The first humans in this once inhospitable part of the world were moa-hunters who pushed inland chasing their prey in the 12th century. Then came the Ngati Mamoe, followed by the Ngai Tahu who through intermarriage and warfare, united three tribes into one, and from that point forward controlled the supply of sacred pounamu, or New Zealand jade, also known as nephrite and greenstone, which was plentiful in the Routeburn and Dart Valleys.
Hard, durable and workable, it was in high demand for adzes, chisels and weapons, and was so desirable, Maori made epic expeditions through Central Otago and the alpine divide to bring it out from the West Coast, via the head of Lake Wakatipu.
Europeans began to arrive on the scene sometime after 1847 searching for land to establish large sheep runs. William Rees and Nicholas von Tunselmann were the first to reach the shores of Lake Wakatipu in 1859. Rees built a homestead and erected a woolshed on the site now occupied by the iconic Eichardt’s Hotel.
In 1861, the first major discovery of gold was made and Central Otago’s gold boom began in earnest. Gold was discovered in the Shotover River in 1862, the rich river yielding an incredible 155 grammes (or five ounces) per shovelful; Rees homestead was declared a goldfield, a bustling tent town sprung up and four streets were laid out.
Today as you enjoy your Queenstown Motorhome Rental road trip, you can still pan for gold within a 20 minute drive of Queenstown.
Thanks to Tourism Radio for much of the content supplied about Queenstown. Tourism Radio is like having your own tour guide - providing you with audio commentary of over 2000 points of interest in New Zealand. It is available for rental with any vehicle booked on www.motorhomeandrvtravel.com