Kia ora: Tokoroa

By Elisabeth Easther

Tokoroa's talking poles tell Elisabeth Easther stories

Scenic trails enthral visitors.
Scenic trails enthral visitors.

Origin of name: Originally called Te Kaokaoroa o Patetere, it was later named Tokoroa for a chief slain by Ngati Raukawa during the siege of Pohaturoa.

Population: 13,300 (2012 estimate).

Where is it: Midway between Hamilton and Taupo in the South Waikato, or 212km from Auckland.

The town slogan: Thanks to Huffer clothing, Tokoroa has found "I love Tok" to be a popular slogan.

The town mascot: The talking poles that trace the town's history, specifically the Pine Man on SH1, which symbolises the many jobs forests have provided for several generations of the district's people.

Big birds: Tokoroa is one of the few Central North Island locations to be identified as a moa hunter site.

Most famous locals: Stella Duffy (awesome novelist), Richard Kahui, Walter Little, Keven Mealamu (All Blacks) and Quade Cooper.

Paul Reeves (former G-G), Jenny Morris, (musician), Brian Tamaki (self-appointed bishop).

Best local website: southwaikato.govt.nz

Most prominent industry: Forestry, milling and dairy.

Source of pride: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it is the people. The town's dedicated Facebook page has more than 4000 Likes.

Town competition: The South Waikato Super Sports Weekend is held each February to raise funds to help send South Waikato sportspeople to international events.

Best reason to stop: Right on SH1, it's perfect for a rest when you're touring the North Island. Laidback and homely, there are plenty of places to stay.

Best place to take the kids: Lake Moana Nui for fishing, skating and the excellent playground, the reserve around it covers over 2ha.

Best food: At night go to Alberico's, for delicious food beneath magnificent murals of Italy. During the day Robert Harris is a good bet.

Best bakery: The Bakehouse. Its pies win awards.

Best art gallery: Try the Talking Poles Trail. Forty-four sculptures by local and international artists given to the community, thanks to Tokoroa Talking Poles Trust.

Best walk: There are loads of walks. Stroll the banks of Lake Moana Nui, enjoy the Waikato River Trail or Jim Barnett Reserve.

Best cycling: Pedal to Cougar Mountain Bike Park, where tracks range from easy to scary. Or Waikato River Trails.

Best view: Go up Colson's Hill to look out over Tokoroa and its surroundings. Great for sunset or sunrise, on a clear day you'll see Mount Ruapehu.

Best place to pull over: Leith Place, just off the main road. It has all you need to stock up or take a break.

Best facilities: Twenty years in the making, the brand new South Waikato Sport and Events Centre is amazing.

Best playground: Tokoroa Youth Park was built in 24 hours during the No Opportunity Wasted scheme, hosted by Phil Keoghan. The park is home to several Talking Poles, including a whale that doubles as a climbing frame.

Best shops: Morrissey's for clothes, Lois's Gift Boutique for presents.

Best swim: Tokoroa Indoor Pool Complex.

When a local has visitors staying: They take them to the great outdoors. The scenery is stunning, from Te Waihou Walkway, to Blue Springs in Putaruru, Waikato River Trails for walking or cycling.

Most fabulous wildlife: Even though the moa are gone, there are still loads of good hunting up in the hills: deer, possums, rabbits, pigs, goats, ferrets and stoats.

Try this: Awhina Wilderness Experience. Enjoy a cultural walk round majestic Mt Titiraupenga, learn the stories of the land and all about the trees and plants that call the mountain home.

Locals say: Tok styleZ rulZ.

Visitors say: Rustic, welcoming, charming.

Kia ora to Pam Harrison, Kerry Fabrie and the marvellous Mariata Couch, and John too.

- NZ Herald

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