10. Arrowtown Chinese Settlement
Located on the banks of Bush Creek, at one end of the Arrow River Bridges Trail - part of the Queenstown Trail network - is the partially restored Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. The settlement is a tribute to the contribution made by Chinese goldminers and businesspeople to the region’s gold mining, cultural and business history.
By 1866 many European miners had left Otago for the new gold rush sites on the West Coast and so the Otago Provincial Government encouraged Chinese miners, mainly from Guangdong, to replace the European miners. In Arrowtown, the Chinese were set up in a separate village to the European miners in much harsher conditions and lived in small huts upstream from the European village. Today, many of the huts have been restored, offering visitors the chance to step back into that 'golden' era and see up-close the toil and modest living conditions of the 'other half' in this prosperous town.
In the 1860s there was no jail at the Arrow diggings – or little law and order for that matter – so prisoners were often chained. The story goes that one wild, drunken Irishman awoke to find himself chained to a log:
"When he recovered, he was attacked by a violent thirst, and seeing that he could not release himself from the log he hoisted it to his shoulder and walked with it to the nearest pub where the police found him drinking heartily with the log still athwart his shoulder"!
There are still some great pubs, cafes and restaurants to be found in Arrowtown to thwart your thirst but thankfully the village is much more peaceful and civilised now days compared to the wild frontier town of the 1860s.
For fit and experienced mountain bikers, a ride up to the “ghost town” of Macetown to explore one of the most intact historic goldfield towns in Otago is a highly rewarding day trip. It offers incredible scenery and a fascinating insight into the goldmining history of the region. Macetown's major historic structures have all been restored including Andersons Battery, Needhams Cottage, Smiths Bakehouse and building remnants such as the old schoolroom and stone fences.
From Arrowtown it’s 15km to Macetown along a narrow 4WD track with steep drop-offs, blind corners and 23 unbridged river crossings… so prepare and plan for your adventure carefully! From Macetown, you can connect to the Coronet Loop Trail (6-8 hours, grade 3), which offers more opportunities to explore goldmining remnants as well as one of the best backcountry bike rides in New Zealand.