As cars and trucks zoom through on State Highway 2 near Paeroa and beside the Waihou and Ohinemuri rivers, they pass one of the antiques town's greatest jewels. The Historical Maritime Park and Museum serves as a reminder that waterways were once the highways of the country.
The museum is another of the Waikato's hidden tourist attractions, which focuses on celebrating the culture and history of New Zealand, complementing towns in the area like Rotorua, the cultural capital of New Zealand.
The popular maritime attraction has opened again with the move to alert level 1 and is on a new voyage to take the park and museum to another level of visitor experience.
Visitors will take a scenic trip down the Ohinemuri River and into Paeroa, adding to the cultural experience of the Waikato's tourism market.
The tourist attraction has received a $730,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant and $400,000 from Hauraki District Council for stage one of the museum's master plan.
The $1.1 million will build a jetty on the Ohinemuri River, three pontoons, and a riverboat to ferry people and cyclists from the Hauraki Rail Trail between the museum in the Paeroa Historical Maritime Park and Wharf St in town.
Trustee of the museum and park, Gloria James, said the funding had opened the doors for the museum to unlock its full potential.
The maritime history of New Zealand is under valued, mainly because we are a very young country, but when you look at what the Māori did to get here, and what Captain Cook did. They were incredible navigators, and so we want to make that part of New Zealand history more known,
"We are able to bring back a form of transportation that was heavily relied upon before cars and trains. Paeroa was the gateway to the goldfields in the region, and passengers and heavy machinery were transported down the Waihou River into the town, and so we want to bring a glimpse of that back."
Pre-European arrival Māori used the waterways as a form of transportation between settlements. Captain James Cook was the first European traveller to sail up the river, which he said was as wide but not as deep as the river Thames in Greenwich, England. He then bestowed upon the Gulf and the river the collective name of "The Thames".
The maritime park and museum links with another of the Hauraki's tourist attractions, the Hauraki Rail Trail, and soon people will be able to travel by bike on the trail and then catch a river cruise into town.
Board member Julie Bubb said that during the Covid-19 lockdown people slowed down and took in more appreciation for what they have in New Zealand, and she thinks the rail trail and the Maritime Park will complement each other nicely.
"A few more people are getting out and cycling more now, and I think that is just going to increase with ebikes becoming more available," Bubb said.
"What we're hoping is that people will cycle along the rail trail and see our attraction here and then decide to take a little river cruise into Paeroa."
Chairman Colin James is one of the main workers on the site, keeping the park in immaculate condition, while servicing the boats.
James said work was set to begin within the new few weeks, and hoped to have tours going by the spring and summer seasons.
"We should be going by spring, that's what I have sort of planned for the vessel," James said.
It is presumed by that time there will still be border restrictions because of Covid-19, and domestic tourism will be a big pull for the museum.
"That will play into our hands, it will be local tourism that is more interested in cycling the rail trail and then coming on the river cruise.
"There is a lot of support for going to your local tourist attractions in New Zealand right now and we are hoping we can be a part of that."
River cruises are the star attractions of the maritime park, but the museum, full of models and historical antiques, is attracting crowds young and old.
A model of one of the world's most famous ships the R.M.S Titanic is a favourite for children who, Bubb said, have a surprising amount of knowledge about the tragedy of the ship that was called "unsinkable".
"We have had children in here that know exactly how many lifeboats the Titanic had and it just shows that there is an interest in these things."
A hand-made model of Britain's most famous flagship the HMS Victory also sits in the museum. The Victory was famous for the part it played during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson died during the battle that prevented a French invasion of England. The vessel is now sitting in dry docks in Portsmouth, England.
"It's nice to have these antiques and relics of maritime history, of New Zealand and the world sitting in the Waikato and we just want to share that with our community," Bubb said.