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-> Map of Wairarapa

Our Wairarapa travel tips:

  • Wairarapa region If you're heading back north at the end of your New Zealand trip you could detour via the scenic Wairarapa inland route, connecting Upper Hutt with Taupo or Napier
  • The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail comes through here, in between Hawkes Bay and Marlborough
  • The Wairarapa coast feels especially remote and wild, the edge of New Zealand, with beautiful lighthouses, wildlife and spectacular scenery
  • Mount Bruce Pukaha National Wildlife Reserve is one of the best wildlife centres in New Zealand
  • There are many beautiful heritage buildings in the local towns

Days of wine and walkways

Wairarapa is tucked away in the south-east corner of the North Island, at the foot of the rugged Tararua Range. Maori called the region "Land of Glistening Waters".

If you arrive from Wellington, you’ll wind your way over the Rimutaka hills and along the route trodden by early European settlers 150 years ago. The vast Wairarapa valley will open up before you, fringed by mountains to the west and rugged coast to the east.

European settlement dates back to the 1840s, but Maori history is much older. Archaeological research has shown that parts of the Wairarapa coast have been occupied for at least 800 years.

Essentially rural with off-the beaten-track charm, Wairarapa promises a diverse experience for those who appreciate great wine, gourmet food, astonishing wildlife and natural beauty. Rolling vineyards, acres of apple orchards, fields of lavender, olive groves, heritage museums and quaint historic towns combine to make Wairarapa an appealing destination.

Cape Palliser, complete with lighthouse, is the southernmost point of the North Island. Highlights include a large breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals and Maori occupation sites dating from the 12th century.

Approximately 30 wineries surround Martinborough’s charming village square, creating a unique 'walk the wineries' experience. You can sample premium wines without the need to drive.

An hour’s drive east from Masterton, Castlepoint beach is a great day trip. Walk the boardwalk to the lighthouse or enjoy a longer walk through the scenic reserve to Castle Rock, named by Captain Cook in 1770.

See here for hotels in the Wairarapa region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the Wairarapa region

  • Mount Bruce Pukaha National Wildlife Reserve: This fenced 'mainland island reserve' with its successful breeding programme for all sorts of native animals is a fantastic stop on the way. A great chance to see Kiwi, Takahe, Tuatara or Kokako, both in enclosures and in the wild.
  • Martinborough: This centre of a thriving wine region is a great destination for gourmets. From here you can visit the many vinyards or drive south to Cape Palliser and Lake Ferry at the outlet of Lake Onoke, which in turn gets fed by the much bigger Lake Wairarapa.
  • Cape Palliser: Remote but spectacular, this is a lighthouse that certainly won't disappoint. Set on a steep rocky ridge with a bizarrely long staircase leading up to it, it offers wonderful views over the wild beaches and ocean. There are seals on the beaches leading up to the lighthouse and plenty of photo opportunities at the Ngatiwai settlement with its unique fashion to launch the big fishing boats into the surf: giant bulldozers!
  • Masterton: The agricultural and commercial centre of the Wairarapa has - of course - its share of heritage buildings, but it's also the gateway to the remote and spectacular Castle Rock, Castlepoint lighthouse and settlement (70 kilometres one way!). There are also a range of museums and attractions, such as Stonehenge Aotearoa near Carterton.
  • Featherston: This small heritage town is connected to Wellington by railway and boasts a number of military and engineering museums. From here you can circumnavigate Lake Wairarapa or visit Ocean Beach, a very wild and remote spot without facilities and too dangerous to swim. Featherston is the first Wairarapa town after driving over the Rimutaka Hill (555 metres), be careful because wind and ice can be dangerous or lead to road closures.

The best Wairarapa walks

  • Putangirua Pinnacles Track - rock formations in Aorangi Forest Park on Cape Palliser Road (2-4h return)
  • Pukaha Mt Bruce has a range of walking tracks
  • Deliverance Cove Track in the Castlepoint Scenic Reserve (1,5 h return)
  • Gentle Annie Track - panoramic view from Rocky Lookout (4 h return), Mount Holdsworth Road, west of Masterton
  • Waiohine Gorge - with a long suspension bridge and many other walks, Tararua Forest Park, along Dalefield Road, south of Carterton
  • Featherston Reserves Walkway - short walks from Featherston Domain, Featherston
  • Rapaki Walk - through farmland with views (2 h return), Dublin Street, Martinborough

The best Wairarapa viewpoints

  • Castlepoint Lighthouse
  • Cape Palliser Lighthouse

The best Wairarapa museums

  • Aratoi - Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Dixon Street, Masterton
  • Sports and Vintage Aviation Society Museum, South Belt, Masterton
  • Cobblestones Wairarapa Regional Settlers Museum, Main Street Greytown
  • Fell Locomotive Museum, Lyon Street, Featherston

Map of the Wairarapa region

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