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Rail Trail Tales With The Lady Bowen

Originally built as a single story hotel in 1868, the Lady Bowen was dismantled and the materials were used in its rebuild as a two story hotel in 1882 by the proprietor William Mahony.

The new layout of 1882 comprised of four bars, a dining room, a kitchen and eight guest rooms. It ran as the Lady Bowen Hotel from 1886 to December 1951, at which point  the proprietor purchased the vacant Park Hotel opposite the Lady Bowen Hotel, transferring the name and liquor license.

This left the original Lady Bowen Hotel without a license and name, and over time becoming a boarding house, brothel, electrical repair shop/family home, dairy, storage building, backpackers and guest house.

Barbara and Stu Caisley purchased the property in 2018 and established the property as a bed and breakfast. We caught up with them to hear more about the Lady Bowen, what guests can look forward to, and Barbara’s top tips for enjoying the Trail and Thames surrounds.


Photo: Stu and Barbara Caisley


What do you love most about running the Lady Bowen?

We love the historical and heritage aspect of the building. We also really enjoy meeting people from not just around New Zealand but the world, and showing them all the local area has to offer.

We like seeing our guests enjoying the Bed and Breakfast as much as we do. It’s nice to be able to help visitors plan an awesome holiday. We love being on holiday ourselves and it gives us great pleasure when our guests love their holiday as well.      


Photo: Lady Bowen Bed & Breakfast 


Today, the Bed & Breakfast has a Historic Places Category 2 listing. What changes have you be able to make to the house since living there?

The building had a different name when we purchased it, but we wanted to return the name Lady Bowen to the building as the Hotel across the road was no longer running and was by then a family home.

The owners were happy for us to bring the name back to the original building and we are thrilled to have done this for such a lovely old building.  We are very proud that apart from a large dining room built in 1974 we have kept the integrity of the original building.

The main part of the building still has the same layout and features as in 1882, but of course we’ve done a lot of maintenance, refurbishing, furnishing, decorating and gardening since we arrived,


Photo: Lady Bowen Dining Room


What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique, and how does having the Trail on your doorstep contribute to your business?

The Hauraki Rail Trail around us has so much to offer and such a wide variety of areas, from farmland, coastal, historic gold-mining sites, and the beautiful Karangahake Gorge.  Being so close to Auckland is a huge plus with most people starting or finishing their cycling holiday there.


Have you walked or ridden the Trail, and which Sections do your guests tend to explore?

We have ridden from Thames to the Shorebird Coast, Thames to Paeroa and Paeroa to Waihi (our favourite Section).  We’ve also walked many parts of the Trail.

Our guests are usually heading to Paeroa and then on to Waihi. If we have people looking for a half-day activity we suggest they hire bikes and cycle to The Cheese Barn at Makatoki for one of their delicious homemade sorbets or ice-cream.    


Photo: Lady Bowen 


What can visitors to Lady Bowen look forward to this Summer?

A big welcome and a comfortable bed with sunny days and tailwinds! Bikes are securely stored and e-bikes are charged overnight. There’s a hearty cooked or continental breakfast to start each day and fuel up for your ride. And most importantly, a shady balcony or breezy garden to enjoy a cold drink after your ride.


Photo: Lady Bowen Garden Deck and Grounds


Where are you hoping to adventure next?

We’ve got our eye on the Otago Central Rail Trail but we’re keen to ride the Hauraki Rail Trail leg to Te Aroha before we head down that way.


Which local extra adventures are Must Do’s for your guests?

Stay at the Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast

Discover the vibrant cafes and quirky shops of Grahamstown in Thames

Explore the Thames Saturday market

The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre and Martha Mine Experience

Thames Museum te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga

Bella Street Pumphouse

Thames School of Mines


The World Famous Pinnacles Walk

Many other lovely walks in the area

The Aviator Experience is Thames’s newest Attraction


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