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The Great Rides and Cycle Trails of New Zealand

Macetown Track

Classic Mountain Bike Ride

Queenstown, South Island

The classic Macetown Ride follows a journey that in the old days would take gold miners three days up the remote Arrow River to the historic gold mining town of Macetown.

Macetown was named after three gold mining brothers John, Charles and Harry Mace who joined the gold rush to the Arrow River in 1862 following the discovery by William Fox of gold.  Macetown itself sprung up on where the Arrow River met 12 Mile Creek to service the 1,500 miners camping along the river by the end of that year.  By the end of 1863 the population of Macetown had officially grown to 300 and during that next year a school church and two hotels were established. 

Unfortunately the crowds left almost as quickly as they arrived and by the end of 1865 most of the alluvial gold had been extracted and the transient population moved to golder pastures on the West Coast.  By 1930 Macetown was a ghost town! Today only a few buildings including the schoolmasters house and the bakehouse remain (both of which have been amazingly restored).

There is nothing too difficult about route finding on this fantastic ride and it is something that is suitable for any confident beginner to experience real remote adventure riding.  In the height of the summer a regular stream of 4wd vehicles make the journey into the campground so you are probably never too far from help - although it is often them that is requiring the help as they underestimate the river crossings in their hairdresser versions of a 4 wheel drive vehicle. 

The best time to ride this track is probably after Christmas when the bulk of the snow thaw has subsided and the river is at a low flow and maybe even just a degree or two warmer (maybe).  Be prepared, in total you will cross the river no less than 22 times - sometimes reaching mid thigh level (although the river is not running fast at all).  We suggest you take a small container of chain lube if you are one of those types that like to try and ride a few crossings - it is in fact possible to ride the whole lot, not great for your bike, but possible - and very tempting to also after you have got wet legs more than just a few times.

If you are not going to Macetown to camp then at least make a day of the trip and take a packed lunch (and some bug spray to keep the sandflies at bay) and spend sometime exploring the Macetown area, reading the historic signs and even making the short walk up to the old Battery.



  • Macetown
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  • Arrowtown to Macetown 4
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  • Arrowtown to Macetown 6
  • Arrowtown to Macetown
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  • Macetown 2
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