The Wairarapa region is home to spectacular east-facing beaches, impressive forest-covered mountains, and many small towns with character. If you're keen for adventure, head to the coast for hiking and swimming. If you're more interested in for relaxing, explore charming Greytown and wine centre Martinborough. Located only an hours drive from New Zealand's capital city, the region is the perfect place for Wellingtonians or tourists to spend a weekend. Keep reading to find out our favourite things to see, do, and eat in the Wairarapa.
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Adventure: Cape Palliser
Visit the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Cape Palliser. The area has wildlife, stunning walks and a lighthouse for you to explore. Climb the 253 steps to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, which has been there since 1897. The fur seals which you may spot along the coastline form the North Island’s largest seal colony. If you're visiting between November and February and you might just see some seal pups as well!
While you're in the area, check out the Putangirua Pinnacles. This amazing rock formation was where Sir Peter Jackson filmed main scenes in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Take one of three Pinnacles Track routes to reach lookouts with spectacular views of the rock formations, Palliser Bay, and Lake Onoke.
Eat & Drink: Martinborough Wineries
Located in the centre of the Wairarapa region is Martinborough, a town well-known for boutique vineyards which produce high-quality wines. The distance between the 20-odd vineyards is short making it easy to walk or cycle between locations and enabling you to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. Because most of the vineyards are small and family run, they have a charming, casual atmosphere and provide excellent, personalised service. Check out the full list of vineyards here.
We highly recommend spending an afternoon at Poppies sipping on their handcrafted wines and grazing on their delicious platters which are made up of locally sourced seafood and meat, spreads, cheeses, vegetables, and artisanal breads. They even cater to those with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dietary requirements!
Please drink responsibly.
Active: Castle Point
Castle point is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s top beaches. Located on the east coast, an hour from Masterton, this beach and the surrounding landscape will satisfy any desire to get active. First, hike Deliverance Cove Track to Castle Rock and then onto the lighthouse, which was first lit in 1913 is one of New Zealand’s last remaining beam lighthouses. Second, head down the track to the beach where you can swim, surf, and fish in the lagoon which is sheltered by a large reef. We recommend packing a picnic lunch as the only shop in the area, the Castlepoint store, only offers barista coffee, scooped ice creams, and limited cafe/takeaway food, in addition to usual convenience store items.
Greytown is a small but glamorous village surrounded by picturesque countryside 75km from central Wellington. It's home to James Cameron, the director of popular movies such as Avatar, The Terminator, Titanic, and Aliens. The village has many designer fashion stores, speciality food stores, and quality eateries. Pop into Food Forest Organics Store & Cafe, owned by James Cameron, to pick up some organic produce grown on Cameron Family Farms and, if you're lucky, grab a photo with the star himself. We also recommend swinging into Schoc Chocolates' colonial cottage store on the main street of Greytown to taste their extensive range of premium, artisan chocolates with unusual flavour combinations.
Wildlife: Turakirae Head Seal Colony
At Turakirae Head, you'll find the largest New Zealand fur seal colony in the Wellington region. The closest public road, Coast Road, ends 3 km short of Turakirae Head. Park your car in the public carpark and walk along the road and over the Orongorongo River Bridge. Pass through a gate in the fence just over the river and follow the seaward side of the fence to the reserve and colony. Although the colony is in residence year-round, fur seals are present in highest numbers during winter where you can see up to 500 of them.
While seals can look cute and harmless, they’re powerful creatures that can inflict serious injuries to dogs or people and can carry infectious diseases. The Department of Conservation recommends staying at least 20 metres away. Please don’t disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things, including food. Find out about other wildlife encounters around New Zealand here.
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