It’s a wet weekend when we visit Lake Ferry. The sound of lashing rain adds to the roar of surf pounding the beach. There are puddles in the hotel carpark next to the grey expanse of Lake Ōnoke. Water, water everywhere.
We scurry inside to the Lake Ferry Hotel, which welcomes us with a roaring wood fire and the enticing waft of hot food. It’s busy, and we soon see why. Our plates groan with enormous whitebait fritters so fresh the fish have probably been tipped straight into the pan from the nets of the hardy souls outside.
Rain aside, we’re not too tempted to venture down to the stormy beach. An ominous sign warns against swimming in ‘dangerous surf!’ ‘strong currents!’ and ‘unpredictable wave patterns!’ “Children must be supervised at all times!”
When we arrive in Martinborough it’s a bit too late and still too wet for an afternoon wine tasting, so we choose the far more efficient option of sampling the wares from the local vineyards under the warm, dry roof of the Micro wine bar. Tom Petty (RIP) plays on the stereo – vinyl, not Spotify – as a soggy but very polite hen’s party settle in with blankets and pinot noir in a sheltered spot outside.
Martinborough village is quaint and quiet on Sunday morning. We wander through the pleasing symmetry of the square with its epitaphs to the Boer and First World Wars before getting on the road.
In Greytown, we stop to explore the Cobblestones Museum, with its replica early settlers’ village. Set amongst beautifully maintained gardens, the village is made up of buildings that have been relocated from around Wairarapa, each with their own fascinating story to tell.
Back in the 1870s, Greytown was the halfway point on the four-day journey between Masterton and Wellington. The Hastwell Stables – the site’s only original building – was built back in 1857 and provided essential farrier, coach repair and stabling services for early travellers.
Greytown itself is so picture-perfect with its mantle of frothy spring blossoms, it’s like walking onto a well-dressed movie set. And then we discover the shops… Food! Furniture! Fashion!
The plethora of homeware stores, tasteful cafes and designer clothing boutiques are like catnip to our Gen X predilections. We join the throng of enthusiastic weekend visitors weaving between the beautiful Victorian buildings that line the main street.
By contrast, there’s nothing particularly sophisticated about our next stop – the Middleton Model Railway and Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese, just outside Eketāhuna – and that’s what makes it so charming. Literally, a tourist attraction run out of a farm shed, the model railway is one of the largest in New Zealand. We’re enthralled by the display of railway tracks, villages and teeny tiny people, as we crawl under purpose-built structures and stand on stools for a better look.
And, of course, it’d be rude to leave without a sample of the delicious Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese, made by hand from the raw milk of the four Jersey cows – Dizzy, Lily, Isobel and Patsy – who live in the paddock next door.
Biddy's cheese: a rare raw milk cheese made in NZ. Her cheddar, made from the milk of just 4 Jersey cows, is bound in raw butter made on the farm. The Ministry of Primary Industry seems intent on shutting her down with demands for overwhelming amounts of testing, but at 73, she's not giving up. #cwmglynfarmhousecheese #rawmilk #cheddar #cheesetour #newzealand #ekatahuna