Macetown was first settled in the early 1860s as a result of the discovery of gold in the Arrow River and its catchment. At first the rush was for alluvial gold from the river and its flats. Later the miners turned their attention to the hills and several quartz mining operations were established, some high above the aptly named Rich Burn, which joins the Arrow at Macetown. The village owed its existence solely to the mining industry; when that failed the town slowly died and by the 1930s Macetown was a ghost town.
The Rich Burn. Macetown Historic
Macetown's major historic structures have all been restored in a project completed in 2008, and marked by a plaque, unveiled by the Rt Hon. Helen Clark in March that year. Andersons Battery, Needhams Cottage, and Smiths Bakehouse were the main recipents of attention along with building remnants such as the old schoolroom and stone fences. Some of the housing sections can still be seen and several of the original fruit and shelter trees survive in and around these. Of industrial significance, Andersons battery is the only known all-metal stamping battery in Otago.
Located approximately 16km up the Arrow River from Arrowtown, access to Macetown is via a 4WD track which fords the river 22 times. It is one of the most intact and accessible historic goldfield towns managed by DOC in Otago. As part of the restoration project there are many new interpretation panels in Macetown. These tell the town's story, through following the life of Jack Glasson, a fictional character, though his life and times are based on real incidents and anecdotes.
Close to Queenstown, Macetown attracts over 7,500 visitors annually, either independently (foot, mountain bike or 4WD) or with one of several guided tour operations that regularly visit the historic reserve. There are plenty of recreation opportunities: day walks around the township or up the valley to the impressive Homeward Bound stamper, picnicking and mountain biking. The track up the Rich Burn is rough and only suitable for trampers.
Visitors to Macetown who arrive by 4WD vehicle or trail bike should be be aware that this is an historic site. Motor vehicles of any kind are prohibited from driving off formed tracks. The area is monitored. Any off-road activity will be prosecuted.
The Motatapu Track
The historic track from Arrowtown to Macetown now links with the the multi-day Motatapu Track. The track's start/finish is by the Arrow River. Opened by Helen Clarke in autumn 2008, this area is now an important part of the Te Araroa Trail ("the long pathway") which traverses the length New Zealand.