Combining impeccable coastlines, valleys and quaint towns, Wairarapa in the southern North island is a mecca for all things sightseeing, exploring, food and wine.
There is so much to see in the region you could easily spend days travelling around stopping in at coastal hotspots and road side attractions, however we’ve managed to pick out the top 10 things to see and do. Have a read below and see which items you’ve already ticked off your holiday check list and which ones are going to make an appearance on the list.
10. Walk the Mt. Holdsworth Jumbo Circuit
Location: Tararua Forest Park
Winding through the Tararua Forest Park is the Mount Holdworth Jumbo Circuit; a 24 kilometre loop track. A popular tramp not for the faint-hearted, this two to three-day trek leads you to some of the regions best vantage points. With well-marked tracks guided you along the way you’ll cross over streams, climb through beech podocarp forest and stop to admire the gorgeous scenery that surrounds you.
This circuit is one of the four big tramps in the Tararuas, with 360-degree views of the region reaching as far as the greater Wellington area. If you’re planning on tackling this track, there are various accommodations along the way where you can rest and recuperate before you continue your trek in the morning.
If you can’t commit to the full multi-day trek, then you can follow different parts of the track separately. The beginning of the track from Holdsworth Lodge to Powell Hut takes around four hours to complete, as with the following stopping points on the track, making it the perfect one-day tramp.
The trail is dog friendly however all dogs must be kept under control at all times. Also, the weather in Tararua Forest Park is unpredictable and susceptible to change so make sure you’re prepared for wild weather.
9. Cycle the Greytown-Woodside Rail Trail
Location: Cotter Street, Greytown
Buckle up your helmet and get ready for a scenic and exciting adventure along the Greytown Trail. Stretching over 5 kilometres, the trail is the perfect cycling and walking adventure for visitors to the region. The track connects tourists to the quieter and less travelled streets in the region and is the perfect one-day adventure for those looking to save a little money but still explore the region.
A short but enjoyable journey, the trail provides incredible scenic views of the surrounding region making it a perfect adventure for everyone to enjoy. The track is suited for prams, bikes and dogs (on a leash) so the whole family can happily join in, even the four-legged members.
8. Visit The Alpaca Place
Location: 365 Bluff Rangitumau Rd, Masterton
Opening Hours: Friday to Wednesday 10:30am & 1:30pm
With interactive alpaca farm tours, The Alpaca Farm is a must-see for animal lovers travelling through the Wairarapa region. At The Alpaca Place you can get up close to these intelligent and gentle creatures within the picturesque Wairarapa region. Since 2006 visitors and locals have been attracted to the farm to meet and make friends with these cute creatures. This tour will take you behind-the-scenes of this working alpaca farm to see various alpaca farming tasks such as shearing.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box animal encounter, then The Alpaca Place is the attraction for you. This is an amazing opportunity to get up close to these intriguing creatures, take them for a walk and make some new friends.
- Adults (15 years and over) $25
- Accompanied children FREE
- Tour Groups (8+ ppl) $18 per person
7. Attend the Wairarapa Balloon Festival
If you’re visiting the Wairarapa region in February, the Wairarapa Balloon Festival should be at the top of your to-do list. The festival lifts off on the 25th of February and runs for five days. In that time the festival hosts large crowds looking to watch these fun balloons rise into the air. Perfect for the entire family, the festival is a popular attraction amongst the young ones.
The balloons are quite spectacular with their vibrant colours and creative designs. Past balloons featured in the festival have included Owlbert Eyenstein; a big, brainy bird, and Flighthouse; a floating lighthouse. There are usually more than 15 different balloons floating in the festival over the five days. There are also various competitions and giveaways that will make the event all the more enjoyable.
6. Visit the Martinborough Vineyards
Opening Hours: Check with individual vineyards for opening hours
Martinborough is home to over 20 boutique vineyards, meaning your opportunities to taste some of the regions best wines are ample. All within walking or cycling distance from the village square in the region, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to which wineries to visit. Depending what day you’re planning to go and if you’re looking to accompany your wine tastings with a meal, there are different wineries that will suit you and your tastes.
Some of the vineyards that are open to visitors daily include Brodie Estate, Palliser Estate Wines and Te Kairanga Wines; weekend only wineries include Cabbage Tree Vineyard, Cambridge Road Vineyard and Hamden Estate; and vineyards with restaurants include Tirohana Estate, Vynfields and Coney Wines. If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, enjoy a glass or two of good wine or are looking to expand your taste buds, then a visit to Martinborough’s wine region is a must.
You can embark on a guided tour around some of the best vineyards from Wellington. Tranzit Tours will take you from the NZ capital out to wine country to spend the day tasting wines, learning about the wine making process and exploring the picturesque vineyards.
