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Queenstown tours
Queenstown attractions

Queenstown History

Queenstown accommodation

The Maoris arrived a 1000 years ago, attracted by the greenstone (pounamu). The stone had spirituality and was highly valued in Maori culture. If you visit the Kiwi Haka, a Maori Cultural Experience located at the top of the Gondola you can learn more about the early Queenstown

The initial settlers arrived in the 1860’s and were farmers. William Rees was the first settler and lived in “The Camp” on Queenstown bay. His son’s name lives on with two local peaks named after him, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak.

There is some dispute who discovered gold first but is agreed that it was 1862. Rangiora Ellison and Hakaria Haeroa were two local Maoris who it is thought found the first gold but also said that two local sheep shearers Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern found the gold. It resulted in 1863 the Shotover River becoming the centre of the New Zealand gold rush with many thousands of miners. Arthur’s Point now the starting place for the Shotover Jet is named after one of the original miners. At its peak the Shotover River was the highest gold producing river in the world that provided 12 oz of gold for every yard of gravel that was panned. In Arrowtown we can find the restored Chinese village where the Chinese gold miners lived.

Some of the original properties are located in Queenstown Mall which has been converted to modern use. Marine Parade includes William Cottage the oldest remaining building built in 1864.

The Government brought order to the chaos of the gold rush and bought the town and stated that it was now fit for Queen Victoria, the reason it became Queenstown instead of just “The Camp”.

Road access did not come until 1936 and early transport was by steamer from Kingston at the South of Lake Wakatipu. It is still possible to travel on one of the original steamers the Earnslaw which was launched in 1911 and now does regular cruises. A railway connected Kingston with Gore and it is still possible to travel on the Kingston Flyer and experience the original carriages and one of the early locomotives.

Modern tourism came with the launch of jet boats, rafting and it took a big boost with the first commercial bungy jump being set up by A.J. Hackett in 1988 which is now a major attraction and draw card to Queenstown. Even visited by President Clinton who was suitably impressed with the scenery.



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