A trip to Thames

With a cargo of just three people and two dogs, the bus set off on Friday 13th January for a few days away before Sam had to return to work after his Christmas/New Year break.

We decided not to go too far and headed up to Thames, with a short stop in Paeroa for lunch. (I will blog more about Paeroa another time – we travel there/stay/shop etc quite regularly).

A quick drive around Thames and a visit to the iSite found us a free overnight parking spot on a quiet but central car park (with room for my parents who arrived shortly after in their camper). The two official spaces for self-contained campervans were kindly provided by  Thames-Coromandel District Council who otherwise do not really like freedom camping. (I will definitely be blogging much more about self-containment and freedom camping – BIG issues!)

Adjacent to the car park is a great kids playground that Abi quickly disappeared to. We found her on a Loch Ness Monster that was emerging from the woodchip in the playground (with Little Tykes stamped on its neck). There was also a huge model of a steamship for the kids (of all sizes) to climb on.

The parking spot down near Danby field gave us great access to the town facilities and Friday evening involved a short stroll to eat fish and chips at the historic Shortland wharf – a beautiful location for great food. The Wharf coffee house and bar served an excellent flat white while we waited for our fish to be cooked next door and bought to us at the outdoor seating area. Abi was ecstatic about her 50 cent fluffy – she said it was the best one she’s ever had, and my girl is a fluffy connoisseur!

Saturday turned out to be market day in the northern picturesque part of Thames called Grahamstown. The pavements were bustling with stalls and tables loaded with fresh produce, cheeses, artisan bread, turkish delights, knitware and other crafts and collectibles. We were tempted by many!

Behind the stalls were many interesting shops and buildings which showed the pioneering history of the town.

Thames was built in the gold-rush and from 1868 to 1871 the town apparently produced gold worth more than one million pounds sterling.

Thames also benefited from Kauri logging in the surrounding ranges and by the end of the 19th century  it was one of New Zealand’s largest population centres with 18,000 inhabitants. At that time the town had more than 100 hotels!

For a while it was thought it would replace Auckland as the major town in the area, however, as the gold and kauri began to diminish, so did the number of inhabitants.

It is still the biggest town on the Coromandel and its history is alive in the buildings and museums that abound.

We visited the beautiful St James Church on Pollen Street and sat in the sun-drenched upstairs gallery to best appreciate the gothic kauri building.

We also visited the Thames museum of Technology at Bella Street pumphouse where we were given a personal tour, demonstrations and vivid descriptions of the sheer size and weight of machinery needed to keep the water out of the mines and get the men in and out safely. Many thanks to Merv Grafton who took extra time to tell us about his regular tramping trips into local mines – we could have listened to your tales all afternoon!

Just a note about dogs and Thames.
The town centre has very clear signs (printed on every pavement) that dogs are NOT allowed. Fair enough.
Jess and Pip had a great run around Danby park and the nearby coastal path was a great dog walk with benches, bins and doggy bags provided at regular intervals. We’ll be going back to walk or bike more of it next time.

I have just read that the town is celebrating Thames Heritage Week from 9-18 March with lots of special events – I think I’ll put it in my diary, maybe see you there.

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