Much like Queenstown and Arrowtown, Cromwell’s prominent start was in 1862 when gold was first found nearby. Around 3,000 miners migrated here from around the World for the next 5 years or so, most living in temporary makeshift shelters, until 1866 when Cromwell was made a borough. In 1871 the permanent population of Cromwell was 497, according to the Cromwell Tourism office.
The gold dredging industry dominated life in Cromwell until the around 1910 when it began to wane. The precious stone seemed to run out completely in 1950. The town then slowly morphed into the service centre for an extensive farming and stone fruit growing area that it is today.
In 1965 the plan was hatched to created a hydro-power system in the area, with the construction of the Clyde Dam. Old Cromwell was to be flooded and approximately one third of the town’s houses needed to be moved to higher ground.
In the 1990s the first vineyards began to appear, which complemented the local fruit growing industry. Now Cromwell, along with neighboring community Bannockburn, is particularly well known for its Pinot Noir and its recently completed motor racing track.