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5 Wonders of the Wairarapa

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Whether it’s a relaxing getaway with the girls or a family adventure, Wairarapa attractions can be enjoyed all year round. From hiking its rugged coastline, to long vineyard lunches or simply stargazing beside the embers of an outdoor fire, you’ll be seduced by the charms of this unique region. Here’s five picks for a leisurely long weekend in the beautiful Wairarapa.

Source: Miles Holden via Visuals New Zealand

1. Taste the Towns

With cheesemakers, gin distilleries, farmer's markets, olive groves, chocolate stores, bakeries and great restaurants, the cute villages of Carterton, Greytown, Martinborough and Featherston are bursting with great artisan food. First up, mix and mingle at the local Farmers Market and stock up on seasonal produce, award-winning olive oils from local producers Juno Olive or Olivo and fresh honey. Enjoy toe-tapping local buskers and graze at food trucks serving up paua fritters or hangi-style food.

Drop into The Grocer or C’est Cheese for your picnic supplies of handcrafted cheese, relishes and fresh bread followed by Finom Kitchen for homestyle baking. Schoc Chocolates in Greytown turn out hand-crafted treats from fairtrade beans, with over 85 flavours to tempt your tastebuds. While Featherston’s Sweet Kitchen and Delights will take your tastebuds down memory lane with its genuine Turkish delight, liquorice strips, tangy citrus curd and more.

Treat yourself to a long Sunday lunch at the classy Wharekauhau Country Estate or a leisurely meal in the historic Martinborough Hotel, two of the best places to eat Wairarapa-gourmet food. Or head to the Lake Ferry Hotel for a serve of lip-smacking Ferry fish and chips or their delicious chowder.

2. Venture amongst the vines

One of the most popular things to do in the Wairarapa is to hire a bike and enjoy an easy self-guided ride or amble around wine cellar doors. Where else but Martinboroughwith its 20 or so vineyardscan you walk or cycle in an afternoon between local award-winning wineries, like Palliser Estate, Schubert wines, or Margrain. Here you can meet the winemakers, savour the region’s renowned pinot noir and enjoy a relaxing snooze under the leafy vines.

3. Marvel at the Milky Way

After a full day’s sightseeing, cast your gaze upwards and enjoy the vast dark skies of the Wairarapa, which claims to show off more stars than anywhere else on Earth. The region enjoys an exceptional night sky and is vying to become a recognised Dark Sky Reserve with its clear view of the Milky Way, easily spotted on a night with little or no moon. Astronomy enthusiasts can book an Under the Stars tour with local experts to find out more about the astral heavens above.

4. Conquer Cape Palliser and the Pinnacles

Lighthouse lovers are in for a treat one-hour south of Martinborough. The candy-cane striped Cape Palliser Lighthouse once warned 19th century ships away from the dangers of rocky Palliser Bay. Today it marks the southernmost edge of the North Island and provides a challenging 253 step tower-climb before rewarding you with spectacular coastal views. Look closely for the resident fur seals lounging on the jagged black rocks as you’ve discovered their preferred North Island breeding.

Just off the Cape Palliser Road is one of the best walks Wairarapa is known for; the 90-minute hiking track to the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve. Here you’ll discover stunning rock formations, standing upright like giant organ pipes. This eerie landscape provided a spooky backdrop in the Return of the King movie, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

5. Stay and play somewhere special

For off-the-grid luxury, you can’t go past the hospitality and stylish comfort of Kaituna Riverside Cottages, one of the hidden gems Wairarapa is famous for. Here you can kick back in one of two cosy cottages and immerse yourself in nature, solar powered of course. Lounge in the sun and watch the kids frolic in the freshwater swimming hole as you dive into that novel you’ve been dying to read. Take a short hike to the property’s very own cascading waterfall then lie back in a hot outdoor bath and savour a glass of fine wine from an award-winning local vineyard.

At night fall, rustle up a platter from a prearranged hamper of local goodies before drifting off to sleep in your luxurious loft bed to the burbling sounds of the nearby river. You’ll be planning a return visit to this secluded haven nestled in the lap of the stunning Tararua Ranges, before you even drive away.

Whatever your interests, contact the team at Kaituna Riverside Cottages for more information on local Wairarapa attractions including sightseeing, wine tours, cycle hire and the best places to eat in the area. Do as much or as little as you wish at one of the best places to stay in Wairarapa.

Discover more Wairarapa inspiration here.

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