Motorhome friendly Paeroa
There are no less than six free or low-cost parking areas in Paeroa: at the RV Centre, the railway reserve, the Historical Maritime Museum and Park, the Paeroa racecourse, the golf course, and the council car park. But why would anyone want to stay in Paeroa? “It’s in the middle of everywhere,” town promoter Jo Tinsley told me. “Why wouldn’t they?” A surprising amount of history enlivens Paeroa. North of the town, next to the Waihau River is a mounted concrete anchor, which marks the fact that Captain Cook explored the waterway in 1769. It surprised me that the river, which tips into the Firth of Thames, was navigable. In fact, Paeroa was once a busy port and four ships regularly carried freight there from Auckland. This history is well documented in the museum where there are comprehensive displays of artefacts and accounts of the town’s maritime past. More history is evident in the Paeroa’s main street where there are a number of retro and vintage shops and antique dealers that are worth a browse for old times’ sake, and in the old pubs, like the Paeroa on Belmont Road that nowadays has a great stone-grill restaurant. But perhaps more than anything it is the seven-metre-high drink bottle set back off the road among a grove of lemon trees that puts Paeroa on the map. It is not a thing of great beauty but for a time, L&P was the only thing that defined the town. Way back in the gold mining days, a spring of clear water was discovered in a cow paddock near the confluence of the Ohinemuri and Waihou rivers. It became the original source the famous soft drink (now bottled in Auckland). No one is sure who was first inspired to add a dash of lemon but the mixture was said to cure miners of their hangovers. The little plains town has revved up its reputation with events such as a vintage car show, highland games and tattoo, and The Battle of the Streets day – held in February and now in its 25th year. In motorcycling circles the race has reached cult status. Anyone with a mean machine has heard of Paeroa. But for the most popular modern pastime people take to the pedal. Apparently there is an increasing number of RVers parking their vehicles in town and pushing off along the three-pronged Hauraki Rail Trail on which you can bike on easy grades to Waihi, Thames or Te Aroha. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.