Today Arrowtown is charming and quaint, yet once it was buzzing with the excitement of hundreds of miners desperate to make their fortune in the local gold fields. The miners have long gone but their legacy lives on.
Less than a half-an-hour drive from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island, this pretty place, hugging the banks of the Arrow River, is a delight to visit. Historical wooden buildings dot the main street that is now filled with cute boutiques, art studios and cafés, plus a pub or two. Even the new builds pay homage to those of the town’s past golden days.
|Today Arrowtown is charming and quaint|
On a flying visit, a museum would not usually be on my agenda but I am glad I made an exception for the Lakes District Museum. It was a treat. The museum paints a picture through working displays and artefacts of early Maori life and what the European settlers and miners had to endure during the gold rush of the 1800s.
Unfortunately, there was not time to hire a gold pan to see if there was any treasure left in the Arrow River but I did feel somewhat richer for visiting Arrowtown.
|Thunder Creek Falls|
I was about to get even wealthier as my tour continued along the Haast Pass to the West Coast. Unbelievable scenery, rainforests, glaciers, and waterfalls littered the route which was once the pathway for the Maori explorers looking for pounamu (jade). Thunder Creek Falls, one of the country’s finest tumbling into the Haast River, was stunning.
When it comes to beauty no picture could ever capture the magnificence of the grandeur of the West Coast of New Zealand. Wild, rugged, raw and remote, this region sandwiched by the tempestuous Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, is unequalled in New Zealand. It is a potent cocktail of lush wilderness and untamed coastline laced with a story to tell of settlers on the prowl for gold and coal.
|The tempestuousTasman Sea|
In Lake Matheson you could see the reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the crystal clear waters. But my standout moment was getting up close and personal, or as near as I could, with the nearby Fox Glacier.
Named after Sir William Fox, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, the steep walk up to see the face was worth it. Unfortunately, the Fox and its twin the Franz Josef Glacier which I also saw in the distance, have melted incredibly quickly in recent years making hiking up the mountains too dangerous. Getting a glimpse was reward enough.
As I sat savouring a glass of pinot gris that night over dinner, I reflected on a very special day that will be imprinted on my memory forever.
By Daralyn Danns
Which city you fly into in New Zealand will depend on where your tour starts from and therefore, which airline you choose. Highly recommended are Cathay Pacific cathaypacific.com and qantas.com The service and inflight experience is spot on. Ensure that the flight you book is operated by the company and not just code-sharing.
The tour was part of the Grand Pacific Ultimate Small Group Tours which I booked through Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) as I did the flights
The advantage of travelling aboard the Ultimate Coach is that instead of carrying the normal 48 passengers, it only carries 20. You sit in comfort in leather fully-reclining seats so no neck ache at the end of a long day. (Distances are vast in New Zealand.) There is plenty of personal storage. It is much easier being in a small group, no hanging around waiting for people, no long queues for the loos, overall much cosier