Combine a Queenstown cycling adventure with unique Kiwi culture and heritage.
A variety of early adventurers including Māori in search of pounamu (jade), gold miners from across the globe and pastoral pioneers have left lasting legacies. Some of those legacies are Queenstown heritage sites that you can still visit today.
Three historic places in and around Queenstown have been recognised by Tohu Whenua as being our country’s best and most authentic heritage experiences. All three sites can be accessed by bike, so jump in the saddle for an educational scenic adventure on two wheels.
There’s no place that combines heritage and cycling quite as well as Arrowtown does. Recognised as a Tohu Whenua for telling the story of two very different gold mining communities (European and Chinese), this charming gold mining town has no less than 60 listed heritage buildings and a great museum to boot!
A gentle road ride takes you past rows of quaint European miners’ cottages, historic facades on Buckingham Street, several historic churches and even an old gaol. Make sure not to miss the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement which was established in 1869. The tiny restored huts were once the homes of persecuted Cantonese gold miners forced to live on the edge of town. Complete your loop by following the gentle cycle trail on the true left of the Arrow River, a place where you can try your own luck at gold panning.
If it’s a longer ride you’re after, Arrowtown is a great get-on get-off hub for the famous 130km Queenstown Trail which leads past mountains, lakes, rivers and another iconic Tohu Whenua location - the Kawarau Suspension Bridge.
Arrowtown Miners Cottages
2. Kawarau Suspension Bridge
Most people know Kawarau Suspension Bridge as being the site of the world’s original AJ Hackett bungy venture. Since 1988, thousands of people have hurled themselves off the bridge and into the dramatic canyon below.
But the bridge has a much longer and intriguing history, which has earned it Tohu Whenua recognition. Built in 1880 to allow the passage of industrial-sized gold mining equipment and supplies, the bridge was an innovative feat of engineering at the time, having to withstand the kind of notorious canyon winds that had wrecked near-new bridges elsewhere in the world. It won its designer an international engineering award. These days the bridge also forms part of the Queenstown Cycle Trail, allowing easy access between historic Arrowtown and popular Gibbston where you can taste the region’s premier wines and cheeses.
Bikers with Kawarau Bridge in the background
3. TSS Earnslaw Steamship
If you’re into jaw-dropping scenery and up for a challenge, put the Around the Mountain Cycle Trail on your bucket list. The multi-day cycle adventure starts with a cruise across Lake Whakatipu from Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Station aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship, which is an amazing experience in its own right.
Having graced the lake since 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is one of the world’s oldest and largest remaining steamships. In the days before any roads existed, she ferried people, sheep, cattle, mail and supplies to remote lakeside destinations.
These days she carries mostly passengers but also bikes. The cruise across the lake takes about 45 minutes, so take time to explore the vessel, view the engine room and study the historic displays of the steamship's former life. The TSS Earnslaw is proudly owned and operated by RealNZ, and recognised by Tohu Whenua as one of our best heritage experiences.
To find out more about Queenstown's culture and heritage experiences, or if you want to delve deeper into Tohu Whenua landmarks and the incredible pioneering history of the Southern Lakes, then make sure to visit the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown.