As the nights draw in and the days get cooler, the perfect pre-winter pick-me-up is to surrender to the splendour of Arrowtown's autumn palette.
Just a stone's throw from Queenstown, there is no better time to savour this picturesque village and its annual pageant of rustic reds, burnished russets and blazing golds.
The discovery of gold in the Arrow River in 1862 gave rise to the beautifully preserved township, as thousands of miners from all corners of the world swooned on the area.
One of the great legacies of the gold rush is the collection of colonial stone and timber cottages, fairy-tale churches and tree-lined avenues. (More than 60 original structures remain standing beneath the towering trees.) Storied Buckingham St, the beating heart of Arrowtown, is studded with historic shops, pubs and cottages.
Some of the more recent retail additions to the commercial district have been sympathetically designed so as not to detract from the colonial ambience. Pop into the visitor centre and pick up a walking map, which will navigate you on an enriching self-guided historic walk of Arrowtown. Stop by the Lakes District Museum, on Buckingham St, which presents some fascinating displays of Arrowtown's rich, pioneering history. If you have children in tow, they'll love the interactive, hands-on exhibits.
A cluster of gorgeous old properties, including the original BNZ building, the bank's stables, the town baker's oven, and the Post Office, all fall under the museum's purview. A short walk brings you to the restored Chinese Miners' Village. The Chinese "diggers" were relegated to the margins of this mining town, and their depressingly primitive living quarters will astound you.
The village is definitely worth a potter.
If you want to take the spirit of the gold rush a step further, try your hand at gold-panning from the Arrow River. You can rent a pan from the Visitor Centre for a few gold coins. Lord of the Rings fans may well recognise the riverbed, directly behind the main street of Arrowtown, as it was used as the shooting location of the memorable chase scene through the ford, in the first movie.
The sparkling Arrow River and its sprawling lawns are the perfect location for a picnic, assembled from the delis peddling local produce on the main street. Burn off excess calories by selecting from the many walks that lace the surrounding valley. At night, enjoy a classic film in the boutique cinema, and sample local hospitality from one of the dining outlets.
Getting to Arrowtown is surprisingly effortless, thanks to Air New Zealand's daily connections with Queenstown (a 15-minute drive) and neighbouring Wanaka. www.airnewzealand.co.nz
Accentuate your autumn break with a sumptuous stay at the Peppers Beacon Hotel, perfectly positioned on the banks of Lake Wakatipu with uninterrupted views across Queenstown. This sleek and contemporary property features extra-roomy suites with big modern beds and crisp linen.
Loaded with accessories and comforts, a winning touch is the in-room bread-maker that will delight your nostrils and tastebuds. You can also cook up a barbecue in the courtyard before soaking in the spa and sauna. An irresistible hotel with outstanding staff.