9 Jan

Our History Series: The Beginning of Our Story

Our story begins before Queenstown was a city when the landscape was vacant of marked streets and buildings. A man, originally from Pembrokeshire in Wales, sailed past the Remarkables mountain range along New Zealand’s longest lake, arriving on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in search of land for farming. His journey and the discovery of gold in the region would prove to be instrumental in our establishment, cementing Eichardt’s Private Hotel in the history of this city.

William & Nicholas

In 1859, accompanied by fellow explorer Nicholas Von Tunzelmann, William Gilbert Rees arrived in Queenstown, surveying the area for pastoral land suitable for sheep farming. It was a fateful coin toss between the two gents upon their arrival that meant Von Tunzelmann won the Walter Peak side of Lake Wakatipu, whilst Rees would take the side that is Queenstown.

Von Tunzelmann had a much more arduous journey, with many financial and emotional failures, which ultimately caused his untimely death in Frankton Hospital. Rees, however, has a much more positive fate.

Officially settling on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in 1860-61, Rees established a homestead on Run 356 and erected the first building in the town – a humble woolshed. Where the woolshed once stood is today the site of our main building. Rees’ intentions to farm sheep by the lake were short-lived.

Discovery of Gold

In November 1862, gold was discovered in the nearby Shotover River and Rees found himself called forth from farming duties and thrown into the midst of a gold rush. Prospectors, miners, and opportunists began to descend on Queenstown, and Rees’ homestead run was soon declared an official goldfield from which the main business area would develop.

An entrepreneurial spirit quickly arose from Rees and within the first few weeks of the rush, he turned to hotel-keeping. As soon as the shearing season was over, the woolshed was converted into a hotel and given a wooden façade.

An establishment for the purposes of accommodation and service emerged and Rees was soon joined in partnership by Sergeant-Major Hugh William Bracken. Officially named the Queen’s Arms, it was one of seventeen licensed and unlicensed hotels in the area during the height of the goldrush era.

Continue to follow the ‘Our History’ series to uncover the enduring legacy of Eichardt’s Private Hotel, and the continued growth of Queenstown as we know it.