On the fringes of the Hauraki Plains, the small town of TE AROHA, 21km south of Paeroa, is home to New Zealand’s only intact Edwardian spa. In a quiet way it is a delightful spot, hunkered beneath the imposing bush-clad slopes of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park. The 954m Mount Te Aroha rears up immediately behind the neat little town centre, providing a reasonably challenging goal for hikers.
Everything of interest – banks, post office, library – is on or close to Whitaker Street, its old-fashioned feel enhanced by an old air-raid siren which sounds daily at 8am, 1pm and 5pm: some people still measure their day by it.
The town was founded in 1880 at the furthest navigable extent of the Waihou River. A year later, rich deposits of gold were discovered on Mount Te Aroha, sparking a full-scale gold rush until 1921. Within a few months of settlement, the new townsfolk set out the attractive Hot Springs Domain, 44 acres of gardens and rose beds around a cluster of hot soda springs which, by the 1890s, had become New Zealand’s most popular mineral spa complex. Enclosures were erected for privacy, most rebuilt in grand style during the Edwardian years. The fine suite of original buildings has been restored and integrated with more modern pools fed by the springs and nearby Mokena Geyser.