Petone's historic Jackson Street
Iconic and historic shopping strip alive with quirky specialist stores, boutique fashion houses, a global smorgasbord of eateries and coffee roasters
Jackson Street has been the heart of Pito-one, or Petone, almost since New Zealand’s first European settlers disembarked in January 1840 at its nearby beach.
Sea-facing, surrounded by hills, and bordered by Te Awa Kairangi/the Hutt River, these days Petone is only 15 minutes’ drive from Wellington. Now popular with affluent homebuyers attracted by the suburb’s proximity to the nation’s capital, quaint wooden houses on flat sections, and new central apartments, Petone was originally an edgy, working class town with a history of industrial revolution.
Europeans arriving in 1840 settled here and while the capital city eventually moved in to Wellington City as we know it today, Petone with its ample flat land quickly become the centre of industry and where things got made. Rail workshops, woollen mills, meat works and car factories. The years between the 1950s and 1960s, however, saw once robust local industries move away and much of the area decline. Developers of the time considered demolishing and rebuilding across the harbour in Wellington regarded Jackson Street as a place of little commercial potential.
Jackson St began a remarkable revival in the late 1980s, based largely on interest in its old buildings. In 1997 Jackson St’s unique look and feel was recognised when it became the only street in the Wellington region to be awarded Heritage Precinct status. Today, many of Jackson St’s 100+ year old shops and buildings are still standing, while others built in the 1930s to support Petone’s thriving local industries also remain unchanged.
Jackson St’s quirky, often small shops lined up along one continuous stretch of road, house numerous galleries, cafes, restaurants, and a unique retail community that draw crowds from around New Zealand and overseas.
From thrift stores full of vintage gems, to high-end designer boutiques and one-of-a-kind emporiums, Jackson St is a mecca for fashionistas, art lovers and people looking for the latest funky designs.
The area’s diverse community is reflected in the more than 60 eateries and delis found on a single 800m section of Jackson St. Foodies can choose from a literal smorgasbord of international cuisine, with everything from American, Korean, Italian, French, Vietnamese, Thai, Turkish, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and vegan on offer. It’s not only eateries with an international focus. Petone’s melting pot of cultures are served by a range of stores. A large Indian supermarket recently opened joining specialist Dutch, South African, Italian and English food shops, with major ‘big brand’ retailers also moving in alongside smaller, speciality outlets. You’ll often meet the owners behind the counter of the stores dedicated to products like handmade chocolates, candles, tableware, knives and our favourite name on the street: knobs and knockers.
On the corner of Jackson and Buick Streets a sculpture by artist Louise Purvis of a fountain cascading water marks the site of Te Puna Wai Ora (the spring of life). It’s here you’ll regularly see people from around the region filling containers with free, untreated, artesian water from the spring.
Hutt Valley locals are quick to talk about the pure artesian water from their taps, fed by a wide aquifer that delivers water to about a sixth of the Wellington region. Originating from the Hutt River, the water begins to be filtered through layers of sand, gravel and boulders and trapped by layers of silt and clay half way down the valley at Taita Gorge.
Testing by GNS Science has shown the water can be up to 200 years old in parts of the valley, and to have been filtered for around a year before it emerges from various springs, including the one at Jackson St.
Walk with champions along the street. Petone may be a small village, but it’s produced a surprising number of sporting heroes. Take a trip down memory lane between 83 and 355 Jackson Street where you’ll find bronze plaques honouring the achievements of over 175 local sports champions who have competed at the national level. Hear more of the local champions by downloading the Petone Tours app for Android (awaiting iOS)
Jackson Street is easy to find set back a few streets from the and parallel to the Petone foreshore. By car: turn off the Esplanade and follow the signs. By train: trains from Wellington Railway Station arrive regularly. Get off the train, cross the road, and head straight down Jackson St. By bus: take the 81 or 83 buses, or catch the Airport Flyer from Wellington.