Explore Queenstown’s top three heritage sites by bike

Want to combine a Queenstown cycling adventure with some unique Kiwi culture?

A variety of early adventurers including Māori in search of pounamu (jade), gold miners from across the globe and pastoral pioneers have left lasting legacies. Some of those legacies are heritage sites that you can still visit today. 

Three historic places in and around Queenstown have been recognised by Tohu Whenua as being our country’s best and most authentic heritage experiences. And all of them can be accessed by bike!


There’s no place that combines heritage and cycling quite as well as Arrowtown does. Recognised as a Tohu Whenua for telling the story of two very different gold mining communities (European and Chinese), this charming gold mining town has no less than 60 listed heritage buildings and a great museum to boot! 

Historic Arrowtown is a great place to explore by bike. Image credit: Destination Queenstown

A gentle road ride takes you past rows of quaint European miners cottages, historic facades on Buckingham Street, several historic churches and even an old gaol. Make sure not to miss the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement which was established in 1869. The tiny restored huts were once the homes of persecuted Cantonese gold miners forced to live on the edge of town. Complete your loop by following the gentle cycle trail on the true left of the Arrow River, a place where you can try your own luck at gold panning. 

If it’s a longer ride you’re after, Arrowtown is a great get-on get-off hub for the famous 110 km Queenstown Trail which leads past mountains, lakes, rivers and another iconic Tohu Whenua location - Kawarau Suspension Bridge.

Kawarau Suspension Bridge

Most people know Kawarau Suspension Bridge as being the site of the world’s original A.J. Hackett bungy venture. Since 1988 thousands of people have hurled themselves off the bridge and into the dramatic canyon below.

Kawarau Suspension Bridge is a feat of historic engineering. Image credit: Queenstown Trails Trust

But the bridge has a much longer and intriguing history, which has earned it Tohu Whenua recognition. Built in 1880 to allow the passage of industrial-sized gold mining equipment and supplies, the bridge was an innovative feat of engineering at the time, having to withstand the kind of notorious canyon winds that had wrecked near-new bridges elsewhere in the world. It won its designer an international engineering award. These days the bridge also forms part of the Queenstown Cycle Trail, allowing easy access between historic Arrowtown and popular Gibbston where you can taste the region’s premier wines and cheeses.

TSS Earnslaw

If you’re into jaw-dropping scenery and up for a challenge, put the Around the Mountain Cycle Trail on your bucket list. The multi-day cycle adventure starts with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Station aboard the TSS Earnslaw, which is an amazing experience in its own right.

The TSS Earnslaw is the best way for you to get to the start of the Round the Mountain Cycle Trail. Image credit: Real Journeys

Having graced the lake since 1912, the Earnslaw is one of the world’s oldest and largest remaining steamships. In the days before any roads existed, she ferried people, sheep, cattle, mail and supplies to remote lakeside destinations. These days she carries mostly passengers but also bikes. The cruise across the lake takes about 45 minutes, so take time to explore the vessel, view the engine room and study the historic displays of the steamship's former life. The TSS Earnslaw is proudly owned and operated by Real Journeys, and recognised by Tohu Whenua as one of our best heritage experiences.


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