Nestled in the South-eastern corner of the North Island of New Zealand is the beautiful Wairarapa NZ. I mean, it’s like one of those people who wake up looking naturally gorgeous (except you don’t hate Wairarapa for doing so). The region takes in the little towns of Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton, as well as the wineries of Martinborough. Sadly, I couldn’t squeeze Martinborough into one day trip on the road but what I did fit in was enough to warrant a return visit. The two areas of greatest geological significance (read: better views) Castle point and the Putangirua Pinnacles definitely deserve a day to themselves.
Feed the Dearsies in Masterton
If you’re driving from Wellington, you will arrive at Wairarapa NZ in just a brief hour. Stop at the noticeboard, and take in the sweeping views of mountainous forest. Greytown and Featherston are worth a stopover for the quaint boutiques and nic-nack stores. Paua world in Carterton is popular with locals and tourists for authentic New Zealand Paua shell, among other gift and souvenir items, a lot classier than what you’ll find in the $2 stores.
But the highlight stop for me was Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton. You can rent paddle boats or kayaks cheaply if you fancy a a little boat ride around the lake. The kids seem to enjoy it. While we were there, the owners of the boat hire informed us that they sold bags of corn feed (a dollar a bag) to feed the deer with. Kids will love feeding the deer, but if you love animals, adults will too. Give them a few minutes to get used to your presence and soon you will have them quite literally eating out of your hands.
Breathe in the fresh air at Castle Point
Named in 1770 by Captain Cook, Castle point is a small seaside town an hour’s drive away from Masterton. The Castle Point lighthouse is the main attraction, but the whole reef is breathtaking, with large waves sporadically crashing over the rock formations in the sea. Parked on the beach is an interesting collection of old tractors and boats.
The view from the lighthouse is something else, with the sea stretching to infinity and the panorama of golden beach sand, forest and rock providing magnificent 360 degree views. We arrived in the afternoon but I imagine sunset to be the optimum time to see the beauty of Castle Point truly realised.
Wairarapa NZ… Get lost in Middle Earth
Lord of the Rings fans might remember The Putangirua Pinnacles from the Paths of the Dead sequence but it’s definitely not just a sight for LOTR fanatics. The pinnacles are an example of Badlands erosion and are characterised by huge pillars of earth. The walk to the lookout takes around an hour and while the view at the top is great for one snap, it doesn’t take in as much of the valley as one might like or expect. It is quite steep and slippery, so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone unsure on their feet.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not overly strenuous, but the view from the top isn’t as great as the experience you have walking around the base of the Pinnacles. It’s only then that you grasp how monumental these structures really are. We took the walk from the lookout to the base, following the stream to get back to the carpark. It was touching 5pm and the tide was quite high so we actually had to jump across the river to find our way back. There could be more signage as we weren’t entirely sure if we were going the right way and there wasn’t a being in sight. It only added to the adventure but if we were a group in our 60’s or 70’s it mightn’t have been such a welcome detour.
If you have the time, a drive to Cape Palliser is a must. It was approaching dark so we didn’t make it to the lighthouse but the pink skies, black sand beaches and green velvet hills made up for what we missed.