A Brief History of Queenstown

1200AD (or thereabouts) – Polynesians were the first to explore and hunt in the area. Later, Maoris set up camp at the head of the lake, near modern day Glenorchy where they found beautiful pounamu (greenstone). They named Queenstown Tāhuna, meaning shallow bay.

1860 – William Gilbert Rees and fellow explorer, Nicholas Paul Baltasar von Tunzlemann were the first Europeans to settle in the area. Rees settled in what is now Queenstown’s CBD, while Tunzlemann set up his ranch across the lake. Rees was paid 10,000 pounds for his land after it was declared a goldfield in 1862. He converted his wool shed into a hotel called the Queen’s Arms, forming the foundations of the famous Eichardt’s Hotel. Tunzlemann was less fortunate, his ranch failed and he was forced to leave the land, almost bankrupt.

1862 – Maori shepherd Jack Tewa found alluvial gold in the Arrow River. Thousands flocked to the area and a shanty town appeared almost overnight. In 1864, the rush was over. Gold was found on the West Coast and as quickly as they’d come, the miners left town. The local government invited Chinese miners to work on the remaining goldfields. Around 5000 Chinese miners lived in the area in 1870.

1870 – early 1900s – people caught onto the idea that Queenstown’s really quite pretty. Tourism started to kick off, with many visiting the area during summer before embarking on one of the region’s great walks.

1947 – The Mount Cook Company hired a ski instructor, built huts and installed a rope tow on Coronet Peak. Queenstown officially became an all-seasons resort.

1960 – Commercial jet boat rides started operating.

1988 – AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch started operating the world’s first commercial bungee jumping.

2013 – The first ever TEDxQueenstown.

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