related read: There are lots more breweries in the area to check out. For more info check out our guide to drinking craft beer in Queenstown.
5. Explore Arrowtown in the fall
There isn’t a more beautiful place to visit in the South Island during fall than Arrowtown. In the months between March and May, the trees around Arrowtown turn into a sea of yellow, red, and orange. Visiting Arrowtown in the fall is actually a well-known bucket list experience around New Zealand and I visit on multiple occasions every year.
For the best colors be sure to arrive around mid-April. During this time the colors are insane and you’ll be able to explore the cute streets and historic buildings surrounded by Autumn leaves. It’s so beautiful and makes one of the quietest times to visit Arrowtown even better! Visiting Arrowtown in the fall is easily one of the best things to do on the South Island.
Hot Tip: Fall is one of the best seasons to visit New Zealand with eautiful colors on the trees and fewer tourists around.
6. Enjoy a coffee at Provisions
Dinning in Arrowtown doesn’t get much better than at Provisions of Arrowtown Café. This cute café is one of the best in Arrowtown and is located in an old historic building with a beautiful terrace and gardens. They bake their own bread, serve amazing coffee, and the atmosphere is addictive.
My go-to breakfast meal is the “Provisions Benedict”. I’m a sucker for eggs benny (as they call it in New Zealand) and at Provisions, I can have it all day. For a quick meal on the go, I get a coffee, smoothie, and one of their homemade pastries. Another favorite of mine is the Bombay Bowl. It’s vegan and the flavors are to die for.
Provisions only serve food until 3 pm so be sure to get there for brunch (my favorite time.) With the sun up and the shaded trees, you won’t find a better place to relax with a coffee in Arrowtown.
Related read: For more places to drink amazing coffee nearby, read my blog about the best cafes in Queenstown!
7. Visit The Remarkable Sweet Shop
Got a sweet tooth like me? Then you’ll likely almost fall over when you walk through the door at The Remarkable Sweet Shop in Arrowtown. Just picture floor to ceiling shelves of candy and glass cabinets filled with fudge, brownies, and chocolates.
The most famous candy you have to try at The Remarkable Sweet Shop is their homemade fudge. They actually offer free tastings so you can certainly try before you buy and pick the most delicious flavor.
The shopfront is located in downtown Arrowtown on Buckingham Street so it’s almost impossible to miss. But just in case you do, they also have a shop in Queenstown!
Related read: Visiting The Remarkable Sweet Shop is an awesome cheap activity in Queenstown. For more, check out the best cheap things to do in Queenstown.
8. Drive up Crown Range Road
If you’ve already made it all the way to Arrowtown and you have a car then be sure to take a drive up to Crown Range Road for an epic view over the Wakatipu Basin. From Arrowtown, you can reach Crown Range Road Scenic Lookout in around 15 minutes, but if you stop along the way (and you should), allow around 30.
Once at the lookout you can enjoy the view from your vehicle or take a short walk up to Crown Range Summit for an even better view. In the distance, you’ll be able to spot Lake Wakatipu and even Queenstown. Another cool viewpoint on the way up is the Arrow Junction Lookout Point. It’s pictured above just in case you were wondering if it’s worth checking out!
If you’ve already planned to drive from Queenstown to Wanaka then you can give this activity a miss as it’s one of the best stops along the way. However, for those not going to Wanaka, don’t miss driving New Zealand’s highest main road!
9. Walk the Sawpit Gully Track
The Sawpit Gully Track is a beautiful short hike in Arrowtown that leads up German Hill before looping back down to Arrowtown. The trail starts just past the Chinese Settlement and in total is 8 kilometers (5 miles) long with a 400-meter elevation gain taking around 2.5 hours.
On the trail, you can expect beautiful views over the valley, the Arrow River, and even spot Lake Hayes in the distance. In spring, you can even see lots of lupins in full bloom along the track.
I recommend walking counter-clockwise for a more enjoyable hike. Although steeper in parts you get more rest on the flat areas as opposed to the consistent incline going clockwise. Also, be aware you may get wet feet crossing the river and it does get muddy!
Although there are lots of amazing hikes in Arrowtown I love Sawpit Gully Track for its ideal length and difficulty. Not too hard, not too easy but a great trail with breathtaking views!
