Gold Panning In Queenstown

Queenstown has a rich history of gold panning, with a well-known rush in Arrowtown, which is close. The gold mining culture is still alive and well today, and visitors to the area can step back in time to see old-fashioned streets, museums full of artefacts, and you can even stand inside reconstructions of the huts that miners used when trying to find their fortune.
All of the local goldfields are within driving distance from Queenstown via rental car, and these areas are fun for the entire family.


Approximately 20 km from Queenstown sits Arrowtown. During its heyday, Arrowtown was a bustling mining area that was popular with many migrants, mostly Chinese, seeking out their fortune in gold. There are remnants of the settlement still intact, and guests are welcome to explore the village in order to gain some insight into the lives of these miners.
In addition to this, Arrowtown has a museum that offers the opportunity to view displays about the gold rush. There is an art gallery, research facility, and bookshop, too. If you want to try your hand at panning for gold, you can also hire equipment from the museum and try your luck in the waters of the Arrow River.

Speaking of the Arrow River, there are several rivers in the area where people still find gold, and these were resources for gold for many years. Today, they are major attractions for tourists, and in addition to panning, visitors can take part in a number of other activities including bungee jumping, rafting, river surfing and swinging out over the water.

arrowtown miners huts - Gold Panning


Bannockburn is approximately 58 km from Queenstown by hire car, and this area was settled in the 1860s by groups of transient workers. This constant flow of people helped to first create some infrastructure, and then some chose to stay to serve the needs of travellers, and a permanent settlement was born.
Bannockburn is a small town, only about 120 people live there today, but it is extremely popular with tourists. There are many mining relics to explore in the area, and other options for visitors such as a trek to Stewart Town, a ghost town with old buildings, tunnels and abandoned mine shafts.

For those seeking out a bit of the modern age, Bannockburn has a lovely wine area, Mount Difficulty, where world-class food and wine is served. In addition to the delicious wine, there are also stunning views of the landscape.


The town of Clyde, which is about 83 km from Queenstown, used to be the most populated town in the country thanks to the gold that was found in the area. Today, Clyde is known for being the trail head of the Otago Central Rail Trail.
This trail, which is popular among walkers and cyclists, follows the historical railway, which was used for transporting gold that was found in the area. There is also a museum in Clyde, which is focused on the mining history of the town.


Alexandria is also a small gold mining town in the area, and it is also served by the Otago Central Rail rail. There is a museum in town, which has a number of audio-visual displays about the town’s history of mining, and there is a big emphasis on the town’s role in developing the mining method of dredging.
gold panning in river - Gold Panning

Bendigo Historic Reserve

The Bendigo Historic Reserve sits on more than 1,000 hectares, and it is comprised of vertical mine shafts, foundations, and battery sites. Those who wish to wander the reserve are legally allowed, but caution must be used as not all of the old mine shafts are covered.
There is also a vineyard and cellar door at Northburn Station, which is a great place to try local wine and have lunch before heading back to Queenstown.

Goldfield Mining Centre

One of the most well-known mining attractions near Queenstown is the Goldfield Mining Centre. This centre is the original site of a gold strike, which occurred in the 19th century. This site was mined for more than a century, and during that time, there were approximately 46 tonnes of gold extracted from the area. Here, you and your family can discover how the early miners panned for gold. You will also see how these miners lived, the hardships they endured, and how some people found their fortune.

In addition to the tour offered by the centre, visitors can learn about the various gold mining equipment that was used in the past and still used today. There is also a historic stamper battery, which is used to crush ore, in use at the centre, and it’s one of the only stamper batteries still in use in the entire country.

The Goldfield Mining Centre also features a Chinese village, which is a replication of how the migrants used to live. You will have the chance to tour a miner’s store and explore the shacks, which the Cantonese migrants lived in. Not only will you learn about the hardships these miners went through, you will also learn more about how they impacted the history of New Zealand.

Of course, you can also try your hand at panning for gold at the Goldfield Mining Centre. Here, visitors have the chance to comb through the virgin land, and many people find small grains of gold as they use equipment on site. There are also a number of visitors who have found larger pieces of gold, too, and some of them are several hundreds of dollars in value. If you have never panned for gold, there are guides who will give you a brief training with a gold pan and show you where to gather your gravel and dirt for panning.

Finally, if you need a rest and want to try some local cuisine, make sure to sample some of the area’s finest wine and tapas at the Wild Earth restaurant before heading back to Queenstown.

The area’s history is rich in the gold panning legacy, and no visit to Queenstown is complete without taking in some of the local attractions. Make sure to take the time to learn about the mining legacy of the area, and don’t forget to try your hand at panning for gold before you leave.

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