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Arrowtown, Southern New Zealand’s Gold Rush Town

February 17, 2012

Arrowtown, about ten miles from  Queenstown,  resembles South Island settlements of the late 1800s.  The town began in 1862 with the coming of the Gold Rush.    Though the main road   is now paved, many of the original shop buildings are intact, a few with Victorian trim. Many tourists come here  because many of the stores have high quality goods such as knitted sweaters, hats,  and socks, and galleries and there are a number of cafes.  At one end of Buckingham Street the Lakes District Museum and Gallery displays objects relating to early Maori life and European pioneers here in the lake district.  The complex includes an original bank, the bank’s stables, and the town baker’s oven.

If you walk up the steep hill across from the museum and turn left at the fire station, the ambiance becomes more pastoral with high trees and green lawns.   The local  cricket club advertises that guests are welcome, and on the sunny mid-November day  (late spring in New Zealand) the courts were filled with men and women in whites actively engaged in a game.  Across the way  a tiny one room school house, furnished as it would have been at the turn of the last century.  It is dedicated to a teacher who spent thirty years here.

At the other end of town the original Chinese mining settlement is open, and there is a trail through the woods along the Arrow River  to mark the sites.  Here’s a Utube video that shows Ah Lum’s Store and a number of crude huts  where people lived.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-VAg8jeZW8p.   Sections are still being excavated and there are hopes for an eventual museum.

by Emilie C. Harting

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