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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 1870s 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.

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