When William Fox struck gold in the Arrow Gorge in 1862, prospectors poured into the area. Townships sprang up at either end of the gorge:
Fox’s, later to be called Arrowtown, and at the northern end Twelve Mile, later Macetown.
While Arrowtown still thrives, Macetown had a shorter history, falling victim to the harsh climate, its isolation and the decline of mining. In the 1860s its population numbered 3000 but by 1906 mining operations had ceased. Now it is a ghost town of tumbledown walls and chimneys, lent a more tragic air by the groves of trees the miners planted to soften their setting. Sycamores, cottonwoods, poplars and hawthorns grace the once treeless terrace that was a main street of stores, smithies, hotels and cottages.
Three buildings remain intact, and the bake house and Needham’s Cottage have had their exteriors restored. The buildings, together with all other relics in the township and surrounds, are now protected in a 145ha historic reserve.
The route to Macetown is that followed by the historic goldfield road, which winds its way up the Arrow Gorge, crossing the river and side-creeks 33 times. To get the most from the drive, call at the Arrowtown Museum and buy a copy of Macetown and the Arrow Gorge, an excellent booklet that describes in detail many of the things you will see along the way, including full descriptions of points of interest at each numbered yellow peg.
Below this terrace was a beach where a creek flowed into the Arrow River. Here the Maces established their claim.
Two other brothers, John and Joe Beale, had come over the Skippers Hill and followed the creek down to the junction of the Arrow River. They pitched their tent on a site where the township later stood. Next morning John Beale went down to the creek to get a billy of water. He saw gold in the creek and filled a pannikin with it. As he returned to his camp he saw some men pitching a tent across the river. These were the Mace brothers. The two parties met and came to terms which were agreeable to all.
HOW TO GET THERE
Drive to the riverside street at the back of the shopping centre in Arrowtown and turn down the track into the Arrow River.
MAP: F41 (Arrowtown)
S >N. Start at F41 812773
DISTANCE: 30.4km return (including side-trip)
Narrow winding track with mostly gravel or rock surface and 33 river or stream crossings.
Source: 4WD South Island Volume 1 (Ken Sibly & Mark Wilson)