From 25 - 28 April, the streets and lanes of historic Arrowtown will come alive with over 40 events celebrating community, heritage, food, wine and everything else there is to love about this golden season. Here's your guide to the 2024 Arrowtown Autumn Festival, proudly supported by Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen.

A community celebration with an open heart 

39 years ago, in February 1985, a group of locals came together to organise an autumn festival in Arrowtown. The town may have had one eye on attracting visitors, but they were just as interested in an excuse to come together, celebrate the end of a busy summer, and have some riotous harvest fun. 

Some of the attractions from that first festival are still going strong. The market, the grand parade, the local art exhibition, and the colourful street entertainment would all be familiar sights for festival attendees from the eighties. Other activities, such as sheep races down the main street, have made way for events with more contemporary appeal, like Pie, Pint & Pinot’s celebration of regional produce. 

Crowd attending cultural performance at the Arrowtown Autumn FestivalArrowtown Autumn Festival

Highlights of this year's festival 

ASB Market Day 

  • Ramshaw Lane & Surrounds

  • Saturday 27 April - 10am - 4pm

Catherine says, “The biggest day is Saturday, with the special Autumn Festival ASB Market Day. From 10am until 4pm over 100 stalls selling arts, crafts, jewellery, clothing, and food take over Ramshaw Lane. There are three stages. Buckingham Green is where dance groups and musicians from local schools and local cultural groups perform, while bands and singer-songwriters from the area entertain the crowds on another two stages.”

Bayleys Arrowtown Parade

  • Buckingham Street

  • Saturday 27 April -  2pm

“There’s street entertainment all day and the Bayleys Arrowtown Parade at 2pm. You can look forward to the Southern Lakes Pipe Band, local dance troupe the Buckingham Belles, and circus shows on the Library Green. Lots of the local entertainers have been involved in the festival since the start, everyone knows who they are, and they bring their families along. It’s good to see a new generation of young talent coming from the schools, the Song Catcher songwriting programme, and the Mini Belles.” 

Pie, Pint & Pinot

  • Library Green

  • Sunday 28 April, 12:30pm - 5pm

Festival favourite, Pie, Pint & Pinot has been matching gourmet pies to craft beers and local pinots for 11 years. Gather under the trees of the Arrowtown Library Green to enjoy the autumn colour, live music, and chill vibes. 

Performer with giant bubble walking the Arrowtown Autumn Festival paradeArrowtown Autumn Festival parade

Coordinator Catherine Fallon is especially excited about this year’s lineup, “The inaugural Comedy Night was a huge success last year and is looking even better with a stellar line-up of comedians – Paul Ego, Emma Lange, Mulletman as well as fabulous local comedians. Mora Wines is one of our long-standing sponsors. We love having a local winery as a supporter because it fits so well with the harvest festival origins of the event. They're hosting the always-popular autumn lunch and a new exclusive three-course dining experience." 

There are plenty of fun events that bring out the creativity of the people of Arrowtown and celebrate the festival’s rural roots. Every year local kids and businesses beg, borrow, steal, and upcycle eclectic ingredients to make ornate scarecrows. This year’s theme is 'Off to the movies'. You can pick up a map on Buckingham Green from Thursday through Saturday to follow The Great Scarecrow Trail through the village.

Equally as wholesome, but even tastier is the Harvest Chutney Competition on Friday 26 April, celebrating the end of the growing season with creations made from locally grown produce. A new event to the programme is the pumpkin growing competition. There will be prizes for the heaviest, ugliest, prettiest and 'best creation'. 

Download a full PDF programme of events here.

Festival-goers listen to live music at the village green during Arrowtown Autumn FestivalPie, Pint and Pinot event, Arrowtown Autumn Festival

A festival for the past, and for the future 

Storytelling is one of our oldest human traditions, and this festival puts local tales front and centre. On Thursday 25 April, meet Darren Rewi at 3pm at the skatepark by the Arrow River to hear him share Kai Tahu stories behind the myths and legends of Whakatipu and Arrowtown.

Throughout the festival, there will be Arrow Ambles, guided historical walks of Arrowtown with knowledgeable guides. While David Clarke from the Lakes District Museum will share the stories behind some of Arrowtown’s much-loved trees on a historic tree walk on Friday 26 and Sunday 28 April.

The Chinese gold mining community is part of Central Otago’s history. The festival honours this with a Chinese Storytelling Session where New Zealand writers with Chinese heritage share excerpts from their stories of their communities in New Zealand and a guided walking tour of the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement that gives a sense of day-to-day mining life. 

Visitors gathered around guide under golden autumn trees during historic tree walk event at Arrowtown Autumn FestivalHistoric Tree Walk, Arrowtown Autumn Festival

Reducing the impact of local events

In recent years Queenstown has become a hub of sustainable innovation, particularly when it comes to visitor attractions. The Arrowtown Autumn Festival is no exception, with a line-up of sustainability initiatives and events celebrating local heritage.

The festival is working with Sustainable Queenstown to reduce its environmental impact. Catherine says, “Market day’s the big one, we get 10,000 people through, so that’s where we’re focusing on reducing our impact by getting rid of single-use takeaway cups. There will be a mug library and we’d love people to bring their own reusable cup.”

The festival has always been a community affair. Catherine says, “The festival has agricultural roots, celebrating the bounty of harvest. That rural community spirit hasn’t changed over the years. It's still run by a volunteer committee as a not-for-profit event, with any money made given back to community groups. Local people are keen to be involved by volunteering and performing. Skyline Queenstown are supporting our volunteer crew this year which means our volunteers will get something in return for their support.”

Getting to the Arrowtown Autumn Festival

The local bus service, Orbus operates a regular return bus from Queenstown to Arrowtown, so you can travel lighter during the festival. Fares are just $2 each way with a registered Bee card (purchase for $10 from iSITE), or pay $4 cash on the bus.

Alternatively, hire a bike or e-bike and ride the Queenstown Trail to Arrowtown. If you’re too tired for the return leg, many hire companies offer a shuttle service back to base. If you're driving, free parking will be available at Johnson's Common.

Rider biking along the Edge Bridge with autumn trees in the backgroundBiking the Queenstown Trail in autumn

Our Queenstown stories are packed with ideas to inspire you to experience Queenstown, Arrowtown, and the surrounding beauties in a more meaningful way. Share your Arrowtown Autumn Festival adventures with us on Instagram and #QueenstownLive.