Arrowtown is situated close to the western bank of the Arrow River in an area of small hills and flats between the head of the Frankton arm of Lake Wakatipu and the western slope of the Crown Range. This area is surrounded by mountains. Arrowtown is 13 miles north-east of Queenstown and is reached by a side road turning off the Queenstown-Cromwell highway near Lake Hayes. Cromwell is 30 miles south-east.
The main rural activities are extensive sheep farming on the hill country, with sheep fattening and crop farming on the lower levels. At Lake Hayes, 3 miles south-west by road, a piscicultural station is maintained by the Department of Internal Affairs. Arrowtown is essentially a small centre providing limited services for its residents and nearby farmers. Because of its historical associations with the gold mining period and its local scenic attractions, Arrowtown is popular with tourists. The Lakes District Museum in the town is much visited.
In February 1859 there was a rush of squatters to the Lake Wakatipu area. D. Hay, an Australian looking for sheep country later in 1859 was doubtless the first European to visit the Arrowtown district. Hays Lake, now called Lake Hayes because its discovery has been credited erroneously to Captain “Bully” Hayes, commemorates that visit. W. G. Rees and N. von Tunzelmann succeeded in finding a route to Lake Wakatipu from Lake Wanaka late in 1859. They travelled up the Cardrona Valley, over the Crown Range, and crossed the Arrow River close to the site of Arrowtown. The town is considered to have been founded in 1862, when a rush to the district followed a rich gold strike by a prospector, William Fox. It is stated that within a few weeks the first parties had taken 200 lb of gold out of the Arrow Gorge. The mining settlement became known as Fox's, but soon afterwards was changed to Arrowtown after the nearby river (named the Arrow because its point of junction with Bush Creek resembled the outline of an arrowhead). Wheat and other cereals were grown on the terraces and flats of the Arrow River delta and a flourmill worked at Arrowtown for a number of years. With the exhaustion of gold the settlement declined. Arrowtown was constituted a borough in 1867.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 200; 1956 census, 186; 1961 census, 171.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.