- Prices vary between different vineyards and restaurants
5. Taste some kiwi beer at the Tui Brewery
For years, the Tui Brewery has been creating delicious brews that locals and visitors to the region tend to fall in love with. With a bevy of awards under its belt – one dating back to 1989 – Tui Brews became a popular drink amongst the younger generation in the 90s and thanks to locals branching out to university, word about this delicious beer soon spread.
With the saying; “At Tui’s Brewery, there’s always something brewing”, you know you’re in for a good time. Visit the Tui Brewery to taste their delicious creations or pick up a Tui beer at a local shop or pub – the choice is yours, but make sure you at least taste this Wairarapa gem. There are tours that run through the brewery on Mondays to Sundays at 11am and 2pm for a behind-the-scenes look at the working brewery, a free museum highlighting its history, and Kiwiana Café at the Tui HQ to enjoy a bite to eat.
- $25 per tour (incl. 3 beers & a glass)
4. Take in the views at Castlepoint
Taking out the title for New Zealand’s most loved beaches for a few years running, Castlepoint is a gem in the Wairarapa region. With great swimming, surfing and walking trails explorers and beach lovers will be well in their element here. One of the main highlights at the beach is the historic lighthouse, which was first lit in 1913 and now stands as one of the final two beam lighthouses in the country.
Visit any day and you’ll likely find some avid anglers beach fishing off the shore. If you have the gear and are looking to get your line wet why not join the locals and try your luck? If a good feed is what you’re after then the historic Whakataki Hotel built in 1896 has you covered. You could easily spend a whole day in this sleepy coastal town!
3. Explore Stonehenge Aotearoa
Opening Hours: 10am – 4pm
A modern adaptation of the Stonehenge ruins in England, Stonehenge Aotearoa was erected to encourage people to rediscover their ancestors. Built by The Phoenix Astronomical Society it was specifically designed for the Wairarapa region and features a Polynesian star compass.
The attraction is located on private property so to visit it you need to book in advanced and pay an entrance fee. There are tours available to take you around the attraction and tell you about its history and purpose. Tours run for around an hour and often book out, so it’s important to book before your arrival. If you don’t wish to join in on a tour you can walk around the grounds yourself with the help of an audio-visual guide and map.
- School Students $5
- Seniors (56+) $15
- Adults $20
- School Students $5
- Seniors $8
- Adults $10
2. Have an animal encounter at Pukaha Mount Bruce
Location: 85379 SH 2, Mount Bruce
Opening Hours: Daily (except Christmas Day) 9am – 4:30pm
A great animal attraction in the Wairarapa region, Pukaha Mount Bruce has a number of attractions and activities to suit all ages. There are a total of seven wildlife talks and feeding sessions throughout the day to sit in on, a nocturnal house where Manukura, the only white kiwi in captivity lives as well as Turua, a North Island Brown Kiwi. Moving through the free flight aviary you’ll be able to see a number of different bird species flying around in a replica of their natural habitat. You’ll be able to spot Kaka (native parrots), Takahe, Hihi (stitchbird) and Whio (blue duck) to name a few.
If you’re looking to enhance your experience within the park you can sign up for one of their guided tours. Visitors will have the option of the one hour guided two, the exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, lookout lunch tour and night adventure.
- Children (under 5yrs) FREE
- Children (5-15yrs) $6
- Adults $20
- NZ Gold Card Holders $17
- Family Pass $50
- Pukaha Mount Bruce Members FREE
- 1hr Guided Tour: $45
- Exclusive BTS Tour: $125
- Lookout Lunch Tour: Adults $60 / Children $45
- Night Adventure: Normal entry fees
1. Climb the 250 stairs to Cape Palliser Lighthouse
Location: Cape Palliser
Following on the coastal road to Cape Palliser, the adventure will have already begun before you reach your destination. However, once you’ve arrived in Cape Palliser you’ll be blown away by the natural beauty of the region. With a rich Maori history and a number of heritage sites located in the area, you won’t know where to look first as every part of this region is more beautiful than the next.
Since 1897 the Cape Palliser Lighthouse has been standing tall in the region and today acts as a great challenge for visitors looking to test their fitness. With 250 stairs to reach the top you can race up them or take your time, however once you’ve reached the top all of the effort will be well worth it. Apart from the great views of the surrounding ocean, the locals are a great drawing card too.
The cape is home to the North Island’s largest wild NZ fur seal colony. Depending on when you’re visiting you can watch these point nosed animals play about in the water and laze on the rock. From mid November to mid January, the colony is in breeding season so you might get lucky enough to see some pups.
In addition, if you’re looking for things to see and do around New Zealand, be sure to check out our full catalogues featuring a range of tours, activities and attractions around the whole country.