The Thames coast is a stretch of coastline along the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand. The Coromandel is regarded as one of the most beautiful, pristine, rugged, and untouched natural areas in all of the North Island, if not all of the country.
The main centre on the Thames coast is the township of Thames, with is situated between the calm waters of the Firth of Thames and the stunning, and rugged, ranges of the Coromandel Peninsula. Thames benefits from having easy access to all the other towns on the peninsula, making it the ideal home base for those who want to tour all of the Coromandel.
The township of Thames has a rich history that dates back to the 15th century when Maori people first settled in the area. The modern day town wasn’t established until 1867 when the Thames Gold Field opened, although, European settlers began to make their way to the area in the 1830s. In between 1868 and 1871, Thames was a boom town thanks to the gold mining industry.
During this period, mines around Thames produced over 2,327,619 ounces of gold, which would be worth around $2 billion in the present day. At this time, Thames was one of the densest urban population centres in all of New Zealand. The town was packed with over eighty hotels, three theatres, and 18,000 residents, well above its current population of 7,000. In addition to gold, prior to the 20th century, kauri logging and fishing were also large industries.
However, as gold mining, logging, and fishing gradually became less and less economically viable for the area, the development of the nearby Hauraki Plains in the early 20th century created a whole new revenue stream for the residents of Thames.
What to Do – Thames Coast
One of the primary attractions in Thames is the wonderful network of beautiful walking tracks that wind through the forest and hills surrounding the township.
The Kauaeranga Valley sits in the hills right behind the town, providing the perfect network for a wonderful set of trails. The valley sits in the larger Coromandel Forest Park. The Kauaeranga is only a short 10-minute drive from the city centre, making it easily accessible for visitors.
The valley houses over 20 different walking tracks that are perfect for walkers of all ability levels. There are simple, easy, and short 15-minute walks, long, multi-day tramping tracks, and everything in between.
Thames has much more to offer than just an extensive network of walking tracks. If you want to see more native wildlife, head to the Rapaura Watergardens. This 64 acre garden estate is filled with native trees, ferns, lily ponds, and a beautiful walk to a cascading waterfall. It is the perfect place to enjoy some tranquil peace and quiet while enjoying and seeing the wonderful native plant life in the Coromandel.
Visitors can also stay at the Watergardens as there is self-contained boutique accommodation available. There is also a wonderful restaurant in the estate that serves home-cooked favorites and serves excellent coffee.
Visitors can also take a short jaunt down the road and head to the Miranda Hot Springs. The hot springs have 100% natural mineral water rich with a number of minerals boasting a variety of different health benefits. The complex has a large main pool, private spa tubs, a toddlers pool, and a super hot, 40 degrees Celsius pool. Visitors who want to make a day out of it can bring supplies to enjoy a barbeque on their electric barbeques. The Miranda Hot Springs are a great place to take the family and enjoy a relaxing day in the rejuvenating natural waters.
Anglers will also enjoy a day out on a charter boat courtesy of Thames Charters. Thames Charters is the owner of an eight metre boat that can easily accommodate 8 anglers. The boat has toilets, shelter, and can provide rods and bait upon request. Visitors will have the option to fish the Firth of Thames, Mussel Farms, Hauraki Gulf, or the Coromandel Islands.
Thames Charters also caters to those interested in diving, cruising, and sightseeing around the area as well.
Many visitors also enjoy the Thames Market. Open every Saturday, market goers can find seedlings, plants, flowers, fresh vegetables, and a variety of delicious preserves. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the artisan creations of bread makers, delicatessens, cheese makers, bakers, and butchers.
Visitors can enjoy the wonderful aromas of locally produced soaps or even revel in the craftsmanship of local jewelers, wood toy makers, and leather artists. The market is complete with live music and wonderful food and coffee from the award winning cafes in nearby Grahamstown.
The Small Gauge Railway is another great attraction for families. This miniature railway runs along the Thames waterfront for around 900 metres, starting and finishing at the old Grahamstown Railway Station. Prior to the construction of this fun attraction, the Grahamstown Railway Station had not been in use since the 1920s.
The track runs parallel to the water for the majority of the journey, crossing two small bridges along the way and passing through a short, 20-metre tunnel as well. This short ride is a great way to take in some beautiful sites without taking up to much of your time and money.
Thames is also in close proximity to the Hauraki Rail Trail, which is one of the easiest and most popular cycling trails in all of New Zealand.
The trail has a number of different stages that make for a comfortable three day long riding experience. Additionally, the temperate climate of the Coromandel Peninsula makes allows for great weather year-round on the track. The track is 82 kilometres in total and showcases some quintessentially beautiful New Zealand scenery.
From the Pohutukawa trees on the Thames coasts to the lush green Waikato farm lands to areas rich in pioneering history, it is a truly fascinating, captivating, and beautiful ride. The trail even takes visitors through the Karangahake Gorge, which is deemed one of the, “Fourteen Wonders of New Zealand.”
Foodies will enjoy a trip to The Cheese Barn. The Cheese Barn has been making award-winning cheeses using local dairy since 1994. They produce a wide variety of types of cheeses and dairy products, including, traditional Dutch, Gouda, Edam, Feta, Camembert, Brie, Halloumi, Blue Cheese, Mozzarella, yoghurts, cottage cheese, and ghee.
The Cheese Barn also has a wonderful café that provides excellent snacks using the house made cheeses. It also allows visitors to pair some of the flavourful cheeses with a nice glass of wine. If you are a cheese or culinary connoisseur, The Cheese Barn is a must see for you.
Where to Stay – Thames Coast
Thames is filled with wonderful accommodation options. The township itself is home to four different hotels, each of which would make for a very comfortable home base during your stay on the Coromandel Peninsula. There are also the self-contained rental options offered at the Rapaura Watergardens, which make for an extremely tranquil place to stay.
There are also a number of other options including affordable backpacker’s hostels, vacations cottages, and other rentals. Should you want to visit Thames, you should have no problem finding the perfect accommodation for you.
Travelling from Abroad?
Thames is a relatively simple place to access for those travelling from abroad. As with most places on the Coromandel Peninsula, Thames is very accessible from Auckland.
Auckland is home to a large international airport that is serviced daily from a variety of international destinations. As such, it is easy for visitors to fly into Auckland and then find their way to Thames via car or bus.