Plan your trip around Hauraki Coromandel along State Highways 25 & 2. Please note some local roads and DOC sites are closed. Find out more

Waihi Gold Discovery Centre

Our Heritage

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Stepping back in time and uncovering our past

Retrace the footsteps of Kupe and Cook, explore mining relics from the golden era and discover Kauri sites and dams from the Kauri logging days.


Our Discovery

The Coromandel can boast to being one of the few areas in New Zealand to have been discovered by two of the world’s great navigators, Polynesian explorer ‘Kupe” and European explorer Captain James Cook.

The first Polynesian explorer to sight The Coromandel was reputed to be Kupe, travelling from eastern Polynesia in around 950 AD. Aboard his mighty canoe, Matahorua, he sailed for two weeks until he sighted what was later to be called Mt Moehau. Te Whitianga a Kupe was the original place name for Whitianga, meaning Kupe’s crossing place. Captain Cook sailed into the Mercury Bay on the 3 November 1769. Cook’s ship “Endeavour” was met by Ngati Hei canoes on arrival in the bay. Seven days later, on November 9 1769 Cook observed the transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun, hence the names of some of the region’s beaches and bays - Mercury Bay and Cooks Beach. Cook also sailed into the Firth of Thames and spent two days on the Waihou River.

Capatain Cook Discovers The Coromandel

The Coromandel offers a unique opportunity to experience the area for the first time, as the great navigator, Captain James Cook did, in November 1769. Historic landmarks and memorials invite consideration of the significant contribution made to New Zealand by the foremost British navigator, Captain James Cook. Captain Cook’s exploration of The Coromandel Hauraki area took him to places we now know as Mercury Bay, Cape Colville, Thames and the Waihou River. According to his journals, Cook journeyed the Coromandel Hauraki area between November 4th and November 24th, 1769. He came to the Coromandel seeking a suitable place to observe and chart the transit of Mercury. Today, visitors can imagine the immensity of Cook’s journey at the Captain Cook Memorial and Picnic Area on the Waihou riverbank in Netherton. The three tonne steel anchor is a symbol of commemoration for Captain Cook's venture, with information panels recording the story of Cook’s Landing on the Waihou (Thames).

Golden Days

Gold boom, dark financial depression and a long up hill climb back to prosperity is how the first 100 years of Thames has been recorded. Thames had a small beginning with the first offical strike of gold in June 1867. The 'big bonanza' was between 1869 and 1871. In 1871 the top producing Caledonian Mine turned out 361,581 ounces - more than 10 tonne - with a total value of about $1,950,000. In the last 1870s people flocked to the Waihi area in search of their fortunes. The mine we now know as Martha Mine soon became one of the most important gold and silver mines in the world. Now in its third century of mining, Waihi remains a gold town and its mines still produce most of New Zealand's gold and silver bullion.

Many relics of The Coromandel's gold-mining history are still evident today, such as the Victoria Battery at Waikino, the Crown Mine at Karangahake, the Stamper Battery in Coromandel Town and the Stamper Battery and The School of Mines in Thames.

Kauri Heritage

Kauri logging was one of the major industries in early pioneering days of The Coromandel. A lasting reminder of the once-thriving Kauri industry are relics of the Kauri dams which are visible on various Coromandel walking trails. There are still stands of Kauri that were left untouched by the early pioneers and can be seen at relatively short distances from the road. The 6th largest Kauri in the country, Tanenui, is growing at Manaia on The Coromandel.


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