October will be a month for the history books for the Queenstown region as it celebrates two major milestones - the 100th birthday of the TSS Earnslaw steamship and the 150th anniversary of gold discovered in Central Otago. The TSS Earnslaw’s century of outstanding service on Lake Wakatipu will be celebrated with a week-long birthday party from 14 to 22 October which will include special lake cruises, period costumes, live entertainment, food and family fun.
Thousands of locals and visitors are expected to turn out to pay tribute to Queenstown’s much loved steamer, affectionately known as the ‘Lady of the Lake’, now one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago and the only remaining coal-fired passenger vessels still operating in the Southern Hemisphere. Her captivating history ranges from operating as a freight and passenger service boat for high country stations to hosting royalty and taking a role in an Indiana Jones movie.
Over Labour Weekend (19-22 October) there will also be district-wide celebrations to mark 150 years since the discovery of gold.
More than 50 ‘Gold 150’ events – most of them free - will be held in Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Kingston over four days. Highlights include a re-enactment of the 1862 goldrush on the banks of the Arrow River involving horses and wagons, themed music and 200 volunteers playing the parts of the early settlers, the New Zealand Gold Panning Championships, Chinese Village Theatre with Consulate General Madam Tan as guest of honour, and Glenorchy Day which will feature a cavalcade at 11am.
Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd said October will be a great time to visit the region and explore its rich history.
“The TSS Earnslaw and Gold 150 celebrations are both significant milestones in our history and the celebrations will not only provide some great entertainment, they’ll help locals and visitors to connect to our past and relive key moments,” said Mr Budd.
Thursday 18 October - TSS Earnslaw Official 100th Birthday - featuring a re-enactment of the maiden passenger voyage from Kingston to Queenstown. The vintage Kingston Flyer steam train and the TSS Earnslaw will meet up in Kingston, providing yet another nostalgic step back in time.
Saturday 20 October - Relive the Gold Rush of 1862 through a re-enactment on the banks of the Arrow River featuring 200 volunteers playing the parts of the early settlers, horses and wagons, and themed music.
Saturday 20 October - Chinese Village Theatre – traditional Chinese welcome featuring a Chinese Dragon, Lion Dancers and firecrackers, interpretation panel unveiling, shows around the Chinese Village depicting the lives of the miners. Consulate General Madam Tan will be the official guest of honour at the event.
Saturday 20 October - TSS Earnslaw Woolshed Party - cruise to Mount Nicholas Station on the far shores of Lake Wakatipu for a special 100th birthday bash.
Sunday 21 October - TSS Earnslaw High Country Station Cruise from Queenstown to Glenorchy - trace the historical freight and mail routes followed by the TSS Earnslaw on its way to the Head of the Lake and Glenorchy. 1900s theme with entertainment, morning/afternoon tea and historians on board.
Sunday 21 October - New Zealand Gold Panning Championships.