Foxton is the same distance north of Waikanae — 55 km — that Wellington is to the south and provides an example of an old small town which has recently done a few things to boost the visitor experience.
It began life as a river port and flax was the town’s early major product, a lot of which went to Sydney by ship, although the Manawatu River had a dangerous bar at the river mouth, but as the only real harbour between Wanganui and Wellington it was used anyway. The port finally closed in 1942.
Foxton was connected by rail to Palmerston North and Wanganui in 1873, initially with a rather bizarre looking train — a replica of its locomotive is at the north end of Main Street — using equally bizarre wooden rails. Unsurprisingly, these were replaced with steel rails 3 years later.
The town became the end of a branch line in 1886 when the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company’s directors decided to connect to the government line at Longburn rather than Foxton. The branch lasted until 1959 when it went the way of most rural branches and closed.
The State Highway 1 bypasses Main Street by two blocks to the east, the reason for which is obvious — the low hill at the south end. On this is the water tower built in 1923 that was the main landmark until 2003 when De Molen replica 17th century Dutch windmill was opened. This has a shop selling (naturally) items from Holland in its ground floor. The windmill’s sails work occasionally making stone-ground flour, which is sold inside the shop. Visitors can also view the inside mechanical workings of the mill.
About the same time, a series of murals depicting the town’s history were placed in various locations and a $2 booklet available in De Molen provides information about what they show.
Other features of interest are the Trolley Bus Museum including some from Wellington and there is a loop of trolley wires to run them around the block formed with Wharf Street and Harbour Street. The museum could use a few financial benefactors to improve it, though.
The strangely wide Main Street has some quaint old buildings in it such as the cute Municipal Chambers from 1923 — which contrasts with the recent grandiose HDC building in Levin 20 km to the south. The corner facade of the former 2-storey Whyte’s Hotel has been incorporated into the New World opened in 2002 and at the corner of Main Street and Avenue Road is the Coronation Hall, now a movie and audio-visual museum. At one stage its name was “The National Museum of Audio-Visual Arts & Sciences”!
A brand name which the town is noted for is Foxton Fizz, opposite the New World in Whyte Street. We can also remember Foxchocs and Foxton Fries.