Thames is usually known as the place people drive through on their way to somewhere else on the Coromandel Peninsula, but we know of some great places worth stopping for - in town and in the surrounding area.
Many different iwi and hapū have lived in Hauraki for centuries, and we want to acknowledge Ngāti Maru as the mana whenua of the land on which we stand. The area that is now Thames was used by tangata whenua to grow huge māra kai. Thames is also known for its gold mining history. Although it meant Thames was at one point the biggest city in the country, it is also a history of environmental destruction and colonial land theft. This side of our past is not often acknowledged, but is important to understanding the history of our beautiful whenua.
A great place to get to know Thames is the Saturday markets, where you can get fresh produce, yummy food and handmade goods. Our staples include Mrs Greenjeans Seedlings and veges from Pakaraka Permaculture (and roast chestnuts in autumn!). While you are in Grahamstown, check out Lotus Realm, which has an amazing array of instruments and wares, then head through to the bazaar out the back, a collection of hidden shops including a cafe and op shop. You can also find some amazing art at Arohart and get some great food at the Thames Organic Shop. Further down Pollen St, you can browse a selection of great books at Carson's Bookshop (that's where you'll often find Helena on a Saturday), grab a cinnamon brioche at Hi Stranger next door, and get zero waste bulk food from Re-Store across the road. You'll find Lillian working at The Sewing Box where you can get your hiking pack repaired before you go up Te Kauaeranga Valley. Say hi to the awesome librarians at the Thames Library, and on your way past remind TCDC to commit to ambitious climate action.
We also have loads of cool op-shops, and a really awesome resource recovery shop, The Seagull Centre, where you can find some great bargains.
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There are some other great things to do in town, like walk along the waterfront and enjoy the Underfoot Gallery, or try to spot of the rainbows around town - sculptures, fences and Jacob's Ladder. Further up in the hills, a walk through the Historic Shortland Cemetery and the William Hall Arboretum are well worth it.
The best thing about living here is how close we are to the bush and rivers. We have an abundance of amazing swimming holes, in Tararu, up the Karaka, or in the Waiwhakaurunga (Kauaeranga). While you're there, explore the bushwalks, tramp to Crosbies or the Pinnacles, go abseiling at Edward's Lookout, canyoning in Sleeping God Canyon, find a tree to climb, and try not to fall into a mine shaft! We've had so many fun adventures around here and we're lucky to live so close to the bush.
Helena May and Lillian Balfour feature in the film High Tide Don't Hide, which will run as part of the Doc Edge Film Festival, from June 3 to July 11. Go to docedge.nz for more information.