The Arrow Basin was carved our by glaciers 10,000 years ago, just like both the Wakitipu Basin and Wanaka.
The 1700s saw three different Māori tribes in the area; the Waitaha, the Kati Mamoe and the Kai Tahu. It is unknown how long these tribes settled there, but in the 1860s the gold rush era arrived and with it many Europeans migrated to the area, searching for riches.
In 1862 there were approximately 1500 miners, camped semi-permanently by the Arrow River. The Arrowtown tourism office reports that 340kgs of yellow treasure were lugged out by the first gold escort in January 1863. This load alone was worth $18 million at today’s prices.
As the European miners headed to the West Coast, the Otago Provincial Government invited Chinese miners to come and work the deserted gold fields. The Chinese created their own, more permanent village. What is now know as the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement, is still preserved to this day.
Today many of the buildings found in Arrowtown have been preserved from the gold rush era, giving a charming and particularly unique feel to the town. It’s population is now a little over 2,000 people, most of which are permanent year-round residents.