10. Watch a movie at the Dorthy Browns Cinema and Bar
Going to the cinema isn’t the typical activity you’d expect to do on a holiday to New Zealand, but with the unique experience offered at the Dorothy Browns Cinema and Bar in Arrowtown, you might want to consider it.
This boutique cinema takes you back to the old days of watching a movie when it was about the experience, not just the film. Sit back with a glass of wine, cheeseboard, and snacks to watch a classic enjoying an intermission halfway through for a top-up and break. Expect an intimate setting with large comfy seats and blankets to cozy up with. It’s the old school cinema experience with plenty of luxuries.
Be sure to check in advance what showings they have on. It regularly changes so you’re sure to find something you want to see!
Related read: Visiting the Dorothy Brown Cinema is perfect for couples. For more ideas, check out our guide to the most romantic things to do in Queenstown.
11. Enjoy amazing views on the Tobins Track
For a short but breathtaking hike jump onto the Tobins Track. The trail starts at the end of Ford Street and leads up a steep trail to a viewpoint over the Wakatipu Basin with views of Lake Hayes and Lake Wakatipu. At the top, there are some benches to relax on so you can enjoy the magnificent views.
It takes just over an hour to walk the track up and back the way you came without allowing for a break up the top. The trail is also used by 4wd vehicles so keep an eye out and keep kids close by. If you want, you can also join this trail with the New Chums Gully Track (around the halfway point) and loop yourself back to Arrowtown via the Arrow River. This takes another 1.5 hours.
The Tobins Track is easily the best short hike in Arrowtown and perfect for those who want to enjoy amazing views without a huge amount of effort.
12. Visit a winery
Wine is a huge part of the Otago Region where Arrowtown is located. In fact, the nearby Gibbston Valley is one of the best boutique wine regions in New Zealand and a place I absolutely love to visit. However, you don’t have to drive all the way to the Gibbston Valley to taste amazing wine. Within a short drive of Arrowtown, you can explore lots of different wineries.
One of my favorites is Akarua Wines located only 3 kilometers from Arrowtown. This winery is located in a beautiful garden only a short walk from Lake Hayes. I actually visited this winery on a wine tour from Queenstown but now make regular trips there to pick up a bottle or two. It’s one of the top wineries in the Queenstown area.
If you don’t mind driving a little further, head to Wet Jacket Winery just off State highway 6. This small winery has a beautiful outdoor seating area to enjoy your wine as well as some games to play. They also have a huge selection of cheese to try!
In Arrowtown, you could also head directly to The Winery Arrowtown. Although not actually a winery, you can taste a huge selection of Otago wines and also spirits here. Perfect if you caught the bus to Arrowtown!
Related read: If you want to visit Lake Hayes after visiting Akarua wines check out my guide to the Lake Hayes Loop.
13. Play a round of golf
If you’re a golf lover it’s likely you’ll already be aware that the Wakatipu Basin is home to lots of amazing golf courses. Near Arrowtown, there are actually three world-class courses to choose from making Arrowtown a great place for golfers to stay.
The closest to town is Millbrook Resort which is famous in the area and has won a ton of awards. They actually have a whopping 27 holes so you certainly won’t get bored on the course. Although open all year round, the best time to go is from October to April, and during this time, green fees are $195 NZD! It’s certainly not cheap!
If the price is a concern to you then the best option is Arrowtown Golf Club. Green fees here are only $95 NZD for visitors, and for that, you’ll get to enjoy 18 holes with breathtaking scenery. The course is only open from October to April but they have both men and mixed competitions on the weekends you can join.
If you’re a bucket list golfer traveling the world to visit the best courses then Hills Golf Club is the best choice – if you can even play that is. Because the club is so exclusive only members can play with the exception of a few visitor time slots. If you want to play, book well in advance!
14. Explore the Lakes District Museum & Gallery
For the history buffs among us, the Lakes District Museum & Gallery should be high on your Arrowtown bucket list. The museum has lots of displays and information on early Maori life in the area, something that I believe Queenstown needs more of. On top of that, it shows the hardships faced by the early European settlers and also the crazy days of the Otago gold rush.
Entrance to the museum is only $10 NZD for adults and $3 for children still at school (kids under 5 go free.) They also have a family pass for $20 so it’s a cheap activity for the entire family.
