Scotsman Nathanael Chalmers was the first European to visit Queenstown. Chalmers and his guide Reko, a Maori chief, saw Lake Wakatipu in September 1853.
In 1860, William Gilbert Rees and fellow explorer, Nicholas Paul Baltasar von Tunzlemann took the Crown Range route between Wanaka and Queenstown. The Crown Range runs via Cardrona Valley and rises to 1,120 meters, it’s the highest main road in New Zealand.
Though several groups had already taken the high road to Lake Wakatipu, Rees and Tunzlemann were the first Europeans to settle in the area. Rees established his homestead in the heart of what’s now Queenstown’s CBD, facing Queenstown Bay.
Rees and Tunzlemann, who settled across the lake, quietly worked the land and ran sheep for two years.
Gold was discovered in the Arrow River in 1862, and Queenstown quickly became flooded with miners. Ree’s farm was declared a goldfield and he was paid 10,000 to give up his land. He converted his wool shed into a hotel called the Queen’s Arms (now Eichardt’s Hotel).
Tunzlemann was less fortunate. His farm across the lake suffered many stock deaths and eventually, almost penniless, he was forced to leave the land.