Greytown is cute Victorian heritage facades stocked to the rafters with designer clothing, homeware, several spa and body therapy stores and eateries to sustain the energy levels. Greytown shops are nestled in pretty restored nineteenth century main street buildings. The town is entrepreneurial with its charm as the drawcard. For local Wellingtonians it is a break from Lambton Quay with the rural countryside peeping around the shop corners. For Australians and New Zealanders the town is an excellent example of a nineteenth century shopping street that has withstood the ravages of time.
The main street’s image as the village’s commercial heart is cemented with the sight of a thriving butcher shop. The weekend is particularly busy with weekend trippers from nearly Wellington, Southern Hawkes Bay and Palmerston North. For visitors who have time to plan a visit on Thursday is ideal with the buzz of the weekend in the air yet it is relatively free of busy shoppers.
On your way to Greytown, from Wellington on State Highway 2 you will pass Featherston. The town is worth a stop to explore the quirky shops. While it does not have the pretty Victorian looks of Greytown it has curios and nick knacks that always fascinate the browsing window shopper. Featherston is home to C’est Cheese, a gourmet store and deli worth a stop for snacks and special treats. The town is home to several bookshops, secondhand and new making it a struggle for book collectors to leave Featherston. For the love of Books and Messines Bookshop the town is a destination in its own right. Featherton is 12 km from Greytown.
Blackwell & Sons is Greytown gem and worth a moment or several hours enamoured with all things cycle, gardening tools and gifts that inspire. Pashley bicycle specialists Blackwell & Sons offer an electric version. Forget feeling hot, sweaty and exhausted simply flick on the switch and the cyclist has a power boost. A favourite gift could be the bike chain bowl. Upcycled, repurposed bike chains have never looked so good. Blackwell & Sons is housed in the former Borough Council Chambers, 110 Main Street (1892). The building is an excellent example of a classical decoration with corinthian capitals, cornices and a bracketed pediment. It is a soft grey palate reflecting the name of the town. Perfectly complemented with a classic bicycle shop occupying the premises.
Miss Maude Fabric Store is located in the historic Oddfellows Hall. Fabric, linen, tencal, silks, wools and cottons the world is a better place with a haberdashery. Greytown is a must go destination for people who love a great haberdashery with its patterns, threads. The entrance is stocked with dummies modelling completed garment illustrating both the skill and creative spirit of sewing. A genuine fabric shop is a must visit destination for fabric lovers and sewers. While the online shop is great it is not the same as gently stroking soft silky fabric and loving the sheen of supple linen. A perfect way to while away a rainy day, stock up your fabric stash for promised projects or simply get inspired to sew.
On a side street is Imperial Productions, Tin replica soldiers fitted out in perfect miniature regalia are on guard in the window display. Imperial Productions is a must visit destination for collectors and people who have not viewed the process involved. The window display and interiors are a living example of Victorian toy production and skill that is now limited to craftspeople such as Imperial Productions. The shop exudes character and the personality of the replica soldiers. The Edwardian era building housed the bootmaker.
One of the notable shops is the butcher shop in the main street. Visit the shop if you are local and support a main street butcher. It’s fabulous to see a thriving butcher shop. The library is prominent with light airy spaces and a dinky visitor centre packed with plenty of brochures for the Wairarapa. There are volunteers servicing the inquiry desk during the weekend, a very clear indicator the weekend shoppers are in town.
The town is awash with plenty of boutique up market clothing stores for women together with homeware stores, gift shops specialising in bathroom and home decorative objects. The main street is very walkable with seating at various corners and cafes to rest and relax in. The main street is home to the The White Swan Hotel located opposite Blackwell & Sons and is a popular place for pub meals and to relax in a heritage building whose origins were in Petone. Nothing like relocating a massive building over the narrow winding road of the Rimutaka hills.
Is a great place to read Sarah’s story, view the gardeners’ cottage and observe the heritage plants that have flourished for over a hundred years on the main street of Greytown. The lemon tree provided juice to support patients during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Look for the magnolia behind Kouka Cottage, the ashes of a Frank Fyfe, historian and narrator rest among its roots.
If you are shopped out you can stroll along the main street reading the plaques on the buildings describing their origins and the characters that inhabited the buildings. It is fun wondering where the debtor who lived at 120 Main Street ended up and the story of Sarah’s garden and her gardener’s cottage. For more details on the heritage trails of the Wairarapa check our article on Heritage Trails Wairarapa.
TIP: The town’s main street is state highway 2 and large rural freight trucks that rumble through the town. While the main street is picturesque and very photogenic you cannot stand in the middle of the road for your photo opportunity. While modern commerce is sometimes a loud rumble as logging trucks pass it is also a sight and sound that contributes to the Wairarapa’s commercial energy. Be careful and use the zebra crossings when you spy another boutique store you must visit.
The drive over the Rimutaka Hills is narrow, winding and not very picturesque. You are driving for the destination not the drive. It is also the main aerial route for the Wairarapa making it reasonably congested at times.
TIP: During the week avoid the morning rush (7.30 – 9.00am) and the evening rush (4.30 – 6.30pm) and if you are not comfortable with narrow hill driving do not transverse in the dark.
There is a train service however the station is 5km from Greytown’s main street. Additionally you are going to be burdened with numerous shopping bags. The most convenient way to visit Greytown is by your own vehicle. While the train service is comfortable, and a relaxed journey through the Hutt Valley and the Rimakata Ranges the connections to Greytown mean your day trip is effectively less than five hours.
TIP: Arrive around 9.00am and enjoy breakfast in the cafes. Your energy levels are boosted for the 9.30am – 10.00am opening hours. Most stores are closed between 4.00 – 4.30pm.
Wairarapa train connections to Greytown are not convenient. During the week the train stops at the Woodside Station (5km from the main street) and there is a bus service to Greytown. The late Friday train does not have a connecting bus. During the weekend you disembark at Featherston train station. The bus route 200 connects with the mid morning train with an arrival in Greytown around 11.15am. The return bus route is 4.55pm departure from Greytown
The train back to Wellington on weekend afternoons catches the route 200 bus at 4.55pm outside St John’s Hall (opposite The Hub) on Main Street, (Greytown Bus Stop 1822 – Main Street near 74). This will get you to Featherston Station at 5.10pm in time for the train. You’ll return to Wellington at 6.25pm.
Train timetable, Check out the Wellington to Wairarapa timetable here.
The journey is worth it.