An evocative place to spend the night alone camping, Macetown is an abandoned gold rush era town about 15km from Arrowtown. Once home to 300 people, a school, a church and two hotels, it now has a population of zero.
It was gold in the Arrow River that first brought people here, with over 1,500 camping out in 1862 before the town was established. The gold was exhausted with a few years but quartz mining brought life back in the 1870s. It has been long abandoned with the only reminders of it’s heyday being some restored buildings and mining batteries.
I past the buildings on my way through the former town. First the bakehouse which originally would have only had one window in the main room on the left, with one added on the right to see into the rubble remains of the oven room.
More substantial was Needham’s House, which belonged to the old schoolmaster. Set in a beautiful spot overlooking the Arrow River it was relatively sizeable for it’s time, though nothing compared to today’s expectations for a family house.
The campsite is really just a relatively small area of grass close to the river and a long drop toilet. It’s free though and if you’re lucky enough to have the place to yourself as I did, it’s pretty much perfect camping, surrounded by autumn leaves and the pleasant sound of flowing water.
Macetown is accessible from Arrowtown by 4WD vehicle (there are 23 river crossings!), by walking along the 4WD road, or more scenically (and far more strenuously) via the Big Hill Track. Or even more strenuously hiking the tough 34km Motatapu Track from Wanaka.