Dinky wooden buildings from the 19th-century gold rush still dominate Thames, but grizzly prospectors have long been replaced by alternative lifestylers. It’s a good base for tramping or canyoning in the nearby Kauaeranga Valley.
Captain Cook arrived here in 1769, naming the Waihou River the ‘Thames’ ‘on account of its bearing some resemblance to that river in England’; you may well think otherwise. This area belonged to Ngati Maru, a tribe of Tainui descent. Their spectacular meeting house, Hotunui (1878), holds pride of place in the Auckland Museum.
After opening Thames to gold-miners in 1867, Ngati Maru were swamped by 10,000 European settlers within a year. When the initial boom turned to bust, a dubious system of government advances resulted in Maori debt and forced land sales.