The Grand Hotel

While in Te Aroha, locals point us towards another hotel and bar with a haunted reputation.

History and Location

Te Aroha is the smallest centre in the Matamata-Piako District with only 3,768 people, but it makes up for it with character. A beautiful historic spa town, Te Aroha is nestled at the base of Mount Te Aroha.

Famous for its natural hot springs, Te Aroha is home to world’s only hot soda water geyser. Within the beautifully restored Edwardian Domain are the Te Aroha Mineral Spas, the Te Aroha Leisure Pools, and the 1898 Cadman Bath House, which now houses the Te Aroha and Districts Museum.

The Arawa people, who initially established themselves in the Bay of Plenty, moved into the Waikato region and settled the area including Te Aroha.

The naming of Mount Te Aroha is said to have originated from Kahumata Mamoe, the son of an Arawa Chief, who was lost in the wetlands of the Waihou Valley. Te Mamoe climbed to the top of the mountain, and from the summit he was able to identify his home at Maketu. He then declared that the mountain would be called The Love of Kahumata Mamoe.

Between 1600 and 1650 the Tainui people moved into the Waikato region, but the Arawa people were allowed to keep their land in Te Aroha under the protection of the Marutuahu. The Marutuahu people left the area in 1815 as a result of a raid by Ngapuhi, but a remnant of Te Aroha people remained, taking refuge on the mountain and in the extensive swampland.

Early Maori already knew of the healing properties of the Te Aroha hot springs. They became an even more vital resource during the Waikato land wars, when wounded Maori would retreat to the springs.

The Crown was concerned that the Te Aroha lands should be legally defined, and in 1869 the Te Aroha land went before the Native Land Court at Thames. In 1871 the court decision awarded the land to the Marutuahu Confederation, which included Ngati-Tamatera. In 1877 a letter appeared in the Thames Advertiser stating Ngati Tumutumu of Te Aroha were the original owners of the land and that the best claims to the land were those of Ngati Maru and the Ngati Tumutumu. A petition was presented to Parliament in August 1877 by Reha Aperahama and 47 others to assert those claims.

Land Court negotiations continued and in August 1878 the balance of the payment due on the Te Aroha block of ₤3,000 was paid to Ngati Tumutumu, and the land known today as the Te Aroha Hot Springs Reserve was made a public reserve under the Public Domains Act on December 1882. The consent of local Maori and in particular the Morgan family to Government plans for the establishment of such a reserve was of critical importance and it was through their generosity in giving up the land that the Domain became what it is today.

The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel, associated with the development of Te Aroha in the Waikato Region, firstly as a gold rush town, then as a popular geothermal resort, was commissioned in 1896 after a huge fire destroyed a number of buildings in January of that year.

It appears to have been constructed as the British Hotel in 1880-1881 soon after the discovery of gold in the Waiorongomai Valley. Initially providing accommodation for miners and others, the building was sold to the Auckland firm of Brown and Campbell in 1885 after the rush proved to be short-lived. Its new owners immediately converted and enlarged the building, taking advantage of its location next to the geothermal springs in Te Aroha Domain.

In the early days it provided accommodation for visitors to the thriving Domain spas. Owing to licensing difficulty it was called the Family Hotel until 1900 when the name was changed to the Grand Hotel.

The Tavern is of historical and architectural significance for demonstrating changes in the use of hotels during the late nineteenth century, from work-related lodgings to genteel places of retreat. It is a notable example of Victorian hotel design in New Zealand, with characteristics typical of the building-type such as a sweeping verandah, hipped roof and street corner location.

It is valuable for its links with the history of gold mining, having its origins in one of the last gold rushes in the country. The building illustrates the changing fortunes of Te Aroha township, being the only surviving hotel to date from the gold rush and foundation of the spa.


Investigation by Barbara and Mark

We knew of the rich history of this beautiful old landmark, but had only heard very vague rumors of any paranormal activity. Nothing concrete and nothing documented, but seeing as we were in the town preparing for an overnight investigation of another iconic building in the area we thought we’d pay a visit and see for ourselves whether there was any substance to the stories.

 We spoke with Graham the owner in the Public bar, who straight away joked, “You won’t find any ghosts around here. There might be the odd grey ghost, but that’s it!”

He’s been living above the Grand Tavern for over 11 years and in that time has had no unusual activity to report.

Barbara had earlier in the day, spoken to a barmaid working at the tavern in the afternoon who thought that if we did get any evidence that it would be next door in the restaurant section which definitely had a “spooky feel to it.” However, when we talked to the staff in the bar next door in the restaurant they were all fascinated in what we do, but didn’t have any stories to tell us.

For this short investigation we carried out a full two bar/restaurant photographic sweep of the public areas of the building (inside and outside) , except for the upstairs accommodations level as this was their private area, so no access was allowed on this occasion.

Two audio recorders were also running in both bars. 

No E.V.Ps  were captured and no photographic evidence was found at this session.

While we didn’t capture anything interesting at this session, the grand tavern is a beautiful old lady, who has an atmosphere that is unusual and interesting, yet difficult to define.

There was definitely a feeling of something being there.

Perhaps just residual remnants of days gone by or the energies and memories left by the many thousands of cheerful regulars that would have frequented the pub through many generations.

The restaurant / bar section certainly had a noticeable creepiness to it. Maybe this was due to it being empty, dark and quiet, we don’t know.

If you’re ever passing through beautiful Te Aroha, pop in for a pint and tell them Haunted Auckland sent ya!

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