Catch the train from the Wellington Central Railway Station and your first point of interest is the Petone Railway Station. Petone station is a commuter hub with a flagpole partially obscured by a wind blown Pohutakawa. The Flagpole here is to commemorate the ANZAC spirit of Railway workers from Petone and those from Hornsby New South Wales who were posted together to the front during World War I. The pole’s timber is a combination of Kauri and Australian timber. A bit of history half hidden by time.
In 1840 Petone became the first European settlement in New Zealand. The result was a series of firsts on Petone Beach: the first Wellington area church service; the first bank in New Zealand, the Union Bank of Australia, which opened on 24 March 1840; the first horse race meeting in New Zealand. The first New Zealand newspaper, The New Zealand Gazette, was also printed nearby at Britannia on 18 April 1840. While the area is flat, due to the tidal nature of the Hutt River flooding and the occasional earthquake a number of settlers relocated to the nearby hills to establish Wellington. Petone became the district of working class families and a hub for manufacturing. Petone’s recent past is as an industrial and manufacturing centre for lower North Island. Meat processing plants, chemical factories, various food processing plants, a large newsprint facility complete with its own rail connections.
Experience Jackson Street & Around Bronze plaques embedded in Jackson Street marking sites of significance. Spend half a day window shopping, choosing which of the many cafes to leisurely people watch.
Watch out for pop up stalls indicating a new designer who has targetted the area. Shopping Archives lists the various shops.
There are stalwarts like House of Knives. As their website name indicates is more than just knives. A fabulous place to get inspired for your next cooking show.
Independent bookshops stocked with cookbooks and hard to find titles. A glorious vintage clothing store,Style on Jackson – Preloved Designer clothing definitely should be on your checklist.
Then there is a funky local designer whose outlet is Planet Retro and a bead store for crafty visitors who want to whip up jewellery.
Lluma Specialist Candle Store with great gift ideas or scented candles for a special evening. The street encourages visitors to linger with wide pavements, outdoor seating and a relaxed seaside atmosphere. A traditional high street shopping experience that cannot be replicated in a modern shopping mall.
Then there is a gem.
Stansborough is a 1920’s textile mill still in operation and creating exquisite textiles echnology from the 1890s woollen mills. There is a retail outlet attached to the mill as well as mill tours. A must do hidden gem shopping experience.
An independent cinema that is a beautifully restored art deco building specialising in independent films and local productions. A great way to finish a day shopping is a visit to a cinema where plush seating encourages you to collapse into the cosy warmth of a historic theatre.
Patrick Street Houses, a social housing experiment that reset New Zealand’s political future. Find the street, and wonder about New Zealand’s past sitting quietly in a suburban street. NZPlaces.
Fill up your water bottle from the spring of life. At the corner of Petone’s Buick and Jackson Street you will notice a number of people filling very large containers from a public tap. The water is pure artesian water at Te Puna Wai Ora (The Spring of Life).
Hutt River Estuary bird watching hot spot. While it is a bit tatty around the corners bird watchers and the occasional person fishing from the local bridge
A cemetery aptly described by NZPlaces, “Amongst the hum of Petone’s light industry lies a tiny oasis of history, a graveyard for many prominent Maori whanau and memorial to a famous ancestor. Te Puni Street, and Te Puni Urupa are named for the 19th century Paramount Chief of Atiawa who was a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi and negotiated much of the development and settlement of Hutt Valley.
Next door, the entire beachfront block is taken up with New Zealand’s primary postal centre, also named Te Puni, which shut for good in 2015. Tenants have moved in to the massive complex and other small manufacturing, service and importing businesses survive nearby, the biggest employer being the New Zealand Racing Board on Jackson Street.
The deceased in the Urupa sleep on. Still used for burial of some high ranking Atiawa, the Urupa provides a slim snapshot of the process of change for this Iwi, etched on the graves buried here from the nineteenth century until today. When NZ Places visited here, a swarm of seabirds protectively circled the site, a senior seagull keeping watch on a shipping container pulpit in the east. The entrance gate creaked and asked to be opened firmly and gently, or not at all. The tap and bottled water remind the visitor to follow Maori Protocol and wash off the wairua (spirit) of the deceased when leaving. A strange peace pervades this rugby pitch sized home of the dead, most of the prevailing winds somewhat blocked by neighbouring buildings. Here is a place to see and understand the Maori respect for the ancestor, isolated in an industrial world.”
Of course, many Petone residents commute every day on the train. Petone has a large range of accommodation choices as it is a favourite place for conferences and larger gatherings due to its convenient location and local charms.
The journey is worth it.