Australia & Oceania, New Zealand, Travel

Day Trip to Arrowtown and Wanaka

For the last day in Queenstown, we had originally looked at driving to Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, but after a super long day of driving to Milford Sound the previous day (read about that amazing day here) we decided to have a more chilled day.

We first headed over to Arrow town, a small town built on the back of New Zealand’s gold rush. It was a weird place and reminded me more of a US-style old Western town like you see on TV.

The trees and foliage here was also strange. The winter season was just starting and although it was sunny for our 3 days in Queenstown, it had snowed for a few days before we got there. In Queenstown, however, many trees were still green, but just down the road in Arrowtown, there were Autumn leaves and orange/copper foliage everywhere. It was bizarre, like the area couldn’t decide what season it was…

Lake Hayes on the way out to Arrowtown
Lake Hayes
The Autumn colours

Arrowtown was a hot spot for the gold rush because of the Arrow River and Valley, which still seems to shimmer with gold even now. During the peak of the rush, the area was colonised by Chinese who lived in extremely simple dwellings, some of which continue to stand and be restored today.

Gold rush houses
The golden river shimmering

It was Pete’s birthday in 3 days and I hadn’t bought him a gift yet, hoping that we would see something together on our trip that I could treat him to, and in Arrowtown we found just that… Pounamu is New Zealand Jade and only sound in the South Island. It’s a mineral significant in Maori culture and is traditionally handcrafted into jewellery which is given as a gift. The shape of the carved stone is also significant, with each shape having a special meaning. Pete really wanted one and I was extremely pleased to find a shop in Arrowtown with some really nice local Pounamu…. Unfortunately for me, Rob got there first and as a “local” of the area, deemed himself the best person to give Pete the Pounamu gift. Traditionally, the gift giver must wear the jewellery to bestow it with “mana” or energy. The stone must also be “blessed” in the local water too. So after buying  Pete a fish hook style (hei-matu) Rob then blessed it in the Arrow River and decided to wear it for the day before we left for Auckland.

It was an absolutely lovely gift from Rob, and Pete was so grateful!

Blessing Pete’s birthday gift

From Arrow town we drove via the Cardrona pass and past the famous “Bradrona” up to Wanaka town and lake. The scenery in New Zealand is just astonishing, no matter where you are it seems….

Wanaka was a cute little town with a nice lake and of course the famous Wanaka Tree. We had some lunch and chilled for a while. Rob also blessed the pounamu in the lake here too.

Stunning scenery at the start of Cardrona road
It was a really windy day!


The bra fence!
Lake Wanaka


Famous Wanaka tree
Pete tried to walk out to it, but the water was too cold!
Crystal clear water

It was a lovely chilled day!

We headed back to Queenstown and picked up Simone just as she finished work, before driving out to Rob’s favourite sunset spot at Bennetts Bluff lookout.


The next day, Rob dropped us off at the airport to catch out flight back to Auckland and then onto Bali. He gave Pete his Pounamu gift and we said farewell. It was so good spending time with Rob and Simone and we absolutely LOVED Queenstown. Way more that we had expected to. Pete and Rob’s friendship seemed to have stood the test of time and it was almost like they’d never been apart (so cheesy but true!)

We will definitely be returning to Queenstown without a doubt and we are really looking forward to exploring more of New Zealand next time. 5 days was simply not enough! But it was great to spend even this little time in such a beautiful place. At least we know it’s worth a bigger trip we just scoped it out 😉

Day Trip to Arrowtown and Wanaka

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