– is a unique place where history, magnificent scenery and natural attractions are brought to life. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown site was first settled in 1860 by pioneering sheep drovers (one being William Rees) and later in 1862 by gold prospectors. These prospectors flocked to the area from all corners of the world after the 1862 discovery of gold at Arthurs Point on the Shotover River in the hills north east behind Queenstown. The Shotover River (named after the English estate of one of William Rees’ business partners) once said to be the world’s richest gold-bearing river.
The township was first simply called “The Camp” by its early residents but was named Queenstown in January 1863 at a public meeting. It is reputed that the meeting declared the site to be “fit for a Queen”. By the 1870s, the gold had started to decline as did the population, and the district became predominantly a farming area. Fortunes were made and lost, but these early pioneers left an historical legacy which is now part of today’s new “gold” – a thriving tourism industry.
Arthurs Point, east of Queenstown, is where gold was first discovered in November 1862 in the Shotover River. Up river from the bridge is the Oxenbridge tunnel which took the Oxenbridge brothers 4 years to complete 1906-1910. The aim was to divert the Shotover River and allow its bed to be worked for gold. However, only 90 ounces of gold was recovered from the exposed riverbed. Today, the tunnel is used by the rafters riding down from Deep Creek, situated above the Lower Shotover Canyon.
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