10 things to do in Greytown, New Zealand
There's no denying that Greytown is one of the prettiest towns in the North Island with its Victorian buildings, tree-lined streets and surrounding rural landscape speckled with rivers, olive groves and farms.
But it is also one of New Zealand's premiere shopping and food destinations thanks to its designer boutiques, specialist shops, cafes and restaurants.
The fact many of these are housed in sensitively restored colonial buildings helps connect visitors with the town's history and makes it the perfect escape for those who appreciate quality and the unique collision of town meets country.
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For a small town it has a big history. It was New Zealand's first planned inland town established in 1854 by settlers from Wellington, who were looking for small, affordable portions of land to farm.
They were assisted in their quest by Governor Sir George Grey, and named the town was named in his honour. Its surrounding soils made it a great place to establish orchards and market gardens and for a while it was the region's largest settlement. But the town's growth declined during the 20th century, only to be revitalised in the 1990s when many Wellingtonians chose to relocate there due to its close proximity to the city or bought a "weekend home". Now, it has a population of 2200 and earlier this year was voted by a New Zealand media outlet as one of the top five places to retire.
10 MUST DO'S IN GREYTOWN
1. Cycle the 10km (return trip) Greytown-Woodside Trail which follows the original branch line that connects Greytown with the historic Woodside Station. It is well signposted from the centre of town in Cotter Street. It is a flat, limestone path that weaves under an avenue of oak trees and has beautiful views of the Tararuas and Gladstone hills. Great for all ages and abilities.
2. A tasting at Schoc Chocolate studio. Did you know Schoc owner Murray Langham has created more than 80 flavours of his tablet bars including the most popular, lime and chilli.
3. Explore Greytown one tree at a time. From the enormous Australian Eucalypt outside St Luke's Church on Main St to the beautiful Soldiers Memorial Park Plantings and 1921 Lime Trees on Kuratawhiti St.
4. Hidden gem Kahikatea Gardens is a country garden with a 900-year-old Kahikatea tree and friendly farm animals that welcome all who visit. Located on Wilkes St (off Humphries St) this is a garden to visit by appointment only. It is charming and has a fascinating history which is unravelled during the tour hosted by its engaging owners Neil and Greg.
5. Sample local olive oils at The Olive Press, one of the largest olive presses in New Zealand, located at the southern end of town. It stocks extra virgin olive oil, a range of infused oils from local producers and olive oil body products. All olive oil has been pressed onsite.
6. Enjoy a drink on the veranda of The White Swan. Watch the world go by, meet friends or plan which boutique shop you're going to spend your money in next.
7. Discover Greytown's rich history at Cobblestones Museum. A contemporary visitor centre gives way to six Heritage-listed buildings located onsite. Also discover why Greytown was the site of the country's first Arbor Day.
8. Take the kids or grandkids to the wonderful playground on Kuratawhiti St. If you like camping, be sure to check out the neighbouring camping ground.
9. Buy a real fresh fruit ice-cream from The Big Apple or Pinehaven fruit and vegetable stores located at the northern end of town.
10. Grab a picnic and enjoy it riverside. There are several access points to the nearby Ruamahunga and Waiohine Rivers and friendly locals are sure to share their favourite fly-fishing spots too.
WHERE TO SHOP
Greytown shopping is the antithesis of bland malls. This Victorian country village oozes style and makes for a perfect getaway from Wellington.
In the centre of town is Blackwell & Sons, the exclusive New Zealand stockist of Pashley Cycles, England's longest established bicycle manufacturer. This gorgeous shops stocks a variety of bicycle styles and a selection of the finest quality accessories from Brooks Saddles and multi-tools to Nantucket Wire Baskets and bells. Picnic ware, clothing and bags round out the offering.
Just next door is the whimsical Tapestry store with its upcycled one-off furniture pieces and Food Forest Organics,Greytown's most exciting organic plant based produce store. Food Forest sells 95 per cent organic food with fresh organic produce coming direct from the Cameron Family Farm in south Wairarapa, 40km away.
Olive oil, hemp seed oil, walnut oil and flaxseed oil, from the farm's own crops, are processed in house in small batches along with honey. Gluten-free flours, cereals and baking products and organic plant-based products such as cheese, yogurt, nut milks and sauces line the shelves. Special teas, fresh coffee beans, gourmet chocolate and other treats are also available. Be sure to wander round the outside courtyard with its herb garden - there's even a tree-house for the grandkids to play in.
Other small, owner-operated shops that are high quality and distinctive include the Retro Room, a wonderfully colourful shop full of mid-century furniture and gems from the 60s and 70s; Imperial Productions which hand crafts traditional lead toy soldiers and civilians from their Victorian toy-shop like premises and sends them to collectors all over the world and Emporos Antiques & Interiors which has fabulous bolts of imported French fabric and beautiful homewares on display.
The fashion conscious won't be disappointed either with several designer boutiques selling NZ labels. Included in this are local designers HALL, a stylish label created by Lorraine Hall that is renowned for being New Zealand made, having a minimalist aesthetic and catering for sizes 10-24; and Nicola Screen, a eponymous label with feminine dresses and separates made from silk, raw linen and velvet.
The Hub, a contemporary development that incorporates art deco and colonial features, houses a range of boutiques and cafes, most of which look out onto an open courtyard with seating and a towering oak tree.
Complementing these are a huge range of places to eat that stretch from the north end of town to the south. Cafes and restaurants provide visitors with great places to fuel up. Local favourites Bar Salute, The White Swan and Rachel Priestly's La Pancetta Wine bar, deli and home of Prodigal Daughter cured meats sit alongside The French Baker and the Main Street Deli in serving up great coffee and seasonal menus.
HOW TO GET TO GREYTOWN
Greytown is one of five townships in the Wairarapa, located at the lower right-hand corner of New Zealandʼs North Island. It is only an hour's drive or train ride north-east of Wellington, which has daily domestic and international flights from Australia; and just over an hour's drive from Palmerston North's domestic airport. Driving to Greytown is easy with The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail a self-drive experience along SH2 linking Marlborough, Wellington and Wairarapa with Hawke's Bay. Greytown offers a wide variety of accommodation.