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Our Favourite Things To See & Do In Thames

A historical town situated 1.5 hours' drive from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, Thames is located between the Firth of Thames and the majestic Coromandel Ranges. The town was formed in 1870 from two smaller settlements - Shortland and Grahamstown - founded to support gold mining in the early 1860s.

The northern end of Thames, known as Grahamstown, offers community art, cafés and boutique shops in a charming colonial setting. Be sure to visit the museum, which covers early Māori times, the arrival of the first pioneers and the development of mining, logging, railways and shipping.

Thames is full of character and comes with plenty of dining and accommodation options making it an ideal base from which to explore. Make the most of the pretty township and enjoy its captivating stories about the Hauraki area’s people, places and pioneering history.

We’ve put together our list of favourite Things To See & Do In Thames. Enjoy one, or all, and share a few photos and stories with us on the Hauraki Rail Trail Facebook Page.


Aviator Cafe & Experience

Whether it’s World War II or Fast Jets, the Aviator Experience is settling into its new premises on Pollen Street in Thames, with six military style simulators flying up to 16 different aircraft and helicopters. Friends and family can have just as much fun watching, and you can dogfight your friends with six linked simulators. There’s even a huge range of individual or co-op missions available to test even real world military pilots!


Thames School of Mines

The Thames School Of Mines is one of New Zealand’s largest and best-preserved mining schools. Make the most of the guided tours on offer which bring this special Heritage New Zealand site to life, with captivating stories about the Hauraki area’s people and places. The school is open from Wednesday to Sunday year-round.


Photo: Thames School Of Mines


Thames Museum te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga

From the district's settlement by tangata whenua through to James Cook's visit in 1769 and the opening of the goldfield in 1867, Thames Museum te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga depicts how the people lived and worked. Galleries tell the stories of the pioneer trades, farming, schools and domestic life, as well as the creation of Thames Hospital in 1868. 


Photo: Thames Museum


Bella Street Pumphouse

Factor a little extra time to visit the Bella Street Pumphouse in Thames. The impressive building houses a range of displays and working models. Take a tour of the remains of the exterior pump site and around the building, and enjoy the old photographs of Thames. The building housed the Big Pump that was used to remove water from the mines at the northern end of the town. Built in 1897, it could remove 2000 litres of water per minute from depths of 300 metres. It ceased operation in 1914 and is registered as a category II building with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.


Photo: Bella Street Pumphouse


The Coromandel Distilling Co.

The Coromandel Distilling Co. in Thames craft Gins and other limited release spirits with a relentless focus on quality and the art of distilling. Since opening their doors at the end of 2019, they have achieved awards at every competition entered, from the World Spirits Awards in San Francisco to the highly prestigious International Wine and Spirits Awards in London.

Stop by their Thames cellar door for a free tasting of the core range, as well as new experimental flavours, and chat to their expert team to help find your perfect bottle. The distillery is located at 715 Pollen Street, Thames. Pop along on Fridays between 11.00am - 3.00pm or Saturdays from 10.00am - 2.00pm to sample the range of Gin. You can read more about the award winning duo here.


Visit Grahamstown

Grahamstown is the heritage end of Thames with old buildings that celebrate the golden era. Thames was once New Zealand's biggest town. Take some time to meander through the quaint and interesting shops and cafes in historic Grahamstown, where you will find a wide selection of boutique cafe's, organic suppliers and speciality stores.

A must visit while in Grahamstown is the Depot, where you'll discover the Coromandel Distillery, the Plantery and Cafe Melbourne. On a Saturday morning the town comes alive with the Thames Market, located in the heart of Grahamstown and held every Saturday from 8am - 12pm on Pollen Street in Thames. You'll find locally produced plants, fruit and veg plus bric-a-brac, second hand goods and books, arts and crafts, fine food, cheeses, specialty oils and much more.


Photo: Grahamstown Market


Historic Kopu Bridge and Waihou River

The Historic Kopu Bridge crosses the Waihou River near Thames and is the last remaining operational swing span bridge in New Zealand. The central swing-span bridge across the Waihou River opened in 1928 and has been idle since the opening of the new two-lane Kopu Bridge in December 2011. Plans continue to restore the original bridge as a pedestrian and cycleway adjacent to the Hauraki Rail Trail.

