Unbeknownst to me, Thames is quite the historical town! In fact, it has some of the oldest history in New Zealand. The Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast, run by owner Craig Cassidy, was built in the mid-1860s.
Twenty five years ago, the name was changed to Sunkist by a Dutchie, and Craig bought the property in 2001. Sunkist Guesthouse went through its Sunkist “Backpackers” phase, however, those days are gone and it is now reverting back to a guesthouse – to a place where true travelers go to meet and exchange stories with others. It was named Sunkist Guesthouse for a while, but has since gone back to its routes of the Lady Bowen Hotel, which was in operation from 1865-1950.
5 Foot Facts You May Not Know About Thames:
- Thames has the longest single shopping strip in New Zealand, at over a mile long!
- Thames has the last pre-1900 factory facade in the southern hemisphere.
- Thames lost 249 men in World War I. Most of New Zealand lost 1/3-1/2 of their working-aged men in World War I, causing the women to step up.
- Thames is home to the first stock exchange, located on Script Corner.
- Thames is only 500 meters from bush clad mountains and the ocean, making it a long, narrow town.
Staying in a historical building in town steeped in history only made sense; Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast was ideal. Situated close by to all shops, and within walking distance to the water, you can’t go wrong with Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast. Well, why?
Accommodation. With single rooms, comfortable double beds, a coffee table, chair, hairdryer, and plenty of hooks, this room is quite cozy. Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast also offers dorming, and after taking a peak into some of the rooms, they are some of the most spacious dorms I’ve seen! The high ceilings allow for roomy bunk beds – each person can easily sit up in bed with no concern whatsoever about hitting his head on the bunk above.
While the bathrooms and showers are located down the hall, there are plenty of toilets, sinks, and showers with hot water!
Facilities. Walking in and to the right, you will find a large common room. Within the room, there is a pool table and TV with ample couches and chairs.
Lining the hallway, you will find old photographs of Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast and the rest of New Zealand framed on the walls. It also has a huge, well-stocked kitchen with multiple burners on each stove.
It comes stacked with coffee, tea, and spices as well. Each morning, breakfast is put out on the peninsula from 8am-9am, consisting of granola, cereal, yogurt, fruit, bread, and jam. Next to the kitchen, there’s a fantastic outdoor space! Two hammocks, a grill, a few picnic benches, and a chaise or two makes for the perfect outdoor area.
Nearby Attractions. Most people use Thames as a base for hiking the Pinnacles in the Kauaeranga Valley. In the 1920s, this trail used to be a packhorse route used by kauri bushmen in order to better transport logs. We, however, decided not to spend our one day in Thames solely hiking. Craig offered to take us around Thames instead.
En route to our first destination, we drove past Victoria Park to the water, where we were able to see stick figures bird-watching. Local artist Bruce Harper designed stick figures to be placed around the town. I must say, they’re brilliant!
We began by going to the World War I memorial that stands atop a hill commanding attention: “Great deeds are deathless things. The doer dies but not the deed.” That powerful words inscribed at the base of the column pay a beautiful tribute to those men lost in World War I. There is a fantastic view of Thames from this vantage point, and all of the hills still full of goldmine tunnels surrounding the town.
From there, we went to wander the Kauaeranga Valley. We walked the beginning of the Kauri Trail and explored some swimming holes within the valley itself. It’s a truly lush, beautiful area that I hope to explore in greater depth in the future.
There’s so much more to do and see in this adorable little town and surrounding areas. Do yourself a favor and allot a few days for Thames and the eastern bits of the Coromandel Peninsula. Thames and Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast are truly a New Zealand gem.
I’ll leave you with this…
5 Foot Facts You May Not Know About New Zealand:
- There are no longer any full-blooded Maori people in New Zealand – this happened within the last year or two.
- The silver fern, New Zealand’s national icon, can be used if you’re lost in the woods. Simply turn the fern to the silver side, rip a piece off, and place it on the ground in the direction you’re going. The silver shimmers on the ground in the form of an arrow.
- Captain Cook discovered New Zealand at the Coromandel Peninsula. While Abel Tasman was the first to find New Zealand, he never set foot on land.
- There are only 4% of the original Kauri Trees in New Zealand.
- New Zealand Tourism spent $60 million NZD to promote Peter Jackson’s famous Trilogies.
We ended our day watching a beautiful sunset just fives minutes away from the Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast. Gorgeous!
**Special thanks to Air New Zealand, Destination Coromandal, and Lady Bowen Bed and Breakfast for sponsoring our journey. As always, all opinions are my own. Photographs taken by David M Gallo Photography.