We started with the most outstanding – or should I say upstanding – place in town: the 30 metre high, De Molen Windmill.
De Molen, which means ‘The Mill’, is a working replica of a 17th century Dutch windmill. The story of how it came to fruition illustrates the incredible tenacity of two Dutch immigrants, Jan Langen and Dirk van Til.
The flat landscape around Foxton reminded them of Holland and in the 1980s they decided to grow tulips on a property they bought together. “Wouldn’t it be great to add a windmill, then it would really be like home” they thought.
Unfortunately, the tulip crop didn’t prosper – the climate wasn’t suitable – but their dream of building a windmill remained.
Eventually Dirk moved to Australia, but Jan hung on to that dream. Another Dutchman, Cor Slobbe became project manager and with the support and hard work of the community, De Molen Windmill opened to the public in 2003.
Next door to the windmill – the Foxton Flax Stripper museum – is another piece of Foxton’s history. Cheerful museum volunteer, Gary May is a mine of information. “Flax is a poor cousin to hemp but it was in demand to make fire hoses for Britain during WWII when hemp became scarce,” he tells us.
At MAVtech Audiovisual Museum we enjoy a trip down memory lane – old records – yes, we recognise a few of those, radiograms and transistor radios. “Isn’t it scary how many of these things we remember from our childhood?” says our friend, Maxine who has joined us for the weekend.
The fine old Art Deco style building now housing MAVtech was once known as the Coronation Town Hall (it later became a movie theatre) – and it was a real hub of social activity. The theatre is still used today.
Foxton Beach is vast but largely deserted and because it’s hot and windy, we head to the Simply Balmy ice cream parlour. We buy chocolate dipped ice creams, which we race to devour as they quickly melt, making a sticky mess all over our hands.
On the way back from the beach we can’t resist a nosey into a shop crammed full of vintage clothing and other interesting bric a brac. This is the Cat’s Pyjamas, run by Carla and her husband Simon, who works in another shop they own, intriguingly called, Junk and Disorderly.
We try out the local cuisine at the Simply Balmy Cafe and Wine Bar and come away feeling very satisfied.
After dinner we decide it’s a good time for a spot of bird watching at the Manawatu Estuary. Wild pink sweet peas and soft green grasses wave in the breeze just below the viewing platform.
This estuarine wetland is home to the most diverse range of birds to be seen (97 species) in at any one place in New Zealand and has been listed as a Wetland of International Importance.
Before we start home, its one last stop at Mr. Grumpy’s Takeaways at Foxton beach – the name is enough to lure us in – and besides, our local resident assures us he makes excellent fish and chips.
So was Foxton dull and boring? No not at all and there are still a few activities we’d like to do, such as the historic walks around the town and the horse drawn tram. Word has it that a Dutch Museum (The Te Awahou-Nieuwe Stroom project) will open in the next few years.
Other Foxton highlights
- Horse-drawn tram
- Manawatu River loop reserve
- Awahou board walk
- Colourful murals all over town
- Dutch Market
- The Dutch Oven Café and Bakery
- Motorhome parking available at Foxton Beach Motor Camp
- Victoria Park (has waste disposal for campervans)
The nearest Kiwi Holiday Park to Foxton is Wellington’s Kiwi Holiday Park. See the directory on page 106 for details.
The community donated approximately $1 million to the windmill project.
De Molen attracts around 22,800 visitors, annually.
The windmill stands as an icon to all New Zealanders of Dutch descent. Its main use is to grind flour.