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There are three local towns near us. When we say local - everything is relative. Thames is about 40 km away. Ngatea is marginally closer, at 37 km, and Pukekohe is marginally further away, at 45 km. We'll try them all out over the next few weeks.

I'll also cover the nearest communities - not much good for weekly shopping, but worth knowing about for emergency milk, bread and fuel.


On weekend no 1 we decided to try out the local town of Thames. This is about 40 km away, at the gateway to the Coromandel. The quickest route for us is to drive down to Miranda, then along the coast road. Apart from the bit down from our house, it's flat, and reasonably fast. The journey to Kopu takes about 30 minutes, with Thames another 5 km on.

We spent Saturday morning relaxing, then set off at about 11:30 am.

Kopu itself has lots of building companies - more places selling sheds, garages, weatherboard houses and other building materials than you can shake a stick at. There's a Placemakers, a 'Hunting & Fishing' and an RD1 farm stores. No Bunnings though… :o( As we wanted a few building supplies we decided to hit Placemakers on the way home.

Next, we drove into Thames itself. We needed a supermarket for the weeks supplies, and a Telecom shop so we could sort out some short-term internet connection. On the bypass that runs parallel to the main shopping street (called 'Pollen Street') is the retail district. There's a Warehouse, a shopping mall with some of the chains such as 'Bed, Bath & Beyond' and 'Postie', a couple of fast food outlets (KFC and the most obtrusive Macdonalds drive-through I've ever seen), the most politically incorrectly named bicycle shop I've ever seen ('Pakipaki Bike Shop') and 'Pak'n'Save' supermarket (which in itself could be seen as a politically incorrect name). We parked up and went hunting.

By this time it was about 12:30 pm. We strolled through BB&B, and bought a warm blanket. 'Is there a Telecom shop in Thames?', we asked. 'Yes', says the shop assistant, 'but you'd better get there quick - it's in Pollen Street and most of the shops there close at 1:00 pm'. Now, this takes me back to shopping in the 1970's. Back then, all shops closed at 1:00 pm on a Saturday, and didn't open until Monday. I guess things don't change very fast in small-town NZ!

we rushed to Pollen Street, and found the Telecom shop with a quarter of an hour to go. There were a couple of really friendly assistants, who sorted us out. We asked whether there were any supermarkets other than 'Pak'n'Save' (Art is not a 'Pak'n'Save' kind of guy. 'No' says the assistant with a smile, 'You're in the sticks here - you take whatever's going'. Fair enough!

With most of the shops in Pollen Street now closed, next stop was Pak'n'Save - and who should we see across the freezer cabinet but the lady from Telecom. 'You've decided to slum it' she says in a loud voice across the freezer, with a big smile on her face! Art went very red…

On our second visit, we made sure we headed out earlier.

There is a market advertised on the Saturday morning. This is about as far away from an Auckland 'Farmers Market' as you can get. For a start, there wasn't a bottle of designer olive oil anywhere in sight. Instead, there were some second hand bric-a-brac and book stalls, and small local stands selling plants, vegetables, bakery items and home-made jams and chutneys. I bought a parsley plant ($1), half a pumpkin $2), some home-made Hummus and Parsley spread ($3) and a home-made carrot cake ($6.50). Oh an and a smaller version of our metal 'guard dog', Spike (now officially called 'Spike Junior', for an incredible $15. We finished up in the traditional Junction Hotel for brunch - and very nice it was!

There wasn't too much time to research the rest of the shops, so we'll report more on our next visit.

Thames / Cormandel photo gallery:


The town of Pukekohe is 45 km away, but takes about the same length of time to get to as Thames. This is because the majority of the route is on fast roads - namely SH2 from Maramarua then SH1 to Bombay.

Pukekohe is a much larger town than Thames. This can be seen in the larger variety of shops that can be found there. It has a 'Pak'n'Save' and a Countdown (guess which one we ended up in). It also has a Briscoes, an RD1, and most of the other big shops. We were excited to find it also has a Bunnings - but unfortunately it's the smallest Bunnings I've ever seen. Never mind - there's a huge new Mitre 10 Mega. In fact, it looks like Pukekohe is substantially expanding in line with the suburbs that are growing around it.

In anticipation of everything closing at 1:00 pm, we hit the high street first. Some of the shops do close, but there are more here that stay open longer. As we'd skipped breakfast, we investigate the cafes. There are quite a few of them, and quite a variety, including Turkish. Looking around, there is a good selection of restaurants too. We'll try them out one evening. Meanwhile, we settled for Bento (lunch) boxes in a Japanese cafe. And very good it was. Interestingly, we were provided with a fork and had to ask for chopsticks!

We also had a browse through RD1, the local farm store, in anticipation of our next project (have we got you guessing?). Art also bought a chain saw to cut up our firewood.


I'll include Ngatea here, but it's unlikely that we'll visit that much. It has a small centre with a Shell garage, a Four Square supermarket, Hammer Hardware, a pump shop and a vet. There are a couple of cafes, and it used to have a fantastic workshop which made solid Rimu furniture (which is where we bought our bedroom suite the first year we landed in NZ) but this is now gone. Down the back street is a rock and gem warehouse. This is fascinating for geologists (which I pretend to be), but not for many other people. Oh - and there's an RD1. This must be the rural equivalent of Bunnings.

Local Communities


The community of Miranda doesn't really have a centre. 5 km away there's a junction with a couple of buildings (both up for sale) on the coast road. Then the 'Miranda Hot Springs' and holiday park a few kms to the right, and the Miranda Seabird Centre a few kms to the left. Just up the Miranda Road is a farm shop with a limited supply of veges and preserves, and of course the odd table of 'take a bag of whatever and leave the cash in the box'. We're a spread out little community!


The nearest recognisable community is 10 km away on SH2, at Maramarua. There's a general store, a pub ('The Red Fox' - a surprising name, as there are no foxes in NZ), a petrol station, primary school, rugby club and 'The Pukekos Nest' cafe.

A bit further down SH2 towards Auckland you'll find the 'Pink Pig Cafe' (a truckies hangout), and Maramarua Golf Club.


Much closer than Maramarua as the crow flies but 18 km away by road, is Mangatangi. There are no shops here that I can see, but a church, a primary school and a fire station.


To get to Kaiaua you drive the 5 km to the Miranda junction then drive left another 12 km along the coast. Kaiaua is a lovely little community, with a garage, two small general stores, a pub (The Bayview) and a famous fish and chip shop (which I personally think is living on its laurels now). In the summer last year there was a wonderful coffee trailer in the petrol station car park, which did some of the best toasted sandwiches I've ever tasted. I hope they're back there this year.

My cousin and his family have a holiday bach in Kaiaua, so I expect we'll be visiting here on the odd occasion….

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