Thames Coast, Coromandel
By Sandy Austin
A 1. 5 hour drive from Auckland, Thames is the main centre of the Coromandel. The town was formed in 1870 from two smaller settlements - Shortland and Grahamstown - founded to support gold mining in the early 1860s.
The lure of gold and logging caused the town to grow rapidly. At one stage it looked likely to surpass Auckland as New Zealand's main centre. But, as often happens, the gold ran out and the town's population stabilised.
The northern end of Thames, known still as Grahamstown, offers cafés and boutique shops in a charming colonial setting. Be sure to visit the museum, which covers early Maori times, the arrival of the first pioneers and the development of mining, logging, railways and shipping. You can also visit the historic School of Mines, which is open from Wednesday to Sunday year-round.
Behind the town, the ancient volcanic Coromandel Ranges rise steeply. The magnificent Kauaeranga Valley hiking and camping area is just to the south, and the road to the north follows the coast past scores of sandy beaches and fishing hot spots. If you're planning to head into the wilderness, Thames is the perfect place to stock up on supplies.
Thames is the northern gateway to the Hauraki Rail Trail, an undulating cycling track that follows an old rail trail while showcasing the region's pioneering history and lush farmland. From Thames, cycle the trail south to Paeroa and then choose to either venture east through the Karangahake Gorge to Waihi, or west to Te Aroha.
As a sizeable town, Thames offers a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants and shops. The Saturday morning market is a great place to find an arty souvenir.
Content courtesy of Tourism NZ
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