THE COROMANDEL HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS
Journey back in time as you travel around The Coromandel, discovering heritage hotspots at every destination. Take a History Highlights road trip and visit the lot, or pick a place and make a day of it.
Start your journey back to where gold fever began. Coromandel Town had the first gold strike in New Zealand and its colonial architecture acts as a great reminder of this era. Guide yourself along the town’s Heritage Walking Trail, discovering historically significant buildings and sites along the way. Visit The School of Mines and Historical Museum and view a wealth of early photographs and historic artefacts.
If a bite to eat is needed before heading out of Coromandel Town call into one of the many cafes along the main street. Seafood is in abundance throughout The Coromandel and Coromandel Town is no exception. Stop off at the Coromandel Smoking Co, Coromandel Oyster Company or the Mussel Kitchen to grab a sample.
Drive south along the spectacular Thames Coast Road from Coromandel Town, pausing for photo opportunities at coastal villages en route to Thames. Built on the pioneering industries of gold mining and kauri logging, Thames is the largest town in the region. Rich with living history, Thames reveals its stories through the prevalence of heritage buildings and museums dotted throughout the town.
A slight detour off the main road at Tapu will lead you to Rapaura, a highly recommended stop-off. If time permits, a meander around the water gardens offers a superb example of New Zealand nature at its best.
Further down the coast is Waiomu Beach Cafe, offering a great hearty selection of dine-in and takeaway options.
Once in Thames, excellent guides will enlighten you during an hour-long guided tour at the Thames School of Mines. Have an authentic underground Goldmine Experience as you enjoy a guided or independent tour of the Thames Stamper Battery. Conclude your Thames tour above ground, by visiting the working scale models and engineering marvels at Bella Street Pump House.
There are more great dining options available in Thames including the Sola Cafe and the Grahamstown Bar and Diner. The Depot and Cafe Melbourne are also a great stop-off for a bite to eat and some local deli foods to take away.
Paeroa, Waihi and around
Thames to Waihi is an enjoyable road trip through the rolling pastoral landscape, to the small rural town of Paeroa and the stunning Karangahake Gorge. Paeroa is the self-proclaimed Antiques Capital of New Zealand and has many great antique stores to mooch through and bargain in. A stop-off at The Refinery for a bite will surely fit the theme.
As you go on to Waihi, be sure to stop at the main Karangahake Gorge carpark for a walk through the 1,100m former railway tunnel. An easy stroll takes you to a fascinating array of gold mining relics from the turn of the century.
Before leaving Karangahake Gorge, call into Waikino. This is your chance to walk in the footsteps of the gold miners of yesteryear. The Victoria Battery and Museum is tucked away across the river from the Waikino Railway Station, on six acres in the heart of the Karangahake Gorge. The Waikino Station's on-site cafe also offers a great selection of food options.
Thirty minutes drive through the Gorge will bring you to Waihi, a heritage town dedicated to its gold mining past. Visit the Gold Discovery Centre for an interactive experience which makes the gold heritage come alive. Then wander across the street to view Martha Mine up close, and a tour from the Discovery Centre will show you a modern working gold mine in action. Railway buffs will enjoy visiting Goldfields Railway and taking the vintage train journey back into the impressive Karangahake Gorge. For an alternative sightseeing experience, try cycling from Waihi to the Karangahake Gorge and on to Paeroa along the Hauraki Rail Trail. It's completely flat - anyone can do it, and it's a great way to explore the heritage sites in the area.
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