Photo credit: Arrowtown.com
Sitting in the Arrow Basin with the picturesque Arrow River running by it, Arrowtown is a quaint snapshot of New Zealand history.
Renowned cafes, restaurants, bars and even a boutique cinema line the streets. With its rich history and situated just half an hour away from Queenstown, it’s an essential day trip if you’re visiting the area.
Many of the buildings in Arrowtown’s main street were built during the gold rush days. They’re kept in beautiful working order and strict building rules ensure the town will keep its historic charm.
Gold was discovered in the Otago region in 1860 by Maori Jack Tawa, a local sheep shearer. This sparked the arrival of hordes of settlers hoping to make their fortune. Resourceful farmers and workers settled in the area too, making a living by supplying the gold miners with food and equipment.
Many settlers were of European heritage; thousands of English, Scottish and Welsh had come to New Zealand hoping to forge a better future for their families. Up to 7,000 people lived in Arrowtown and the surrounding areas until the gold began to run low in the mid-1860s.
As the European settlers moved on to more profitable mines in the West Coast, Chinese settlers were invited by the Otago Provincial Government to re-stimulate the economy.
By 1874, there were 3,564 Chinese settlers in the Otago region. Representing just 4.19% of the total Otago population, the community was marginalised and harshly treated by many European settlers. In Arrowtown, Chinese migrants built makeshift huts on the fringes of the town and formed their own isolated community.
Very few made enough money to return home. These dwellings have been restored and recreated in Arrowtown as a memorial to the Chinese settlers. Visitors can wander around the signposted settlement and peek inside the old huts, including Ah Lum’s store which served as the Chinese community’s bank, shop and inn until 1927.