A town dubbed the ‘Corrugated Iron Capital of the World’ might not be top of your must-see list – but what if I told you that that iron was formed into the shape of giant sheep, cute dogs or birds with stilettos on. Would I have your interest then? Then welcome to Tirau in New Zealand’s North Island – one of New Zealand’s quirkiest towns.
You can’t miss Tirau’s most famous residents – the enormous iron dog, sheep and ram that tower over the town’s tiny High Street.
In fact, it was the sheep that started the corrugated iron craze in Tirau.
Designed as a shop selling knitted items and wool. It stood on its own for quite a while, until one day it was decided that the town needed some new public toilets – and for some reason, it was decided that they would be put in a giant dog to match the sheep. And that it too would be made of corrugated iron.
As tourism-boosting ideas went, it was a doozy. People would come from miles to see the giant sheep and dog (and pee in the loos) – and, over time, the rest of the town joined in. Now, almost every shop and cafe has replaced their boring generic signs with an amazing corrugated iron creation. Even the Church has one!
My Favourite Things in Tirau
There’s probably about 20 signs and other corrugated iron structures dotted around Tirau and just wandering up and down the main street filled me with glee – but there were a few particular highlights for me. Here are the six things I think I liked most.
The Giant Dog
Look at Him. You only really get a scale of how big this thing is when you stand next to it and realise its tongue is nearly as big as you are! Oh, and the toilets are still there if you need them.
The Dairy Sign
I do like it when big companies join in with the fun – and the fact that Anchor milk has a sign above the dairy made me very happy indeed.
The Ram’s Side Eye
Just look at the expression on the ram’s face. I can’t decide if he’s frisky or thinking ‘get out of my space woman.’ I also think the sheep looks like she should have lipstick (I have a rather overactive imagination).
The Pukeko’s Eyelashes
The Pukeko is my favourite New Zealand bird (even more than the kiwi) and I love this one. The shoes are fabulous enough, but look closely at her eyelashes – they’re enormous. She has a male friend next door – he’s nowhere near as glamorous.
The New Toilet
Yes, it’s another loo – but come on, how can you not like it? At the time of writing, this is the newest addition to Tirau’s signs and is a bit off the main drag on Hillcrest Street – where you’ll also find a rather fabulous display of jungle creatures.
The Outhouse is the work of Steven Clothier from a company called Corrugated Creations who are behind most of the signs in the town. Steven’s father was a driving force in the regeneration of Tirau as a tourist destination – and his son is keeping up the family tradition.
There are heaps more signs dotted around the main street and a few surrounding streets and buildings (like the local school) but I won’t spoil the fun by showing them all. But, before you head off, there’s one last sign to point out.
The Hidden Bumblebee
You’ll only find this one if you also visit the amazing Tirau Museum just a few minutes out of town on State Highway Five.
Run by local man Geoff Ernst, who also used to own a honey shop, it’s an incredible collection of everything from jars of honey created by Sir Edmund Hillary (yep, the mountain guy was a honey maker before he scaled Everest!) to old cars and petrol pumps.
The official opening hours are 9-5, but take that loosely as it’s a one-man band and so depends on Geoff’s availability.
If the gate of the drive at the base of the property is open to welcome you in, head up the drive and enjoy it.
It costs just $5 per adult, $3 for kids but you can easily spend an hour or more here wandering around the nooks and crannies.
There really is something for everything hidden somewhere in this place. If you don’t like cars, there are colourful old bottles and jars to look at. If you’re interested in history there’s war memorabilia – in fact, I defy you to not to find one thing in the whole place that you don’t think is cool.
The Tirau Museum is on State Highway 5 – just a few minutes drive south out of town. If you’re going that way, you should also check out the Blue Spring – one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just look at it.
As you’re driving around the area, keep your eye out for more corrugated iron signs – they are now spreading from Tirau into nearby towns like Putaruru as well.
We had a great day out in and around Tirau and I love that even now there’s more and more quirky signs and structures being added to the town.
How to Get To Tirau
It’s a very easy 180km drive about two-hours south from Auckland. We went on a day trip including a stop off in Hamilton and the Blue Spring. If you’re heading to or from Auckland to Rotorua or Taupo it’s en route and a good place to get out and stretch your legs. It’s also just a short detour from Hobbiton.
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