Queenstown (Māori: Tahuna) is a resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. It is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu, a long thin Z-shaped lake formed by glacial processes, and has spectacular views of nearby mountains such as The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and just above the town; Ben Lomond and Queenstown Hill. The Queenstown-Lakes District has a land area of 8,704.97 km² (3,361.01 sq mi) not counting its inland lakes (Lake Hawea, Lake Wakatipu, and Lake Wanaka). It has an estimated resident population of 29,200 (June 2012 estimate). Its neighbouring towns include Arrowtown, Wanaka, Alexandra, and Cromwell. The nearest cities are Dunedin and Invercargill. Queenstown is now known for its commerce-oriented tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism. It is popular with young international and New Zealand and Australian travellers alike.
The town is the largest centre in Central Otago, and the second largest in Otago after Dunedin. Oamaru is now the third largest. According to the 2006 census, the usually resident population of the Queenstown urban area (including Fernhill, Frankton and Kelvin Heights) is 13,062, an increase of 22.1% since 2001. The population of the Queenstown ward at 30 June 2011 is 16,600.
The area was known to Māori before Europeans arrived. The first European to see Lake Wakatipu was Nathanael Chalmers who was guided by Reko, the chief of the Tuturau, over the Waimea Plains and up the Mataura River in September 1853. Evidence of stake nets, baskets for catching eels, spears and ashes indicated the Glenorchy area was visited by Māori. It is likely Ngāi Tahu Māori visited Queenstown en route to collect Pounamu (greenstone), although no evidence of permanent settlement is known.
Explorers William Gilbert Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelmann, were the first Europeans to settle the area. Rees established a high country farm in the location of Queenstown’s current town centre in 1860, but the discovery of gold in the Arrow River in 1862 encouraged Rees to convert his wool shed into a hotel named the Queen’s Arms, now known as Eichardt’s. There are various apocryphal accounts of how the town was named, the most popular suggesting that a local gold digger exclaimed that the town was “fit for Queen Victoria”. Many Queenstown streets bear names from the gold mining era (such as Camp Street) and some historic buildings remain. William’s Cottage, the Lake Lodge of Ophir, Queenstown Police Station, and St Peter’s Anglican Church lie close together in a designated historic precinct.
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