Famed for its iconic L&P bottle, Paeroa has a rich history that extends far beyond its fizzy drink reputation. Claire Smith investigates this historic town.
New Zealand is dotted with tiny townships we often drive through on the way to our next adventure. But in doing so, we might just bypass some of our greatest treasures. Each month, MCD highlights one of Aotearoa’s smaller towns so you can plan a stop, show them your support, and discover their hidden gems. This month, we’re stopping in Paeroa.
T he Hauraki township of Paeroa is often a pitstop for travellers on their way to a beach break in Waihi or heading north to Coromandel. Famous for its oversized L&P bottle, many visitors do little more than stop for a quick photo with the iconic bottle before heading off again. But, as I’ve discovered over a few recent visits, there’s more to Paeroa than meets the eye, making this tiny destination worthy of at least an overnight stay.
Bag a bargain
From dolls and toys that have survived generations, to bone china and collectable ornaments and trinkets, Paeroa is an antique lover’s paradise. You could easily spend a solid day just wandering between the antique and secondhand shops dotted along the main road, each bursting with
a treasure trove of unique goodies. A great starting point is Arkwrights, which has been part of the Paeroa landscape for a good 30 years. Every visit is different with new stock coming in on most days. On my last poke around I walked out with a copy of The Listener from 1970 and a very cool tea tin that doubles as a music box – just what I was looking for.
Lunch like Mum makes
As we arrived in Paeroa, I did the usual Google search of ‘good places for lunch’. I was instructed to head straight to The Refinery on Willoughby Street. It’s hidden away off the main road, so we would never have found it otherwise, but I was glad I’d made the effort. This cool café (with boutique accommodation) continues the ‘yesteryear’ theme of Paeroa’s main street shops with ‘50s inspired décor, a roaring fireplace, rustic furniture reminiscent of my early childhood, and a fascinating collection of memorabilia including an impressive haul of vinyl records. The menu is a throwback to the good old days too with offerings such as fish kedgeree, mince on toast (which I can recommend), and a tasty selection of grilled sandwiches. To see the menu or find out more, visit the-refinery.co.nz.
A night at the museum
Located on the main thoroughfare of SH2, the Historical Maritime Park and Museum is definitely one to add to your itinerary. In fact, you can even plan to stay overnight with self-contained campers welcomed for $20 a night (plus $5 if you want power). Inside, the museum is home to fascinating displays that tell the story of Paeroa’s connection to Captain Cook who explored the region in the late 1700s. And there’s just as much to see outside too, with large park grounds perfect for picnicking. You may even come across an alpaca or two! For entry prices, hours, and to book a campsite, visit historicalmaritimepark.co.nz.
Follow that trail
If you’re planning to stay over at the Maritime Museum, consider bringing your bike with you and taking a day or so exploring a section of the Hauraki Rail Trail. The trail can be accessed by a 1km link from the museum’s park. Spend a day cycling to Waihi, or if you’ve only got a few hours, take a shorter trip to Karangahake and explore the walkways and tunnels. The Karangahake Gorge, voted one of the 101 Must-Dos For Kiwis, has an incredible history. Not only is it absolutely stunning, but it was also home to one of the busiest and most lucrative gold strikes. Gold was first discovered here in 1875, despite opposition from Māori in the region to any mining of the land. For maps and more information, visit haurakirailtrail.co.nz/choose-your-ride/paeroa-to-waihi.
That big bottle
I couldn’t finish up a story on Paeroa without more than a mention of that big old seven-metre-high bottle that has been attracting visitors for over 50 years. The bottle pays homage to Paeroa’s soda spring used to make the famous lemony fizz first created in 1907 and produced at the L&P factory (which closed in 1980). Found to be rich in magnesium bicarbonate, the spring water soon became touted for its health-giving benefits – especially when mixed with a slice of lemon!
Voted as the Southern Coromandel’s best tourist attraction and located just 10 minutes’ drive from Paeroa (toward Waihi), the Bullswool Farm Heritage Park is a great spot to visit, especially if you’ve got children onboard. As well as working museums that offer a fascinating look back at early New Zealand farming life, the park is also home to a native bird reserve, and a farm park complete with donkeys, ducks, horses, sheep, and chickens. Kiddies can also burn off energy in the play paddock which includes a kid-scale digger, rocket ship, cart track, and more – with any luck, they’ll be exhausted by bedtime. For entry prices and hours, visit bullswoolfarm.co.nz.
Other great places to park up
Paeroa RV Centre: Located at 10 Coronation Street, the Paeroa RV Centre has powered and unpowered sites as well as all the usual amenities and facilities, including an outdoor covered kitchen. They are also dog-friendly – but it pays to phone ahead to get a booking. Book a site or find out more at paeroamotorhomepark.co.nz.
Paeroa also has some good freedom camping spots including:
- The Railway Reserve, Marshall Street
- Hauraki District Council office carkpark, Marshall Street
- Find out more at hauraki-dc.govt.nz/our-district/freedom-camp/
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