15. Pan for gold
For visitors looking for a fun activity in Queenstown that just might pay off (quite literally) gold panning is very popular. You can rent gold pans from the Lakes District Museum & Gallery for only $3 and take the kids down to the Arrow River to pan for gold. It’s a relaxing activity that’s really cheap.
Gold was first found in the Arrow River in 1862 and that discovery started a huge gold rush in the area that attracted miners from all over the world including Australia and the United States. As they rushed to the area to find gold, miners set up make-shift towns filled with tents, bars, and shops. These towns would later be called Arrowtown and Queenstown.
It’s safe to say gold put Arrowtown on the map and played a hugely important role in developing the area into what it is today. However, as the gold dried up, the gold miners left. The funny thing is though, the golds not gone, it just became unprofitable to mine so you can definitely still find some!
16. Bike ride from Arrowtown to the Gibbston Valley
Two of the best bike trails in Queenstown are the Arrow River Bridges Trail and Gibbston River Wine Trail. The two trails actually link up with the Arrow River Bridges Trail starting in Arrowtown.
On the trail, you’ll cycle along the Arrow River crossing five bridges and finishing at the Kawarau Bridge where the Gibbston River Wine Trail begins. It’s 13 kilometers (8 miles) to the bridge and only takes one hour to reach. Once on the Gibbston River Trail, you can visit wineries including Gibbston Valley Winery and Peregrine Winery on the 11-kilometer-long (6.8 miles) trail (one-way.)
To cycle both trails and explore the Gibbston Valley on a bike you’ll need most of the day. Of course, you only have to go as far as you want before turning back, and riding the full 11-kilometer Gibbston River Trail isn’t necessary to visit a few wineries.
This is two bike trail combined to make one fun day out, but for those traveling kids, even the Arrow River Bridges Trail is worth doing on its own!
17. Take a stroll along the Arrow River
The Arrow River runs right through Arrowtown making for a very scenic place to take a walk, have a picnic, and just enjoy the great outdoors. The river is beautiful especially in Arrowtown so don’t miss the chance to enjoy the views and even let the kids feed the ducks.
This is a short activity but for those on a budget who brought a packed lunch, it’s the perfect place to relax. Also, it’s completely free! If you plan on doing gold panning be sure to rent your pan before you head down, that way you can enjoy two activities in one!
18. Have drinks at The Blue Door Arrowtown
The trendiest place to drink in Arrowtown is at The Blue Door. This cool bar is a local secret you’ll find on a side alley in Arrowtown and is the place to come for cocktails, wine, and live music. The bar is really cozy with a fireplace and lounge-style seating for only around 30 people. Cozy up by the fire with a drink in hand – sounds like my kind of night.
There are always lots of events on at The Blue Door so be sure to check their Facebook before arriving so you can pick the best night to go. I actually found this place through some friends of mine who used to play live music in Queenstown. Without them, I’d never know about this gem and maybe neither would you! Regardless, now you do, so don’t miss it!
Where to Stay in Arrowtown
One of my favorites is Settlers Cottage Motel. This boutique motel is located in a historic building only a 5-minute walk from downtown Arrowtown. They have very few rooms that come in either studios or two-bedroom cottages. It’s great value especially considering you can sleep the entire family in the cottages.
For a more luxurious stay, consider spending a few nights at the Millbrook Resort (yep, at the golf course.) The resort is located on the outskirts of town and is pure luxury. With an indoor pool, outdoor jacuzzi, and the golf course at your front door, it’s one of the most luxurious places to stay in Arrowtown.
Unfortunately in Arrowtown, there are very few budget places to stay with the only option being the Arrowtown Holiday Park which is only cheaper for those in campervans, tents, or motorhomes.
Thanks for reading!
Arrowtown doesn’t get enough of the spotlight when compared to Queenstown. However, for those wanting a more tranquil experience away from the large crowds and hectic streets, Arrowtown is the perfect place to visit. And with so many amazing things to do in Arrowtown, it’s a no brainer when deciding whether to visit or not!
Thanks so much for reading! I sincerely hope his blog has helped shape your trip to Arrowtown and will make it one to remember. If you did love this blog then you may want to browse around My Queenstown Diary for lots more blogs on Queenstown and the surrounding area!