It was the cry of "gold" in 1862 that brought thousands of miners to the Arrow River, one of the world's richest sources of alluvial gold. With about 7000 gold diggers living on the banks of the river at one time, the lively township of Arrowtown sprang up.
Arrowtown's 150th gold anniversary will be staged over Labour Weekend (October 19-22) with an Arrow River re-enactment, New Zealand gold-panning championships, Chinese village theatre with dragon and lion dancers, town meets country day, market and music.
Glenorchy (at the head of Lake Wakatipu), the same weekend, will be celebrating 150 years of settlement. Glenorchy was established after the first European settlers arrived to farm sheep in the district, and soon afterwards, an influx of gold miners set up camp as the goldrush hit the region. At its peak, Glenorchy was a dynamic town with 3000 people. Like Arrowtown, Glenorchy is now much smaller, but both are popular attractions for visitors.
Part of Queenstown's fabric with her piercing "hoot, hoot", the grand steamship Earnslaw (Lady of the Lake) will be honoured on her 100th birthday. A week of events on Lake Wakatipu will be held from October 14 will mark her centenary.
Going full steam again will be the Kingston Flyer Railway. It will operate two trips a day during the 2012-13 season, launching on September 29 in time for the school holidays and running until April 30, 2013. The Kingston station's new-look cafe at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu has a new and experienced chef, Andy Lisseman, who has impressed with his passion for serving local produce at Queenstown eating establishments.
Outside Central Otago, there is the option of being in Dunedin on October 18-22 to experience all that is steam at the inaugural Dunedin Steam Festival.
Bringing the colourful steam community together for the holiday weekend, the festival will celebrate the city's rich industrial past in a vibrant and contemporary way.
A full events calendar includes Steampunk at the Gasworks, a steampunk ball at the beautiful Savoy Lounge, Taieri Gorge steam train rides to Sawyers Bay, Freaky Steam family activities at the Otago Museum, guided tours, steam train displays, a vintage car display and rides, and a picnic day at Quarantine Island.
Dunedin has strong ties with the TSS Earnslaw in that it was commissioned by New Zealand Railways and built by McGregor's foundry, Dunedin, which was sited on the harbour edge behind the railway station. It was then disassembled and rebuilt at Kingston on the southern edge of Lake Wakatipu after being taken there by rail.
Ship building and heavy engineering flourished in Dunedin as a result of the goldrush, and New Zealand's industrial revolution evolved in the city under the power of steam.
The steam locomotive Ka 942 and train from the North Island will visit, bringing a contingent of international passengers on a tour of New Zealand. Owned by the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust, the locomotive will arrive in Dunedin on October 17. From October 18 to October 20, it will combine with the Taieri Gorge Railway to take Dunedin passengers on short round trips to Sawyers Bay, before heading to Invercargill and back on October 21.
Earnslaw centenary: tssearnslaw.co.nz
Dunedin Steam Festival: steamfestival.org.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News