On the road, and you’ve hit the entranceway to the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s a seaside town that wears its colonial gold rush past on its sleeve. Gold was discovered in the 1860s and Thames was settled in a flash. Surrounded in spectacular noble bush, the timber industry quickly followed.
You’re back to gold digging days
Many historical buildings remain, and wandering its long main street there’s a real colonial settlement sense. Spot one of the handful of New Zealand’s original Schools of Mines, hotels, churches, courthouses, and banks from those gold digging days.
And spot, too, many references to Grahamstown. Named after Robert Graham, this entrepreneur acquired the land in between that chosen by the government for the town, and that chosen by the miners for their gold digging. The three settlements merged to become today’s Thames, around the nucleus of Grahamstown. (And Thames region was named by Captain Cook, so impressed by the region and the waterway, he was reminded of London’s great river.)
There’s also much Māori history, the region of significance to Ngāti Maru. That School of Mines sits atop a sacred urupā (burial site), where the Chief Te Apurangi and his descendants lie. And there is much to learn about how the area so rapidly transitioned from a Māori kāinga (settlement) to a rousing township, overwhelmed with Europeans, as gold fever struck.
Classic memories in classic buildings, now housing classic food experiences
At one point New Zealand’s most populous town, there’s no doubt Thames sits more quietly now than in the days of the late 1800s. But this more serene pace adds to its charm. You walk the main street and imagine those heritage buildings could talk of the heady goings on of years gone by - publicans, pioneers, prospectors, gold diggers, local Māori - all manner of goings on combining prosperously, an abundance of energy.
And now you can pop into some of those classic colonial buildings to find equally classic New Zealand food. Fabulous cafes to take a coffee stop or sit down and satisfy a traveller’s appetite. And delis, butchers and specialty food stores for provisions for the journey, an opportunity to stock up for a picnic or thermos stop perhaps.
Explore the region, picnic to go
Only a short way out of the centre of the town and you can find yourself up the stunning coastal road heading north. Gorgeous seaside pull-ins, and more fabulous out-of-the-way cafes and artisans to stop in and visit.
Or head inland to the Kaueranga Valley, another beautiful part of the peninsula, an area of deep ravines and high peaks. There’s a chance for short and long walks in regenerated native forest, and to check out the kauri logging history of this area. And to pull out those Thames provisions for an impromptu picnic.
Finish on fish and chips
If you’re heading away after some time exploring this historic town and other Coromandel treasures, how about another classic kiwi food moment to finish on the right note. Fish and chips, down on the wharf, while the sun sets. So simple, making for perfect memories.
And so our thanks to all Thames food treasures, it’s always a real pleasure to visit you.