A popular destination among locals but often forgotten by tourists, Wairarapa is without a doubt my favourite region of the North Island. Located 1-hour northeast of Wellington, this rural region offers plenty of off-the-beaten-track experiences, and a unique ambiance, which will satisfy all travellers in search of genuine kiwi way of living. Epicureans will be delighted and so will nature lovers!
Wairarapa is renowned for its small but great quality vineyards. Masterton and Gladstone have excellent estates, but the small colonial village of Martinborough abounds with exceptional vineyards. Some properties like Poppies also include a restaurant, let yourself be tempted you will not regret it.
The region is indeed known for its excellent choice of cafes and restaurants, which are supplied by local producers for varied and great quality food: olive oil, chocolate, cheese, bread, beer, etc. Worth mentioning in particular the lovely Greytown, a village with Victorian architecture which has many interesting shops. Among those, the famous Canadian director James Cameron’s shop, where you can find organic products. Greytown is also the perfect place to shop for quality souvenirs.
Martinborough is also great in terms of gastronomy, we suggest that you spend one or two nights there, as the village’s location is ideal for enjoying the whole region.
For nature lovers, the south of this region has this kind of end of the world’s feeling. Cape Palliser, known for its lighthouse and its fur seals colony, is the southernmost point of the North Island. Don’t miss the Putangirua Pinnacles, which are impressive rock formations that served as a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings. And make sure to stop at the small fishing village of Ngawi. At the North-East, the gorgeous Riversdale beach and Castle Point beach (with its superb lighthouse) will be a perfect spot for swimming and surfing.
Wairarapa is the hikers’ playground, offering varied options for all levels. To the West, Tararua Forest Park offers breath-taking scenery and landforms. The wild and rugged east coast has nothing to be jealous of as it offers one of our favourite hikes is in the area: Whareama Coastal Walk. This two day walk on private land across pastures, forests, lakes and magnificent coastal areas, combines walking with a welcoming and comfortable experience at the lodge that will honour the region’s reputation.
For cycling lovers, Rimutaka Rail Trail, in the southwest of Wairarapa, is a great challenge. Another less intense option is to combine a visit of the vineyards and a guided discovery of Martinborough by bike.
Finally, if you are looking for exceptional quality accommodation, Wharekauhau is an operating farm that has been turned into a Relais & Châteaux. It is a summary of the region’s best: end of the world’s feelings, gastronomy and nature.
The Wairarapa region, unfairly neglected, is full of gorgeous assets and deserves to be explored for several days, to discover its unique atmosphere and all its features.
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