It's perfect for a lazy weekend away but you can still pack a lot into a quick detour to Arrowtown, even with the kids in tow, writes Alexia Santamaria
Going to Queenstown with the kids? Why not do a quick 20-minute detour to Arrowtown while you're there? Although it's definitely a lovely place to while away a couple of days, one is still plenty to have a lot of fun in this beautifully-preserved historic town on the banks of the Arrow River. Although the miners have long departed, what happened in those gold-obsessed years in the late 1800s is still very evident, and spending even just 12 hours there will allow you a brief window back into that time. Here's a road-tested itinerary that will get the thumbs up from all members of the family.
Start your day with a walk around the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. The kids will love exploring even if it makes your heart sink a little to think of the harsh conditions these poor migrants lived in. When compared to the main street, where wealthy banks and merchants traded, you can see there were two distinct sides to the gold rush story. Despite the heartache, it's a lovely walk through a fascinating mix of stabilised hut ruins, reconstructions and restorations (the most prominent being the old Ah Lum's Store) and a good opportunity to explain historical inequity to your kids so they can understand why their generation should never let it happen again.
Right next door is The Dishery, where the kids will be all over their own special menu with pikelets, eggs and soldiers, mousetraps and other kid-friendly food and you'll be equally enamoured with breakfast options like chorizo hash; mango, turmeric and coconut smoothie bowl and sesame banana bread.
Even better, it's right next to Arrowtown Gold Panning Co (also in the Dudley's Cottage Precinct), where you can go and have a lesson on how to fossick for a share of the action. It's such a great experience learning the technique in a trough with an expert, and going away with a small vial of some precious sparkly matter, even if it's only tiny flecks. The lesson includes pan hire, meaning you can head out to the river afterwards and have a go in the proper environment. Our kids loved it and it was pretty hard to tear them away as the obsession took hold
If you're looking for lunch there are some great options. The Chop Shop Food Merchants are known for their flavour bomb brunches and lunches with a difference; Ben Bayly has just opened Little Aosta - which will keep both parents and kiddos happy - and if the thought of dining in with children is all too much, hit up Arrowtown Bakery for something to take away (be prepared to queue as it's crazily popular). The pies and custard slices have a large and loyal following and you'll see why when you taste them.
After lunch, a mooch around town is perfect. Kids will be wide-eyed at the displays of huge nuggets of "real live gold" in the jewellers and you'll be lucky if you manage to escape without a visit to the Remarkable Sweet Shop for lollies or Patagonia for hot chocolates or icecreams. You may personally want to stop in at the Gibbston Valley Cheese Cafe for something less sugar-laden.
If you have time, the Lakes District Museum and Gallery is worth a visit, especially if you're exploring more of the region. The gold story runs through everything you see in this part of Aotearoa and this highly entertaining, interesting and interactive museum is an easy way to show kids the discovery story of this precious metal and the madness that followed. If you fancy giving cocky tweens a fright - or a laugh - tell them to open the toilet door in the street scene downstairs. The museum is really well-curated - and the kids aren't the only ones who'll learn something about this intense and pivotal period in New Zealand history.
If you haven't wandered by the river, take your chance now in that magical late afternoon golden light - it makes a beautiful vista even more ethereal. It might be a little cold but you can warm up with some hearty food afterwards at Slow Cuts. The portions are big, family-friendly and super tasty. Think great burgers, slow cuts and steaks, rotisserie chook and sides like smashed potatoes and mac & cheese. Comfort food heaven.
It's easy to cover a lot in a short time in picturesque, charming Arrowtown. You'll finish your day full of good vibes, great food an increased knowledge of our gold tinged past - the good, the bad and the ugly.
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