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The Arrow River Trail, Arrowtown

The Arrow River Trail, Arrowtown

Arrowtown is one of the cutest and most interesting small towns in New Zealand. It boomed during the goldrush, the Arrow River teeming with gold. The Arrow River Trail takes you along a short section of this picturesque river – you might even see some people panning for gold!

The Arrow River Trail

The Arrow River Trail starts near the big car park in town (a very short walk from the main street in Arrowtown). Everything I’ve read about the track says it takes around an hour return, but there isn’t a marker saying “this is the end of the track” (more on that a bit later).

The track starts off to the right of Butler’s Green, where the gravel road to Macetown begins. You’ll be heading to the direction of the Arrow River. Keeping to the left, follow the foot track that goes up and along the Arrow Irrigation Pipeline. The track follows this pipeline and the Arrow River most of the way.  The track is mostly flat and very easy – we saw lots of families out on the trail. You can also do it on a bike.

We did the Arrow River Trail in autumn. It’s the best time to do this walk, and visit Arrowtown in general, with trees full of colourful leaves lining the Arrow River and the hills above town.

There are some great viewpoints along the way, and even a small waterfall. You’ll eventually reach the Norman Smith Footbridge, which is a good place to turn around and head back. There’s no sign saying it’s the end of the track though, and it continues up the hill and meets again with the road to Macetown. We haven’t been all the way to Macetown yet but it’s on the list (hopefully in a 4WD).

We walked for 15-minutes past the bridge and it was worth it – if you want to extend the walk a little bit it’s a good option.

Another way to extend this walk is to do the Sawpit Gully Track. It branches off the Arrow River Trail, close to the bridge – it’ll take around 90 minutes to get back to the carpark this way but it’s a detour well worth taking if you have the energy.


  • When is the best time for autumn leaves? We did this track in mid-April and the leaves were looking good. The Arrowtown Autumn Festival was due to be held from the 21st – 25th of April (it was cancelled), so I’m guessing they try to time that with the peak of the leaves.

  • Is This the Best Walk in Arrowtown? I reckon if you’re going to do one walk in Arrowtown, this should be it. There are great views along the way and it’s very easy. Combine it with the Sawpit Gully Track for a long walk, and way more views! There are other walks in Arrowtown (Lake Hayes Walkway is another good option), making it a good place for hikers to visit, but if you’re only in town for few hours and want to see some cool views without much effort, you can’t go wrong with the Arrow River Trail.

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.

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