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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Waikato > Coromandel Peninsula > Thames


Thames is the gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula and is the most accessible and best-equipped town in the area, if not the most charming. Many historical buildings still remain from the gold rush days of the 1860s and -70s on the Grahamstown end of town. Thanks to gold and the kauri logging industry, at one point little Thames was one of the biggest cities in New Zealand.

These days, Thames has the peninsula’s busiest main street – Pollen Street – which is well-stocked with pubs, bars, restaurants and shops. There’s also the large Goldfields shopping centre, the one only of its type on the peninsula. If you’re heading up the peninsula, Thames is the best place to refuel the car, stock up on supplies and use the ATM; facilities aren’t as good further north.

Thames isn’t only a gateway town, however. It does have some attractions of its own, primarily the biking, hiking and canyoning in nearby Kauaeranga Valley. The Goldmine Experience takes visitors on a tour of an old mine and through an operational 19th century Stamper Battery. There’s also the Historical Museum and the School of Mine Museum in town, and a cool Butterfly and Orchid Garden – the only of its type in New Zealand – located on the grounds of Dickson Holiday Park.

Practical information

Thames i-SITE Visitor Centre

209 Pollen Street, Thames
Tel (07) 868 7284
Website www.thamesinfo.co.nz
Open Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm

Coming & going

InterCity Coachlines (tel (09) 623 1503) and Nakedbus.com (tel 0900 62533) stop at the visitor information centre (206 Pollen Street, Thames).

Go Kiwi Shuttles (tel 0800 446 549) operate minibuses to Auckland and Auckland Airport. The fare to Auckland is $21-36 and the trip to the airport costs $38-50.

Sunkist Backpackers run the Sunkist Pinnacles Shuttle (tel (07) 868 8808) between Thames and the Kauaeranga Valley. This is ideal if you want to hike around the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Forest Park. The return shuttle costs $30.

Hostel accommodation

Dickson Holiday Park

Victoria Street, Taruru, Thames
Tel (07) 868 7308

Gateway Backpackers

209 Mackay Street, Thames
Tel (07) 868 6339

Imperial Hotel

476 Pollen Street, Thames
Tel (07) 868 6200

Sunkist International Backpackers

506 Brown Street, Thames
Tel (07) 868 8808

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Eating & drinking

Almost all of Thames’ drinking and dining options are on the main commercial strip of Pollen Street. There are a few pubs and taverns, some take­aways, a fish and chip shop and several cafés. Char-coal Cafe & Bar (206 Pollen Street, Thames) right next to the information centre is a decent place to hang out while waiting for your bus. If you happen to be in Thames on a Saturday morning, there’s a market on the Grahamstown end of Pollen Street with local produce, as well as arts and crafts and other souvenirs.
The Goldfields Shopping Centre is on Mary Street, a couple of blocks over from Pollen Street. It’s the biggest of its kind on the Coromandel and has a McDonalds, a Pak’n Save supermarket and a Warehouse as well as a food court. It is a good place to stock up on food and supplies if you’re heading up the peninsula.

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Butterfly & Orchid Garden

This butterfly enclosure at Dickson Holiday Park is the only butterfly house in New Zealand. It is home to around 400 butterflies as well as birds and up to 200 orchids.

Dickson Holiday Park, Victoria Street, Tararu, Thames
Tel (07) 868 8080
Website www.butterfly.co.nz
Admission $9 ($8 students)
Open summer 10am-4pm daily; winter 10am-3pm daily

Goldmine Experience

This re-created gold mine sits on the original site of the 1868 Golden Crown claim and features working mining equipment dating from the 1870s. A visit includes a tour of three original tunnels.

Tararu Road, Thames
Tel (07) 868 8514
Website www.goldmine-experience.co.nz
Admission $10
Open 10am-4pm daily

Thames Historical Museum

The Thames Historical Museum is a small museum that has displays about the town’s colourful history including exhibits about the gold rush, the timber industry and the life of early settlers.

Corner Cochrane & Pollen Streets, Grahamstown, Thames
Tel (07) 868 8509
Admission $4
Open 1pm-4pm daily

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