Explore The Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and the East Cape The Hauraki Plains The Coromandel Peninsula The Bay of Plenty The East Cape Share The Coromandel’s gateway and main service hub, the historic former gold town of THAMES is packed into a narrow strip between the Firth of Thames and the Coromandel Range. It retains a refreshingly down-to-earth sense of community, and its range of accommodation, eateries, transport connections and generally lower prices make it a good starting point for forays further north. Its gold legacy forms the basis of the town’s appeal and you can spend half a day visiting the several museums, though they’re all volunteer-run and, frustratingly, open at different times – summer weekends work out best. Fans of Victorian architecture can spend a happy couple of hours wandering the streets aided by the maps in two free leaflets – Historic Grahamstown and Historic Shortland & Tararu. Inland, the industrial heritage is all about kauri logging in the Kauaeranga Valley, a popular destination for hikers visiting the Coromandel Forest Park and easily accessible from town. Brief history Thames initially evolved as two towns: Grahamstown to the north, and Shortland to the south. The first big discovery of gold-bearing quartz was made in a creek-bed in 1867, and by 1871 Grahamstown had become the largest town in New Zealand with a population of around 20,000 and over 120 pubs, only a handful of which remain today. Due to the reliance on machinery (rather than less costly gold-panning), gold mining tailed off during the 1880s and had mostly finished by 1913. Little of significance has happened since, leaving a well-preserved streetscape.