Guest Post By Anita Hendrieka
Located at the bottom of the North Island on the East coast lies one of New Zealand’s untouched regions, the Wairarapa. A majority of tourists will drive right through here or even bypass it by going down the west coast instead. It’s only an hour away from the middle of Wellington and is home to beautiful hikes, some of the best wine in the world and views that can only be described as incredible. Here are 6 reasons why you shouldn’t miss the Wairarapa on your New Zealand roadie.
1. Nature surrounds us
Most of the Wairarapa is situated in a valley which means towering mountains are all around you, all you have to do is look up. There is a huge amount of hikes that you can do which give you incredible views that you will never forget. One of the most popular mountain ranges is the Tararua Ranges. They start from Wellington through the Wairarapa and up to the Manawatu region. The Tararua Forest is actually the largest conservation park (managed by DOC) in the North Island. In the winter the hills are usually snow-capped and in the summer they provide a beautiful ledge to take photos over the Wairarapa.
My two favourite hikes to do here is Rocky Lookout and Mount Dick. Rocky Lookout is located in Mt Holdsworth and provides a popular base for campers. It only takes about an hour to get up to Rocky Lookout and let me tell you it’s worth every sweat and tear. There are many other hikes you can do past that point too. Mount Dick takes a little longer to hike up to but you get a panoramic view of the whole region, plus if you’re feeling especially lazy you can even drive up. During the weekdays you will be hard-pressed to find another person up here, it’s a local secret!
2. Home to the first white Kiwi in New Zealand EVER!
At the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, you will be able to witness something magical that a lot of tourists miss out on when coming to NZ. You will get to see the famous white Kiwi called Manukura. She was the first white Kiwi as far as we know, to hatch in captivity. Manukura has also been blessed by a local tribe and her name means ‘of chiefly status’. Another thing I can totally recommend doing at Pukaha is the night walk tour. You will go out into the bush with the Kiwi experts and find Kiwis living in the wild. This is a magical experience which you may only get to do once in your lifetime.
3. Celebrities flock to live here
If it’s okay for James Cameron (director of Titanic), Vincent Ward (Alien 3) and Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings director) to live here then that must mean something! Because the Wairarapa has such beautiful landscapes it creates a perfect escape for any celebrity and especially for a director and writer to get some peace, quiet and inspiration for the next movie. James Cameron has even started up an organic shop which is located in Greytown. If you drive past Peter Jackson’s house in Masterton will see that he lives in some kind of magical fairyland equipped with a castle, golf course, and even an underground hobbit playground! Peter has been seen in true hobbit-style walking around the town of Masterton in bare feet and regularly with his celebrity friends like Tom Cruise and Kate Winslet.
4. It ‘s relatively untouched and produces some of the best wine in the world
As I said earlier, the Wairarapa has so many hidden pockets of paradise. From the beach of Castlepoint to Rocky Lookout and the fishing village called Ngawi, it’s the perfect place to escape from chaos as you will find none of that here. After 9pm the roads are empty, all shops are shut and restaurants are winding down. The lifestyle here is much more relaxed so people from the city escape to the Wairarapa quite often.
About an hour drive from Wellington is a very small country town called Martinborough. This is probably the most touristy place in the Wairarapa because it’s famous for its wine! People come internationally and from around New Zealand to taste what’s on offer here so the locals do count on tourists to bring in an income for them. There are plenty of wine cellar doors open for you to taste their products and they are not only located in Martinborough but Gladstone and Masterton too. The best way to experience the vineyards in Martinborough is by hiring a bike and spending the day cycling from vineyard to vineyard. There are about 20 boutique wineries to make your way through! I highly recommend taking a midday break at Poppies which sell my favourite wine in the whole world (try their Rose if they haven’t sold out already!), and they also do platters for lunch which is built around the wines to give you the best tasting experience around. You must book in advance though, because it gets really busy really fast! Seasonal vineyard platters are $40 and feed 2 people. Make sure you get dessert too, my favourite is the lemon coconut tart, it’s simply divine.
5. Empty white sand and black sand beaches!
The most popular beach in the region is called Castlepoint. It’s a great place for families because there’s a lagoon, a lighthouse, huge sand dunes and also a shop so you can get your basic supplies. Many of the locals have baches (beach houses) out here, which sometimes you can hire in the summer. Make sure you get in fast though, because they book up very quickly in the summer. Other beaches that you must see are Riversdale and also Ngawi which is a black sand beach. Mataikona is a local’s favourite and is near Castlepoint. It’s practically deserted and is famous for its bizarre rock formations!
5. Incredible sunsets
I have travelled all around the world and I still think that the region I grew up in, the Wairarapa has the best sunsets. India is a close second. In the summer and autumn, you will witness the most incredible sunsets that light up the skies in vibrant reds and oranges, sometimes purple! I’m not sure why the sunsets are this amazing here, but let me just tell you, when you come across a good one you will never forget it!
I hope I convinced you not to miss the Wairarapa when you come to New Zealand. It’s well worth stopping here, even if it’s only for a few days. There are many more things to discover in the Wairarapa so make sure you check out more on my travel blog too.
Anita left home at the tender age of 19 with a one way ticket and working holiday visa ready to travel the world. Now 23 she’s explored many countries and has an every growing bucket list! These days you can find her writing about her experiences on her travel blog, Anita Hendrieka.