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The Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

The Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

One of the most interesting historic sights in the Queenstown area, Arrowtown’s historic Chinese Settlement is a fun place for a stroll, and to learn about the lives of Chinese goldminers during the Otago goldrush. It’s free, quick to walk around and is located right in the heart of Arrowtown.

The Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

Chinese goldminers, who were mostly Cantonese, worked the Otago goldfields in big numbers – there were over 5000 at some point. They apparently worked the areas that had already been picked over by the European miners.

The goldminers that ended up in Arrowtown lived in small shacks close to the Arrow River. The first thing you’ll notice is how small the dwellings are. I guess you don’t need a massive house if you’re on your own – apparently only a handful of Chinese goldmining migrants were women in those days. Thousands of men who sent money back to China, many never returning to their homeland.

If you visit in the warmer months you’ll probably think they lived idyllic lives, with long warm days to enjoy the peaceful surrounds of Arrowtown. Winters are bleak in these parts though, and I can’t imagine living in a stone shack during a heavy Central Otago frost — I guess those tiny shacks would have heated up pretty quick though! They also had to contend with plenty of racism, and the fact that a lot of them had families halfway around the world.

A visit to the Historic Chinese Settlement is free and it doesn’t take long to walk around.  There are around a dozen old buildings, some of which you can see inside. Kids seem to love this place, and people of all ages will be interested in the history of it all.

Getting There

Where is it? It’s located in Arrowtown, around 25 minutes from Queenstown. It’s close to the all-day parking area, just down from the main street.

READ MORE: Check out our post about the picturesque main streets of Arrowtown

Are you planning a trip to Queenstown? Check out our list of the best things to do!

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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.