Greytown Winter Festival - an Amazing Christmas Travel Idea

It’s beginning to look a lot like mid-winter Christmas- A wonderful travel idea for this July.

Fire & Ice Spectacular

Photo Credit: Greytown Festival of Christmas

Grab your Kathmandu puffer jacket and beanie, or bring your Christmas jerseys if you are really keen and check out the ‘happiest festival in New Zealand’ this July. I for one am a huge Christmas fan and the thought of spending the school holidays at home mid-winter was enough to prompt me to book a trip to Wellington and the Wairarapa for a mini three-night midwinter Christmas-themed vacation. So last year I visited Greytown to find out: is this really the happiest festival in New Zealand? And where in fact is Greytown?

Flying down for a Greytown Christmas

With the promise of snow flurries, glowing Christmas lights, and yummy treats, we embarked on our journey South. I don’t know who was more excited in our family, but I suspect it was Master 6! We landed at Wellington Airport, with warm winter gear in tow, waited about 10 minutes for our very nondescript black suitcase to come through on the baggage carousel, and rang the number on our rental car confirmation. We were given instructions to wait by an exit door near the baggage carousel. Within 5-10 minutes our friendly shuttle driver Harry came and collected us and the other passengers and led us to the waiting shuttle. The shuttle had infant car seats installed for those who needed them and took us to the Omega rental car depot within about 8 minutes.

Omega's courtesy shuttle van, pick-up point at the airport.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

The location is very close to the airport. When we got there, we went inside and finalized some paperwork and then were on our way out of the depot, all in about 10 minutes and into a bright zippy Toyota Corolla hatch.

Bright blue zippy Toyota Corolla

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars


Over the Remutaka Hills

We were off, heading north out of Wellington and made our way to the infamous Remutaka hills. The drive was pretty smooth, the mountains are a bit windy to drive through for a time, but the Corolla handled it with no problem. There is a lookout point near the top of the mountain if you need a rest, or want to check out the forest scenery. The Remutaka area is popular with trampers. 


Delicious Festive Food

Candy floss stand popular stall amongst the crowds.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

We came out to the bottom of the mountain range and were in the Wairarapa. We drove through the little village of Featherston and then made our way to Greytown. Bright lights, not so much big city. Which is a good thing. Greytown is such a hidden gem. We loved our time there. The shops and village are quaint, and they sure know how to make good food. The highlights of the food for our unsophisticated palettes were the cinnamon buns and the hot chips from the food trucks and the gelato at Meneez Gelato, just the smell alone here is amazing. A sweet mix of waffles meets ice cream. Yum. The young whippersnapper’s palette was more about the candy floss, which you could get in glowing or non glowing varieties….what!?!....(I know right!). 


Magical Lights along the Main Street

Crowd admiring the magical lights along Main Street.

Photo Credit: Greytown Festival of Christmas

At night the town transforms into a twinkling winter wonderland full of families, couples, or singles, anyone really, just enjoying it all. The streets feature kids' Star Wars styles donning lit-up glowsticks, lightsabers, and spinning whirring things of which I am not really sure what they were apart from annoying if you got too close to them. 


Snow Flurries Create Special Memories

People enjoying the snow flurries.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

Streets were filled with the sounds of Christmas music, and the smells of yummy food and hot chocolate, fried treats, and gourmet delights. There were bonfires, outdoor heaters and even snowfalls! Yes, every Friday/Saturday night in July there were snow flurries every half hour from 6-8 pm and boy was this fun for adults and kids. This nontoxic mixture of bubbles/fluff/wintery magic was shot out of some form of tubing from the balcony of the ‘town hall’ building by giant puffy snowmen onto the waiting crowd below. Shrieks of joy from children and laughter from adults filled the air. Phones were stationed in the air filming kids and adults alike getting covered in fluffy ‘snow’. All the fun minus the freezing temperature of the snow. Although the air was crisp, we were dressed in our ski jackets, the general getup was a sea of Kathmandu and Macpac puffers and jeans, standard attire for an NZ winter.


More Food in Greytown

Christmas tree creating the festive atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

After watching the snowfall, we crossed the road, thanks to the help of snowmen with lollipops in charge of stopping the traffic, and checked out the fun on the other side of the street. There was a truckstop with food trucks and a bonfire (which was packed) and shops and restaurants were also open. There is also a supermarket in town, Fresh Choice which has pretty much everything you need in the way of general groceries. There was a cool old-school lolly shop with lollies in jars where you put on a plastic glove and go to town scooping out lollies into a bowl which are sold by weight, they had favourites like jersey caramels and jelly babies and a few I didn’t expect to see in the jars like minties and milkshakes. 


Explore Greytown and Surrounding Areas

Vintage fire truck.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

There are a few accommodation options around town, motels close to the action or you could stay at nearby Masterton, Carterton Featherston, or Martinborough where you are in the heart of the Wairarapa wine region. 

The next day we went to the country fete, at Cobblestones Museum, the weather was a bit drizzly and the highlight of the trip was getting a ride from outside the town hall to the Museum in a vintage fire truck. It was pretty cool and great for kids. The old-timer driving the truck was also a really cool guy. The museum took a koha (donation) and we went into the fete. There were old school lawn games and stilts, and fun things like a lucky dip, a bit of a vintage goods sale and they served Devonshire tea with scones and jam and cream! Yum. There was someone spinning wool, another lady in Victorian attire sat sewing on an old vintage Singer and there were craft tables set up for kids in the old school room. 

Someone spinning wool, another lady in Victorian attire sat sewing.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars

Right next door there is a chocolate shop, Schoc Chocolates which sells handmade chocolate treats. The hot chocolates were certainly popular. They had all sorts of flavours of chocolate and all sorts of shapes including a shoe and a teacup. Something for everyone indeed.


Greytown Things to Do

There is a full programme of events from Sing-a-Longs to competitions, mulled gin to crafternoons and comedy shows. There really is something for everyone. The highlight for us was the ‘snow flurry’ which is set to music and lights. The opening and closing weekends seem to be the busiest and Saturday nights seem to be busier than Fridays from what we experienced. 

Greytown Festival of Christmas is free and there is no entry fee. Many families attend the festival to enjoy the joy and celebration of Christmas cheer like only a friendly small town can provide. It was very much reminiscent of the feeling of a Christmas movie where the leading character inevitably ends up having to go back to their small hometown for Christmas to see family and falls back in love with the small-town hospitality and warmth. I would highly recommend a visit to this cute small-town festival and really do think it just might be New Zealand’s happiest festival.

Blue Toyota Corolla off to see more.

Photo Credit: Omega Rental Cars


Spend "Christmas" in Greytown NZ

To experience a fabulous mid-winter Christmas experience, visit Greytown this July. For advice and insights on other Greytown attractions, check out the amazing itineraries and famous Kiwi attractions on our blog.