The ride to the gold mining ghost town of Macetown is a ride into history along a four wheel drive road. It follows the Arrow River upstream from Arrowtown through a gorge. By the time you get back you will have crossed the river 44 times. The best time to go is when the river is at its lowest in summer after the snows melt, February to April, when the fords are typically about 30cm (a foot) deep.
There are no cafes or amenities in this back-country ride! It's a rough, undulating road and the fords are stony but a committed intermediate rider will be able to enjoy it. There is plenty to see along the way - stark rugged hills, the deep gorge cut by the gold-bearing Arrow River, and the relics of the intrepid gold miners of the 1860's. You'll probably see real gold prospectors like the one in my photos, as well as tourists panning for gold near Arrowtown.
All that remains of the once-thriving Macetown community is two restored cottages, some crumbling stone walls and exotic trees. A little past the town site there is an old stamper battery in reasonable condition. At all points of interest you'll see panels describing the life of the miners, the landscape and the historical context. The scenery is awesome. The place has a certain magic.
It's a great day out with its mix of adventure, history, scenery and nice riding.
A couple of things to bear in mind:
1. You'll stir up silt and sand crossing the rivers so this ride is hard on your bike's drive gear even if you take extra oil.
2. Best to go on a nice warm day and wear woollen socks since your feet will be wet all day.
3. Whenever you stop, especially near the river, you'll be dive bombed by squadrons of nipping sandflies.
4. It's worth calling on the Arrowtown information centre before you go to pick up the $4 guide booklet, "Macetown and Arrow Gorge".
5. There is only one place where you are likely to take a wrong turn. Take a look at my photo of it and you won't go wrong.