Thames to Paeroa
Distance: 34 kms (3-4 hours)
Trail Status: Notification
Fitness: All Levels
Skill: All Levels
Traffic: Light to Moderate
This richly historic area was once only accessible via the two rivers, Waihou and Hikutaia. The section of trail begins at first following the old railway line out of Thames town and through lush farmland with memorable views across the Hauraki Plains and forested Kaimai Ranges.
The Matatoki Cheese Barn is a highlight, as is the Historical Maritime Park, once New Zealand’s most inland port. From March 2020 there will be alternative transport for cyclists into the township of Paeroa, via the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers.
Arrive into Paeroa early enough to fossick through the many antiques and collectables shops. World famous in New Zealand for its giant L&P bottle on the main street, there’s also accommodation and places to eat for riders looking to overnight.
- Phone coverage is generally good on this section of the trail.
- Dogs are not permitted on this section, except where the trail intersects the urban areas of Thames and Paeroa.
- Thames township, rich in pioneering and gold-mining history
- Historic Kopu Bridge
- Matatoki Cheese Barn
- Rural tranquility and views of the Hauraki Plains and Coromandel Ranges
- Antique shopping in Paeroa
- Visit the giant famous in New Zealand L&P Bottle
Thames to Paeroa
Pedlars Motel Paeroa
From $139 per night
Pedlars Motel is situated right on the edge of the Hauraki Rail Trail in the heart of Paeroa.
Tuscany on Thames Motel
From $159 per night
Tuscany On Thames is a well equipped Motel close to everything in Thames.
From $138 per night
The Rolleston Motel is the top ranked Motel in Thames on Tripadvisor.
Paeroa Motel Casa Mexicana is located on the main road into Paeora, with all you need in short walking distance.
Charming self-contained accommodation set in the grounds of the historic Gold Refinery building.
Corbett House Historic B&B
From $200 per night
Peaceful, relaxing & historical. A B&B with a difference just a short distance from the Rail Trail.
See & Do
Thames to Paeroa
Paeroa Information Hub
They do it all at the Hub! Centrally located on the Rail Trail for all your cycling and accommodation needs.
Thames School of Mines
See intriguing education buildings, classic gold rush machinery, and a vast collection of minerals
Historical Maritime Park
Adults from $5.00
This Museum is the home to a very important collection of Maritime history.
Thames to Paeroa
Thames is a trade and servicing centre with associated secondary industries. It is also an important base for commercial fishing in the Firth of Thames and elsewhere in Hauraki Gulf. Town industrial activities include fish packing and curing; sawmilling; general engineering; the manufacture of steel tubes and other products of heavy, medium, and light metal industries; concrete products; knitwear and other clothing. There was a brass foundry at Parawai on the south-east of the borough.
The original settlers in this area was the Ngati Maru people who were friendly people. By the 1600s Tainui’s Ngati Paoa people had begun to arrive and eventually settled both sides of the Firth and the Coromandel Peninsula.
On 16 November 1769 Captain James Cook in his ship Endeavour cast anchor off Tararu Point, about 3 kms north-west of the present town of Thames, and made a short excursion on the Waihou River by ship's boat.
HMS Coromandel brought the Rev. Samuel Marsden to the district in June-July 1820. In 1821 Hongi Hika and a large war party arrived in the district and, by an act of treachery, captured the impregnable Te Totara pa near Thames and killed at least 1,000 inhabitants.
On 27 July 1867 J. Mackay, Civil Commissioner for the Hauraki district, secured gold-mining rights from three Maori chiefs for the Thames area. In August Mackay laid out the town of Shortland and brought a party of 40 miners and officials from Auckland. A general rush followed. The first important reef, called the Shotover, was discovered on 10 August by William Hunt; it lay beneath a waterfall on Kuranui Stream. Gold to the value of nearly £2,000,000 was produced in the peak year of 1871. Although there was occasional heavy production in certain subsequent years, the output of the field steadily declined until, by 1924, it had almost ceased.
Shortland quickly became a compact town with a wharf and good port facilities for small vessels in the nearby river. Robert Graham secured a lease for a township – Grahamstown, which was laid out according to a Government plan. There were some major mining properties nearby and a deep-sea wharf was built at Tararu Point and connected to the township by railway. These two towns merged into one residential area after 1870 and, together, became known as Thames.
Despite its present air of serenity, Hikutaia (thrashing tail), situated some 11 kms from Paeroa and 22 kms from Thames has a past which was brash, turbulent, and full of colourful characters. Its early European settlement dates back to 1839 when the McCaskill brothers from Scotland, purchased land from Hura Moana. Prior to this Missionaries, explorers and traders were familiar with the district.
Paeroa (a low hill) featured prominently in the early Maori settlement of Hauraki, with the large Raupo Pa, on the junction of the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers, 3km west of the town, being inhabited from around 1300AD. Paeroa was on the main route from Hauraki and points north to the Bay of Plenty. Travellers went by canoes using the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers to reach Paeroa. From here they tramped through the Karangahake Gorge, across the Waihi Plains to Athenree, at the northern end of the Tauranga Harbour, and continued on their journey by canoe.
The Reverand Henry Williams and party passed through the Thames district in October 1833 and chose a site for a mission at Te Puriri (now Puriri, 15kms south-east). The site proved to be unhealthy and in 1838 the station, occupied by the Reverand James Preece since 1834, was transferred to Parawai (part of the present town of Thames). Preece worked there until 1847.
