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The Historical Journey of Queenstown: From Maori Trails to Adventure Capital
Early Beginnings and Maori Heritage (1200 AD - 1850s)
  • 1200 AD: Polynesians were the first to explore the Queenstown area, primarily for hunting. The cold climate discouraged permanent settlement.

  • Later Centuries: Maori from the West Coast traveled to Queenstown in search of pounamu (greenstone), a precious resource used for tools and ornaments. The area was known as Tāhuna, translating to "shallow bay."

  • 1856: The first European glimpse of Lake Wakatipu was by Scotsman Nathanael Chalmers, guided by Reko, a Maori chief.

Settlement and Development (1860 - 1869)
  • 1860: William Gilbert Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelmann were the first Europeans to settle in the area. They navigated the challenging Crown Range, establishing farms and beginning a quiet pastoral life.

  • 1862: The discovery of alluvial gold in the Arrow River by Jack Tewa, a Maori shepherd, sparked a significant gold rush, attracting miners from as far as Australia and California. Queenstown quickly evolved from a shanty town on Rees' farm to a bustling center of activity.

The Gold Rush Impact (1862 - 1870s)
  • Early 1860s: The gold rush led to the construction of infrastructure such as the Queen’s Arms Hotel, which later became Eichardt’s Hotel.

  • 1864: As the gold supply dwindled, miners moved on to the West Coast, prompting the government to invite Chinese miners to the Otago goldfields, who significantly contributed to the local economy through various trades.

Expansion and Tourism (1870s - 1940s)
  • Mid-1870s: The development of hotels and the establishment of the Dunedin to Kingston railway facilitated the growth of tourism. Queenstown became a favored summer destination for hiking and relaxation.

  • 1947: The Mount Cook Company introduced winter tourism by hiring a ski instructor and installing a tow rope at Coronet Peak, marking the beginning of Queenstown's winter sports scene.

Modern Era and Adventure Tourism (1950s - Present)
  • 1960: Commercial jet boat rides began, adding to the array of adventurous activities available.

  • 1988: The launch of the world’s first commercial bungee jumping site by AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch solidified Queenstown's reputation as the "Adventure Capital of the World."

  • Post-1950s: Queenstown has seen exponential growth, now offering a wide range of activities that attract tourists year-round.

Maori Princess

Photo: Te Papa
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Experience New Zealand

Most of our tour operators will provide you with historical information along your journey. If you are interested in history and culture in this region, we have a wide range of activities, here are some to get you started. Click here for more activities. 

Auckland Volcanic Field Tour

Auckland Volcanic Field Tour

Set off on a captivating half-day journey to uncover the fascinating history and geological wonders of the Auckland Volcanic Field.

From $150.00

Time Tripper Underwater Adventure

Time Tripper Underwater Adventure

Exclusive Underwater Adventure: Dive into Queenstown's only underwater experience at Time Tripper.

From $15.00

Auckland War Memorial Museum Ticket

Auckland War Memorial Museum Ticket

Immerse yourself in the rich and fascinating history of New Zealand, its nature, and its military, including the stories of those who served for Aotearoa.

From $28.00

Queenstown Original Wine Tour

Queenstown Original Wine Tour

Experience the true flavour of our local pinot noir and other wine varietals at three premium vineyards, each hosting our small group tours for wine tasting.

From $185.00

New Zealand Maritime Museum Ticket

New Zealand Maritime Museum Ticket

The New Zealand Maritime Museum is the place where the stories of people and the sea are preserved, shared and explored.

From $24.00

Arrowtown Wanaka 6 Hours Tour from Queenstown

Arrowtown, Wanaka 6 Hour Tour from Queenstown

Sightseeing tour from Queenstown, taking in historic Arrowtown, stunning Wānaka, the Crown Range road, the Wānaka tree and Cardrona Hotel.

From $210.00

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