Aana Marinovich’s family has fallen madly in love with Arrowtown, with its old-world charm, delicious food, and family-friendly activities.
We always head south in winter because we love snow, but Otago is super-busy in summer when the masses head for the lakes and cycle trails. For a calmer, more laid-back holiday, base yourself at Arrowtown.
The Canyon Fox is not for the faint-hearted, but once you've braved the initial drop, it really is a spectacular view
Activities for all ages
Panning at Dudley’s Cottage in the Chinese Village is easy and fun, but our kids were determined to make their fortune, so we rented them a pan and spade (only $15) for a day’s entertainment by the river. dudleyscottagenz.com
Down by the river, see how the early Chinese immigrants lived when seeking their fortune in Arrowtown during the gold rush.
Arrowtown Bike Hire
Check out the Arrow River Bridges Track, which is an easy or intermediate 14km ride, and a great family excursion. You’ll cycle under willows, over suspension bridges, alongside the river and on to the AJ Hackett bridge (Kawarau Bridge). arrowtownbikehire.co.nz
These Instagrammable pics are a hit with kids, because who doesn’t love to play dress-ups and have the photo to flash around? (Sadly, it’s closed in winter). oldfashionedcostumephotography.co.nz
A good adrenaline boost, without being too scary. If your heading to this part of the country, you need to have this experience on the Shotover River as it is beautiful, awesome fun. shotoverjet.com
Do you have brave, thrill-seeking kids? This is the perfect lead-in to a bungee jump. This is relatively new, and quite an awe-inspiring adventure, as you would expect when you’re suspended on a flying fox 182 metres in the air between the banks of a canyon. Only for confident over-8s. canyonswing.co.nz
With The Remarkables and Coronet Peak at your doorstep, Arrowtown makes a handy base camp (without Queenstown traffic!). We bought a week’s pass so we could choose the best skifield on the day, depending on the weather and wind. Coronet is easy to get to, has a night skiing option (a little chilly if you can’t cope with the cold), and offers nice long runs. The Remarks has loads of powder, with interesting little runs and off-piste options. The views are lovely and the family friendly facilities on both mountains makes it all very easy. nzski.com
Our kids are obsessed with trampolining (and were excited to hear that Site has the bounciest tramp in the world), so we shouted them a lesson on boarding and freestyle skills for on the snow. sitetrampoline.co.nz
Odyssey Sensory Maze
This is a quirky little maze that creates trickery for your senses. Allow up to two hours. odysseysensorymaze.co.nz
Onsens Hot Pools is a great treat for the whole family, and at it's best at sunset (book ahead)
Time to relax
A boutique theatre with family movies on offer. Order a cheeseboard and relax in the super-comfy chairs. dorothybrowns.com
Onsen Hot Pools
This is truly romantic, although if, like us, you have kids in tow, "magical" is a better word. After a day of adventure, right at sunset, relax in a Swedish-style bath overlooking the Shotover Canyon. (Tip: Book ahead for sunset!). onsen.co.nz
You’ll find a classic gold-rush village setting, full of fascinating shops to meander through. For kids, Arrowtown has a built-in homing beacon (aka The Remarkable Sweet Shop!), but we also loved Two Gypsies and IKON for gifts and clothes.
Warming up by the fire at Arrowfield Apartments after a day out skiing
Where to stay
Perfect for families, and it‘s always nice when the bed away from home is even more comfy than your own! The kitchens are large, there’s plenty of living space, a laundry, garage, and dining area. For winter escapes, we love turning on the fire, nestling into the couches, and watching a movie. In summer you’ll love in the indoor/outdoor flow, the pool, tennis courts, play areas, and easy walk to town. Great for kids. arrowfield.co.nz
Arrowtown Holiday Park
I'm always blown away by how much kids thrive on simplicity, and Arrowtown Holiday Park is made for this life. Give our three a tribe of other kids, a field, a playground, and a little freedom, and you only see their dust when you arrive home each evening. We stayed in a cabin, which had a bedroom for the kids, a bathroom, kitchen, dining area, and TV. It was warm on cold nights and cosy when you wanted to just chill out. arrowtownholidaypark.co.nz
On holiday, kids are often eating in restaurants. If yours can be a bit boisterous, then book in early, let the staff know you don’t want long waits between courses, and don’t outstay your welcome.
Awesome family-style Italian, with a bustly vibe and warming smells of baking bread and sizzling lasagne. The restaurant is connected to Gibbston Valley Winery, so you’ll be offered wine-tasting while you’re dining. A good chance to stock up on wine or test out some of their cheeses. (03 4098378)
Our favourite. The tasting plates and warm flavours of Spanish food have helped our kids develop more sophisticated palates. (03 442 0509)
The best takeaway (or eat-in) in town. A great place for quick, slow-cooked meat sandwiches or burgers and ribs. (03 442 0066)
The Fork and Tap
Delicious local fare (very nice rabbit and venison on the menu), classic décor, and good music if you dine on Celtic night. theforkandtap.co.nz
We rented bikes from Arrowtown Bike Hire and cycled The Arrow River Bridges Track
We drove the new Hyundai Santa Fe (hyundai.co.nz) – great for a family adventure when you need comfort, space, grunt, and good features to make family life easier on the road. If you're planning out-of-town excursions, you’ll appreciate a car that handles the gravel and dirt roads well (or ice and snow in winter). It’s nice to have the height for sightseeing and the space for luggage. It gave us a calm, easy driving experience for our slightly chaotic but fun-filled family holiday.
More information on Arrowtown can be found here.
By Aana Marinovich
Due to COVID – 19, some of our NZ tourist attractions and eateries are closed either temporarily or indefinitely. Please make sure you email or ring ahead to double check their availability before you go.