Queenstown was my first port of call. The weather was cloudy but fine the day I arrived and Mount Cook was boldly showing off its peak through the clouds as we flew into Queenstown airport. I made my way out to Arrowtown, a little gold mining village about 25 minutes drive from Queenstown. Gold was found in here in the late 1800s. Fifteen hundred miners were camped at the edge of the Arrow River by the end of 1862 but as the West Coast goldfields opened in 1865, this led to a flagging economy in the village. As a result, Chinese miners were invited to come and work in the area and the Chinese settlement they created in Arrowtown is still there.
It’s a very popular destination, with lots of walking and biking trails, three golf courses, is close to the ski fields in Cardrona and Coronet Peak and plenty of culture with its own festivals in Autumn, not to mention activities such as bungee jumping, paragliding, jet boating, white water rafting etc in Queenstown. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year in Arrowtown as the leaves on the trees change colour to a golden yellow/brown. Keep in mind though that this doesn`t happen till mid April.
While I was in Arrowtown I did a half day tour of Glenorchy and the Paradise area with Altitude Tours. Glenorchy is a small settlement about 45 km outside of Queenstown, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It has a permanent population of about 300 people. I had been out to Glenorchy before on a Lord of the Rings locations tour but this tour was a good mix of Maori storytelling, stunning scenery, a Kiwi picnic, some LOTR locations and factual information about the area.
The scenery on the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy was breathtaking. My heart just melts every time I see it and I thought to myself that I’d be quite happy to pop my clogs right here in this very spot. I felt like I had already died and gone to heaven! We drove out to Glenorchy, had our picnic by the Earnslaw Burn and then carried on out to Paradise Valley. It took three hours to get there and back and cost me NZD130. It usually costs NZD169 but they had an Autumn special discount and so I made the most of that. I really enjoyed the tour and would highly recommend it. www.altitudetours.co.nz
I was very jet-lagged when I got to New Zealand but I did my best to explore the area as much as I could. Apart from the Glenorchy and Paradise Valley tour, I also did a walk along the Arrow River, had a good wander around the village and went to Dorothy Browns Arrowtown Cinema. It had two quaint little movie theatres and I saw the New Zealand indie musical drama called Daffodils. It was a slow but enjoyable start to my trip.