Stories & Legends

Hospitality has always been a hallmark of the Wharekauhau name since the 1840s when the resident Eglington family were “rarely a night without two or three guests and often a barn full”. But hospitality was only part of the Wharekauhau legacy. A determination to breed only the best purebred livestock saw the farm yielding stock that were quickly adjudged to be the best sheep in New Zealand. Farmers would bid ferociously from around New Zealand to get a Wharekauhau stud ram into their flock.

Today, the farm covers some 3,200 acres and carries around 300 head of beef cattle and 6,000 sheep, mainly Romney or Texel-based crosses. It was the strong farming heritage that drew original lodge developers Bill & Annette Shaw to the farm. Relocating from the Waikato, the Shaw’s farmed the land from the late 1970s. Inspired by the awe-struck look many of Bill and Annette’s friends would have when they arrived and experienced the farm, they decided to open the doors of the farmhouse to guests. Initially choosing to focus on international guests wishing tog experience a true New Zealand farming operation, they found great success. A success which saw the expansion of the lodging business and the current lodge and cottages were planned, constructed and opened.

The property is now owned by American businessman and vintner, William (Bill), Foley and his wife Carol. While touring New Zealand in the early 2000s Bill and Carol stayed at the property and instantly fell in love with the special feel of the farm and lodge, as well as the local wines of Martinborough. As the story goes a comment was made along the lines of, “One day I would like to buy this property…”. During a check on his vineyards in 2010 Bill returned to Wharekauhau… and so the Foley’s relationship with Wharekauhau Country Estate began. Bill’s vision lies in sharing the rugged beauty of Wharekauhau, on an authentic and historic working farm, where guests can escape and make the experience their own, whilst enjoying relaxed kiwi hospitality in a luxury environment, including enjoying farm-to-table produce and the option of sampling some of the regions finest wines.

The Wharekauhau rowlock is regarded as a longstanding brand that represents integrity, honesty, quality, and good ol’ kiwi practicality! It is the heart and soul of this property embodied in a symbol.

The rowlock, (or oarlock), symbolism is based on the historical tale of Wharekauhau’s farming heritage dating back to the mid 1880’s. In the balmy summer of 1868 Wharekauhau was in the midst of its shearing season, a shearing season that was to change the farm until this very day.

For the better part of a decade prior, Wharekauhau had been exporting wool bales by loading longboats on the beach, and rowing through the thunderous surf to the anchored ships in the calmer backwaters of Palliser Bay. Once at the ship the bales would be uplifted and paid for in Pounds based on wool weight on the ship-side. Bales would then sail around New Zealand before leaving for international destinations. The year of ‘1876’ brought a ship’s captain that was sceptical on the weight of the bales and had heard rumours of New Zealand farmers loading bales that were packed with rocks to increase the weight, and subsequently the pay-check. After rowing the first load of bales through the breakers the longboat crew were told to mark their bales with the sheep stud symbol. Not wanting to row back through the breakers, a deal was struck that if they could brand the wool in a unique way and register it at the trade office in Wellington before they left New Zealand waters, the wool-load would be accepted. A pot of paint was procured, the longboats oarlock was removed, and the brand was born.

Returning to shore the formal part of the registration was to be completed at the legal office in the then fledgling city of Wellington. As the ship set sail to the neighbouring Orongoronga Station, and onwards to Wellington, the farmer rode across the Rimutaka Incline via horseback to make the official registration.