June 4, 2020

Gallivanting through Greytown

On the cuteness scale Greytown quite possibly takes the cake in New Zealand. It is filled with Victorian buildings, colonial-era cottages and boutique shopping all within walking distance.

It’s such a depressing name for a town that is actually a shiny gem in the heart of the Wairarapa! In fact I’d put it up there with Russell, Arrowtown and Martinborough – just down the road, for cutest towns in New Zealand.

White Swan Hotel Greytown
The iconic White Swan Hotel – but read on to see how it nearly didn’t get here!

Greytown is named after Governor Sir George Grey, who arranged for the land to be bought from Maori in 1854 under the Small Farms Association Settlement Scheme. From what I can gather, relationships between Maori and the British settlers in the Wairarapa were very amicable, which is so nice to hear. (As always, I am open to reading more on this topic, so if you have any historical info, please put me in touch). I do get sick of history being told only through the white man’s “discovering” of a place. But I digress….

Greytown is a little hidden secret that only some Kiwis know about, but those who do, know it as the charming, unique village in the centre of the Wairarapa in the southern North Island, filled with lovely boutiques and a classic weatherboard pub.

It’s also only a 15-minute drive from Martinborough (so you can choose which town to stay at), and is a popular weekend away from Wellington, Palmerston North and Hawkes Bay.

Where is Greytown exactly?

Greytown on the map
Greytown on the map – and you can see Martinborough, Masterton and Castlepoint Lighthouse

Where to stay in Greytown

With a population of only 2,400 you can imagine that there aren’t too many hotels in town. And you’d be right! But with Martinborough only 15 minutes south, Masterton about the same distance north and Featherston just next door, if you have a car any of these locations are within cooee of a bed, a wine, a restaurant, or a shop!

But the most iconic hotel is the White Swan, and that’s where we stayed on my last visit.

The White Swan Hotel started life down in Lower Hutt at the Woburn Railyard as an admin block. In 2002 it was bought and transported over the Rimutaka ranges in six pieces. One piece nearly didn’t make it, closing the road for eight hours.

White Swan hotel truck accident
Yikes!

But it was pieced back together and now you’ll find 12 boutique rooms and suites upstairs and a popular gastro pub below with a busy restaurant and bar and a lovely veranda for whiling away an afternoon on the main street.

The time before when I visited Greytown I stayed at the luxurious Briarwood Boutique on a girls’ weekend. This 5-star heritage building is also on the main street but about a kilometre from the shops and was built circa 1867 and is Grade 2 listed. There are only three suites: King, Queen and Studio, and a beautiful manicured garden out the back.

Where to eat in Greytown

We only stayed one night this time so had a delicious steak dinner at the White Swan then breakfasted the next day at Cahoots – which had come highly recommended. In fact I bumped into a blog reader who confirmed that we were indeed in the best place for coffee and muffins in town!

And on our way out of town we were recommended to stop in for a meat pie and a sweet treat at the Clareville Bakery in Carterton. Excellent choice!

Cahoots Cafe
Cahoots Cafe for delicious home cooked food
Clareville Bakery
Clareville Bakery, Carterton, on the road toward Masterton. Highly recommend!
Clareville Bakery sweets
Clareville Bakery – see what I mean?!

Where to shop in Greytown

While Martinborough is best known for its surrounding wineries, Greytown is better known for its boutique shops all dotted along both sides of the one main street.

You’ll find shoes (Minx), clothing, bicycles (Blackwell & Sons), homeware, vintage and living stores plus the award-winning Schoc Chocolate with more than 85 different flavours.

But quite possibly the dinkiest store in the whole country is right here: Imperial Productions selling enamel soldiers and chess sets. It seems to have sporadic opening hours in its listed historic wooden building, so keep popping back!

Minx shoes
Blackwell & Sons is an emporium of classic, hand-built British bicycles and accessories.
hall fashion Greytown
Visit hall for fashion from sizes 10-24 of NZ made garments
Imperial Productions
The enamel marching band at Imperial Productions

Visit Castlepoint Lighthouse

As you might have read from my previous post on Martinborough, I visited Cape Palliser lighthouse on the south coast of the North Island a couple of days earlier (and couldn’t walk properly for five days due to the 252 steps up – and down!)

This time I wanted to see Castlepoint on the eastern coast but I was a bit whingey about my poor thighs. However off we set the next day en route to Masterton for our final night in the Wairarapa. It’s nearly 90 km from Greytown to Castlepoint (65 km from Masterton) and took about an hour and twenty minutes to get there. Fortunately it was a leisurely stroll on a pearler of a blue sky day in the ‘rapa!

Castlepoint lighthouse
Castlepoint lighthouse
stroll to the Castlepoint Lighthouse
A much more leisurely stroll to the Castlepoint Lighthouse than up to Cape Palliser!
View above Castlepoint lighthouse
I’ve used my wide angle feature on my iPhone to get this effect from above Castlepoint lighthouse

For more info about things to do in the Wairarapa visit WairarapaNZ.com

About Megan Singleton

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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