This region is called Wairarapa. The nearest town to here is Greytown, and it’s lovely. With a population of 2,500, located an hour from Wellington and on a commuter train route, it’s recently seen a boom in upscale shops and hipster cafes, with house prices to match. Our hosts took us to a fantastic spot for lunch — 2 Short Whites, run by a friend of theirs — and the atmosphere, lattes and food could not have been better.
They left us to wander the shops in town — terrific gift stores and fashion boutiques. Highlights were the posh bike shop (complete with wine carriers) and The Lolly Jar (don a plastic glove and help yourself)! Our hosts are very involved in improving the community bicycle lanes in this region, complete with raising funds to build new suspension bridges over some nearby rivers…
We’ve played Quiddler, President and Scrabble with our kids and our hosts, and they’ve taken us for a drive around their very impressive farm (they ‘cow sit’ here — grazing dairy cows until they are mature enough to go back to their home milking operations). So despite the heavy, non-stop rain, our first day in Greytown was homey and interesting and welcoming.
On Day 2 here, our hosts recommended a driving loop that we’d enjoy, and we did. We stopped in Featherston (lots of bookshops and a yummy cheese shop), then for fish and chips at the Lake Ferry Hotel — set right on the edge of both a lake and the ocean.
We headed along the coast to Cape Palliser — hoping to see fur seals and climb to a lighthouse. A gorgeous drive that rivals the Pacific Coast highway.
When we got close, the road was washed out! A van drove past us and braved the water, but we weren’t so sure our little rental car would make it. I said to Genevieve, “We need a local to come by to tell us if we can do this.” With that, a man in a truck delivering toilet paper stopped, asked if we were Canadian, and offered us a ride across!
We made it to the seal colony (amazing! So many of them, and so far inland they shocked me as I walked past), but couldn’t get as far as the lighthouse — more washouts made the road impassable. We offered to carry his load of toilet paper into the lighthouse by hand, but he turned us down and we all turned around. (Enjoy the seal photos — such good ones that we could barely choose which ones to include!)
We explored Martinborough on the way back (wineries and a few nice gift shops) before grabbing groceries and heading back to the farm to make supper for our kind hosts.
It’s so interesting to us to see how towns that look similar on the map in terms of size and location have such different “personalities” when you visit them. We’ve chatted about that with our kids and our hosts — reminding us how many different elements go into creating “buzz,” or squashing it. It seems that people — community leaders, with vision and a willingness to collaborate — make the biggest difference. Not something that gets captured on a map, or even in an economic development plan. We’ve enjoyed Greytown very much.