Call of the Countryside – Te Aroha

Years of chaos, confusion, hustle and high flying have taken their toll on many people. The global pandemic put the breaks on in a huge and abrupt way for millions of us. It brought some industries to their knees, and others were given the opportunity to emerge. Zoom shares skyrocketed, online sales figures shot through the roof, and some urban dwellers decided to sell up and slow down. Lockdowns, layoffs and learning have led many Kiwis (including Damon and I) to a wish for a simpler and more self-sufficient life.

We will be focusing on plans to develop and regenerate 50 acres north of Auckland. We are tethered to city life for some time while the kids (youngest is nearly 7) grow up and get through school, but shared custody and planned sabbaticals mean plenty of time to focus on feathering our country nest. Damon has also made the difficult decision to let go of his gorgeous Blacksmith’s Cottage (built as a token of Love for the Blacksmith’s wife in 1891) in Te Aroha.

It is with a bevy of bittersweet emotion we are announcing the sale of this beautiful heritage homestead on Koromiko street in Te Aroha.  Since being serendipitously stranded there for the February week-long lockdown, we have finally managed to get it to reach the rather lofty Damon standards that see it finally ready for sale.  Every weekend we have meandered back down to the village together, and I have fallen hook line and sinker for this sleepy little town that time forgot.  Just wanted to share some of the many discoveries, attractions and distractions that made me fall so in Love with this aptly named village in the Waikato.

Here’s a list of my personal top ten attractions in and around Te Aroha 

  • 20 Koromiko Street (a home with so much history) – Damon purchased this home when it was in need of some serious Love and attention. It had been a bit of a “party house” before he bought it in 2006. When he purchased the house, he found that many locals and people he knew had some connection or memory of it. This rich history and prolific profile only served to further Damon’s desire to restore and renovate this beautiful historic villa. Rather than go on and on about the house, I will share with you a few pictures of the cottage after weeks (years for Damon) of elbow grease and vision whipped it from a bit of a fixer upper to a lovely and inviting space.
  • Te Maunga – At an impressive 952m high, Mt. Te Aroha is the highest point in the Kaimai-Mamaku ranges (thanks department of conservation website) It is an ever-changing backdrop to this sleepy little town that seriously feels like it stopped the clock in about 1972. There’s a horn that blows thrice daily to tell long since silenced factories in town it is time to get to work, eat lunch, and knock off for the day. The mountain has been listening to this and watching the towns ebbs and flows for many decades. My personal favourite thing about the mountain is that there is gold in that thar hill and this majestic Maunga is not about to relinquish it under any circumstances. In stark contrast to a very closely neighbouring town (Waihi) mining never took hold here and the plights and tragedies surrounding each and every attempt to emancipate this mineral are documented in the town’s history, at the museum and also at the foot of the walking tracks at the longs since abandoned Waiorongomai settlement location. This mountain is magic and has seen peace and bloodshed at its feet for centuries. Highly encourage people to enjoy this sacred location through the scenic cycle way, or any way that suits you.
  • Walking/tramping – I had NO idea how much there was to do and see in this area. From the wetlands to the mountain. From one of the highest waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere to bush walks and rural views, this area is replete with options for every tramper from novice through advanced. Again, I will spare you my verbosity and share some of our pictures from a handful of the hundreds of walks that are possible in the area.
  • Classy to Kitsch treasure hunting – Paeroa is known as a preeminent antique hunting destination town, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. There are, however, heaps of hidden treasures all around the place. I got some beautiful authentic antique petticoats in Morrinsville to feed my daughter’s latest obsession with cottage core. There is also one of the most fantastic antique furniture restoration stores I have ever seen right on the Main Street of TA. Again, pics or it didn’t happen.
  • Te Aroha Mineral Spas – this is the crown jewel in the TA tourism spreadsheet. People come to enjoy the therapeutic warm waters from near and far. I had no idea it even existed. Being a Thames girl I spent many an evening soaking in the Miranda hot pools, but these spas are absolutely stunning with period buildings and a wide range of options for kids, couples and anyone wanting some pampering. Mid week specials were an extra treat as we were able to soak for a discounted rate after Damon spent his days working and on zoom calls and his spare moments painting and plastering.
  • Surprising Culinary Scene – Food, I am a fan. I have packed on the quarantine 15 and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. There are quite a few family owned and operated ethnic food establishments that are affordable and delicious. Thai in Paeroa and Morrinsville was amazing and the Indian restaurant in Te Aroha is clearly run by someone who has cooked for family and friends and makes their dishes with Love and care. Absolutely impressed by these places and felt great to support these small local businesses every night we were in the area. For more upmarket culinary experiences you can also visit the Falls (you will need to book, it is ALWAYS full and with good reason) or the Waihi hotel (amazing Bluff oysters, great staff and superb atmosphere) or any number of impressive Italian and Contemporary restaurants.
  • Hamilton Gardens – Just. Wow. I had no idea how magnificent and world class this place is. Treat yourself to a visit soon. Here’s some of my pictures.
  • The People – I met so many wonderful women who are raising families or relishing the good life here in the Waikato. Many had escaped the rat race up in the city, one is a Share milker from Auckland who I met at the local arts and crafts store on Te Aroha’s main drag. I adored them all and everyone we met is/was so friendly and magnificent. There’s a big difference between country and city protocols and I will take the provinces hands down, I am perhaps a little too rough around the edges to fit firmly in the city’s fast paced and flippant social scenes.
  • The Pace – escaping the race. Just bliss.
  • Meeting Mittens – Last, but not least, was meeting my fiancé’s rescue cat Mittens. A sweet, chatty, and very timid little kitty who wouldn’t come near us for our first couple of visits and then wouldn’t leave us alone when she became comfortable. She slept at our head every night on our last visit, and followed us as we walked over to the spas for an evening soak. The reason I am bringing this up is that she is an absolute sweetheart and we all Love her so much, but she needs a forever home. We will keep her with us until a perfect place is found, but we already have two male rescue cats and a rescue dog (who she hates) and rescue chickens. She’d make someone who needs a cute and chatty feline friend very happy and she is very low maintenance indeed

So, thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for this terrific little town! Hope you have a chance to check it out soon and fall for it as hard as I have.