The Waihou River flows north for 150 kilometres from the Mamaku Ranges past the towns of Putaruru, Te Aroha, Paeroa and Turua, before reaching the Firth of Thames. Just before the river reaches the ocean, State Highway 25 crosses the river over the Kopu Bridge, the longest single lane bridge in the country at 463 metres (1,519 ft) and the only remaining swing bridge on a New Zealand state highway.



Historic Walks of Thames

The Historic Walks of Thames comprise of 6 walks. Grahamstown and Moanatairi, Grahamstown and Irishtown, Tararu, Totara Pa, Block 27 & Shortland, and the Parawai and William Hall Memorial Reserve. Colour coded and given names by which the areas were known in the Goldfield Era from 1867, they take in historic buildings, reserves, natural beauty spots and cemeteries. These walks accompany the information contained in this handy downloadable pamphlet


Artworks along the Trail

Jandal on the Mandel by artist Ricks Terstappen is situated between Kopu and Thames, alongside the Hauraki Rail Trail just past the airport entrance heading south. The jandal was the first of many sculptures to be installed and is a fun piece that captures the laid-back summer spirit of Thames and The Coromandel.

Jandal On The Mandel was the first sculpture to be installed, with the ‘pa’ like surrounds made from the slats of unused bench seats. Today there are several installations between Kopu and Thames, with more artworks around the township itself, offering additional points of interest along the Trail. You can read more about the Thames Public Arts Trust here.


Photo credit: Jandal On The Mandel - Nikki Scott


Burke Street Wharf

Historic remains both on and alongside the Trail remind us to respect and understand the past, its people and traditions. The quaint township of Thames is well worth exploring. Whilst not part of the Trail, its stunning coastal walkway which heads North offers riders expansive views of Kuranui Bay and across towards distant Kaiaua.


Photo credit: Burke Street Wharf - Tania Richards


Thames Coastal Pathway

The Thames Coastal Pathway is a flat, well-developed path along the foreshore of Thames from Shortland Wharf to Kuranui Bay, taking in wharves, railway stations and many historic sites. There's plenty of scope along the 3.5km to cut into town for food and drink or take in the sights.


The Cheese Barn at Matatoki

One of our greatest treasures nestled in the countryside along Section B is the Matatoki Cheese Barn. Established in 1994, owners Cathy and Kelvin Haigh have produced many award-winning cheeses, and the eclectic Café is full of memorabilia. This year, the team were the recipients of three new Cheese Awards, so linger longer and grab a beautiful cheese platter for a leisurely lunch, or takeaway a homemade Gelato or Sorbet, to keep you cool on your ride.

The café has a BYO licence, so tuck a bottle of your favourite wine into your travel kit for a great afternoon in the sunshine. The fabulous animal farm onsite has alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, budgies, quails, canaries and goats, offering great entertainment for the whole family. They’re open Monday to Sunday 9.00am - 4.00pm (cafe closes at 3.00pm) with cooked breakfast available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am until midday.


Steampunk The Thames Annual Event

The annual steampunk festival of the arcane and thaumaturgic arts will crank up a head of steam with an action packed, fun filled weekend of high energy hoopla for grownups and young people alike. Steampunk combines creativity, Victoriana, and reimagined technology. It’s fantasy, it’s fun (with a capital F) and the outfits are outrageous (and seriously creative and ingenious).

Steampunk The Thames rocks the region’s biggest town, attracting people from all over New Zealand, as well as steampunk enthusiasts from further afield. The festival programme includes a pumphouse party, high tea, cocktail soiree and burlesque show, as well as exhibitions and markets. Many events are family-friendly and free. Check out the programme on their website.


Thames Heritage Festival

This festival is a chance to engage with crafts and artwork carried out by our ancestors and by the indigenous people of the area. The crafts range from fine needlework to forging heavy metal, and there are workshops, demonstrations, displays, and talks. The events are held at local heritage sites - Thames School of Mines, The Treasury Research Centre & Archive, The Thames Museum Te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga, Bella Street Pumphouse, The Goldmine Experience, and Thames Small Gauge Railway. For more information visit www.thamesheritage.co.nz


Accommodation Options

Dine & Drink Options

Useful information: The Coromandel & Thames Info


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