The Historic Kopu Bridge was built in 1928 and has Heritage New Zealand’s highest possible ranking for a historic place, Category 1. The bridge is unique as it is the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand and also the last remaining operational swing bridge in New Zealand. The centre span of the bridge where the Pilot house is located, swings open to allow boats through. In it’s heyday, when the river was a highway for paddle steamers, goods and sand barges, many boats a day passed through the swing span. Boat captains signalled their need for the bridge to open to the Bridge Pilot by blowing their horn.
In recent years, river traffic has significantly reduced with the bridge only being opened 0-3 times in any one year. The bridge was closed in 2011 when the new two lane Kopu Bridge opened. Before this, the old single lane bridge carried over 9000 vehicles per day, including heavy trucks. The 453 metre one way bridge, was controlled by in later years by traffic lights at both ends, so only one direction could go at a time.
The Hauraki Plains is known for farming which are mainly dairy. Over the years butter has been manufactured at Ngatea, cheese at Hikutaia, casein at Wharepoa and at Turua, and milk powder at Kerepehi. Today cheese is made at Matatoki. Timber is logged chiefly from the western slopes of the Coromandel Range and there are sawmills at Matatoki and at Ngatea.
Water was a problem to the early settlers but it was also a godsend. There were no roads for access so the rivers and drains became the roads and highways for access to the farms and to get produce to the markets. River traffic coming from Auckland used the only three rivers flowing down the Valley, the Waihou, the Piako and the Waitakaruru Stream. Rivers were a hive of activity. As the roads improved by using this metal and cars and trucks became common the shipping service stopped. More shipping history can be found at the Historical Maritime Park & Museum just outside Paeroa.
The main exports from the Hauraki Plains over the years have been timber, flax, and dairy produce. In 1868 a timber mill was started at Turua. The mill began cutting the large stands of kahikatea in the vicinity and exporting it. The pasture and land has been improved. Drains and canals now mean that the water level has been controlled. Pumping stations can be seen on many drains to provide an extra insurance for drainage.
The first white settler to arrive in the Paeroa district was Joshua Thorp, in 1842. He purchased land from the Ngati Tamatera Paramount Chief Tararia, and established his home close to where the Historic Maritime Park is today, 3kms north of Paeroa on SH2.
By March 3, 1875, agreement was reached with local Maori land owners for access, and Ohinemuri gold fields were declared opened. With the goldfields developing at a fast rate so did Paeroa into a bustling river port to service a demanding industry. All the mining companies’ requirements such as heavy machinery, coal, provisions for increasing staff numbers, were hauled by horses and wagons to mines in Karangahake, Waitekauri and Waihi.
With the main trunk railway line (Auckland-Wellington) being pushed ahead in the 1880-90s, a railway route was surveyed from Hamilton to Thames. By 1895 this link was completed between Hamilton and Paeroa. Although the Thames-Paeroa section was started almost 20 years previously, politics and local Maori opposition did not allow the link with Paeroa to be achieved until 1897.
By 1905 the railway line had been constructed through the Karangahake Gorge to Waihi and this spelt the end to horse-drawn traffic and also had an effect on river shipping. The coming of the motor vehicle from around 1914 and particularly after the First World War (1914-18) saw the boat traffic gradually decline, ceasing in the late 1930s. By the 1950s the Paeroa railway station, had become one of the largest junctions in New Zealand.
Economic trends saw the railway closed in 1970s with the opening of the Kaimai tunnel and road transport diminished after a series of company amalgamations around 1990. As the mining enterprises wound down, the slowly developing farming industry gathered pace. The first creamery was built in Thames Road in 1899, then came a butter factory in 1901 (where Agrisea and Buchanan Joinery are today), with other butter and cheese factories in the district at Netherton and Hikutaia. By the 1960s Paeroa had its butter factory and a modern milk-powder producing factory, and at Kerepehi 13kms away, was one of the largest milk-powder factories in the Southern Hemisphere. But again through the 1980s with changing economic times and company mergers within the industry taking place all these factories were closed.
A chance discovery of a spring on a block of land in Junction Road was the start of the ‘famous in New Zealand’ brand Lemon and Paeroa of soft drink. The unique mineral waters bubbling from a deep underground spring were recognised for its medicinal and thirst quenching qualities. Local residents would partake regularly of the spring’s waters with a popular addition of a slice of lemon. In 1909, owners of the property, Robert Fewell in partnership with his brother-in-law Frank Brinkler commenced marketing the mineral water through his company the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company, which was incorporated in March 1910. This firm built up a large clientele over a wide area including Auckland as it supplied cases of bottled Paeroa mineral water. The firm also consigned barrels of the water to customers in Auckland on the Northern Steamship Company’s river steamers SS Taniwha and SS Waimari.
In 1915 Mr Fewell sold his Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company’s property and proprietary rights to Grey and Menzies Limited a local and regional aerated water manufacturing company. In 1960 New Zealand Breweries took over the business although it was still operated as Grey and Menzies Limited. Later the Auckland firm, Schweppes Limited took over from New Zealand Breweries and formed a company named Contract Bottlers Limited. In 1963 C. L. Innes, a long-standing Hamilton aerated mater manufacturer, became involved and the new firm Innes Tartan Limited formed. Demands for the unique drink continued to climb.
Schweppes (New Zealand) Limited, another cordial manufacturer, became associated with Innes Tartan Limited to manufacture Lemon & Paeroa at its New Zealand factories. With the changing economic climate during the late 1970s and with the trend of the day being amalgamations, Oasis Industries, another Auckland aerated water manufacturer, became involved taking over Innes Tartan and Schweppes. The Paeroa factory was closed by its new owners in July, 1980, and the whole production unit moved to Auckland. The ownership of the spring remains with the Auckland firm, which in more recent times has been absorbed by the international and American-based company Coca-Cola Amatil.