Built at a rapid pace during the gold rush of the 1860s, Thames was soon New Zealand’s second largest city. But when the gold began to diminish, so did the population. Although Thames never shrank, it never grew much either.
For day-trippers, the town is an eclectic mix of arts, crafts and eateries. Thames is also the gateway for stunning walks in the Kaueranga Valley and to The Pinnacles.
Shore Bird Coast
The Shore Bird Coast and Miranda Shorebird Centre is a must for anyone wanting a glimpse of New Zealand’s amazing birdlife – if you’re a bird watcher, even better. Shorebirds are here all year round and often exceed 10,000 along the Miranda coastline, with whirling flocks of birds in their thousands.
The intriguing Wrybill
With nearly half the world’s population of Wrybills, the coast is the most important wintering ground for this endemic bird. The Wrybill is unique among birds, in that its bill is curiously curved to the right.
At least three other endemic species breed at Miranda: the New Zealand Dotterel, Variable Oystercatcher and the Black-Billed Gull. Other birds breeding here include the Pied Stilt, Spur-Winged Plover, White-faced Heron, Banded Rail, Black-Backed Gull, White-Fronted Tern and Pukeko.
Miranda is an important wintering ground for thousands of Arctic nesting shorebirds. Most common species are Bar-tailed Godwit and Lesser or Red Knot. Other species present in smaller numbers each year include Ruddy Turnstone, Eastern Curlew, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, and Curlew Sandpiper.
You’ll find the Miranda Shorebird Centre is on the south west coast of the Firth of Thames, 7 km south of the small coastal village of Kaiaua.
The Karangahake Gorge has been voted ‘one of the 101 must-do things’ for Kiwis and was once one of the busiest and most lucrative gold-strikes in New Zealand’s history. While many of us have driven through the breath-taking gorge, few will have ventured into the walkways and tunnels. The Windows Walkway is one of the most intriguing, with ‘windows’ blasted through goldmining tunnels, providing stunning views to the Waitewheta River.
Hot Water Beach
An underground river of hot water flows from the earth’s interior to surface at Hot Water Beach – a long, beautiful white strip of sand located between Tairua and Whitianga. Two hours either side of low tide visitors flock to the usually deserted Hot Water Beach to find hot water bubbling through the golden sand. Families, kids and couples can be seen digging their own spa pool in the sand in which to lie back and relax.
Mercury Bay and Whitianga
Situated on the Coromandel’s east coast, Mercury Bay's main town of Whitianga has attracted holiday makers for generations. Home of the world-renowned Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, Mercury Bay is known for its many marine experiences both on and under the water. From kayaking and fishing in and around the Mercury Islands to scenic boat trips in the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, Whitianga and Mercury Bay is a sea-lovers paradise.
The coast road from Thames takes you on a spectacular 54km scenic drive to quaint Coromandel Town. With a history as a wild colonial gold rush settlement, the town is known for its charming Victorian architecture, bush-based adventures and the vibrant, creative people who have settled here. With a selection of restaurants and cafes, Coromandel Town makes for a rewarding day trip.