In the Lakes District are located two very different cities. One is the younger, livelier, always active Queenstown and the other is the sedate, reserved, and quieter Arrowtown.
After leaving Milford, we headed for Queenstown first. It was the city where much of the tourist activities are booked. You can organize flights over Fiordland National Park and the glaciers from here. If you need jet boating, bungee jumping, parasailing, zip lining, and even swinging from a bridge while tied into a lawn chair, you can do it from here. Instead of the small town I pictured from our guide book, this was a crowded touristy place with a Louis Vuitton and upscale hotels.
Therefore, we were relieved to head out of town to find our place in the more remote countryside. For a bit of local flavor we headed to Arrowtown.
As with many south-island cities, Arrowtown was a gold mining center. After the rush was over, it languished but it was just too cute to die. Now it’s a tiny place catering to the older and, perhaps, more affluent tourist. The jewelry stores here specialize in gold, not jade. The restaurants here are pub like and have the low beams and dark wood of pubs in Oxford, England. There were tree canopied streets, old English phone boxes, and a village green. We walked along the Arrow River and visited the old Chinese Settlement. It’s abandoned now, but was very active during the mining days in the late 1800s.
The next day we walked around Lake Hayes. We were out for photos and fresh air but we got much more than that. There were a number of cyclists on a tour and other independent riders too. I recognized lots of wild flowers we see in the US and saw some I couldn’t name. On the other side of the lake was a housing estate. An empty lot was for sale for $1,250,000 NZ, or roughly $885,000 US. No wonder. The views went over the lake—the most photographed in New Zealand—and out to the snow capped mountains.
Many of the scenic and historic places in New Zealand are cared for by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The familiar green and yellow signs let you know you are entering a special place. For us, Arrowtown and Lake Hayes, available to us for free, was a much better way to spend a couple days than possibly embarrassing myself by swinging in a lawn chair. I’ll let that experience be saved for others.