Autumn colours in Arrowtown. © QueenstownNZ

Arrowtown: a picture-perfect living museum

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Autumn. That’s the time to visit. Thinking about it, much of this part of the South Island takes on a splendid glow at that time of year.

None more so than Arrowtown which is, frankly, already right off the cutesy scale as it is. Some may say quaint. Don’t let that put you off. Come here when the stunning yellows, oranges and golds of its deciduous trees are shedding their skins and you’ll be speechless.

Speaking, though, of gold, it was that alluring substance that was responsible for many of the settlements around here: gold rushes in the 1860s meant these wild, exotic locales were suddenly filled with wild, exotic characters, looking for that lode.

And the discovery of gold in the Arrow River in 1862 meant Charmsville came alive. She was born. And while tourism has replaced the long-gone gold rush (or are they two sides of the same coin?) Arrowtown remains, splendid and alluring as a shimmering nugget.

More than 60 of its original buildings are still standing proud and yep, they’re cute, but majestic too.

The gold-era Chinese settlement is something else. Tiny huts, for what were effectively second-class citizens, they stand as an important contrast to the rest of the town.

You can still pan in the Arrow if you so choose, and the nearby Millbrook Resort is worth a longing peek at as you wend your way to Queenstown. Make sure you stay in Arrowtown at least long enough to eat, though: it is spoiled for its size by serious good eateries, from plush dining rooms to convivial pubs. All of them serving Central Otago pinot, of course.

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