As I have lived in the Wairarapa most of my life I have some great tips on what you should do here. Just an hour from Wellington it is the perfect getaway if you are looking for somewhere a bit quieter and want a rural experience. Bypass Auckland and come straight down to the South-East coast of the North Island!
Where to stay on a budget in the Wairarapa?
If you are in the Wairarapa you need to go camping at Mt Holdsworth. It has all the facilities and is a measly $6NZD a night per person. At the base of Mt Holdsworth it is the hub for great hiking up the mountains. There is a range of walks lasting from half an hour to 8 hours long so there is something for everyone. There are several huts along the way that you could stay at if you want to getaway in the bush for a few days as well. You are literally in the middle of the forest and it is stunningly beautiful on a summers day. Remember to look up at night to see a clear view of the Milky Way! Mt Holdsworth is located about 20 minute drive from Masterton.
There are also two backpacker options in Masterton if you want to be close to town. One is the Empire Lodge you can even opt for a flash packer option if you like! The other one is called Chanel Court Motel. Prices are $30 for 1 person and $50 if there are two of you.
Note: The Wairarapa have a crap transport system so if you would like to get about I suggest you hire a car. Taxis are very expensive and there are simply not enough buses and train services to get you to the most beautiful places.
Where to eat in the Wairarapa?
You have to go to Poppies Martinborough. It is set in a beautiful location in the vines. Poppies is a tasting room for their dazzling wines but they also offer a seasonal vineyard platter for lunch to complement them. It costs $40 (for 2 people) which is reasonable considering the service you get and you will probably spend most the afternoon here. With that price you also get a tasting of all their wines! Poppy and Shane are the highlight of the place though, tell them Anita says hello!
If you are looking for a quick snack then pop into Kitcheners in Martinborough for a bacon buttie, it’s $5 and is where the locals get cheap grub on the go!
Cafe Strada in Masterton is also an excellent option. They have a great selection of food, smoothies, lovely coffee and wine for you to try! It is right next door to the theatre which I mention below as well. My favourite is their creamy chicken, bacon and mushroom fettuccine!
Greytown has some amazing places to eat including The French Baker. It has great coffee and delicious French pastries that make my mouth water! It’s right on the high street so you can have a bite to eat and people watch at the same time.
There is also a great place to get amazing wood fired pizza! It’s called The Farriers Bar & Eatery. Reasonable priced and it will leave your belly more than full!
Need a dessert fix? Head to Schoc Chocolate. They offer delicious chocolate that’s made on site. They have over 60 flavours including pink peppercorn, whole lime and salt and smoke paprika! You can taste the chocolate before you buy it as well! It’s located on Main St in Greytown.
What to do and see in the Wairarapa?
You have to hike up Rocky lookout at Mt Holdsworth and also Mt Dick lookout in Carterton. I have a great post on them here.
If you are not a hiker I highly suggest you do a night walk at Pukana Mt Bruce and see/hear some kiwis out in the wild. Make sure you book well in advance though! You can also visit in the daytime and feed the eels or see the rare white kiwi!
Another suggestion is to hire a bike in Martinborough and do wine tastings! The wine tastings are usually $5 (some differ) and it’s a great way to see the scenery while drinking some good quality wine.
If you are a beach goer then Castlepoint Beach might be the one for you. It’s a great beach with lots to do but bring a picnic with you as there are no food shops out there anymore! There is a pub just outside of the town called Whakataki Hotel. It’s pretty cheap and good for decent pub food.
What not to do in the Wairarapa?
Hang around McDonalds car park on a late Friday and Saturday night – all locals will probably laugh at that comment. 3 words – full of drunks. Also, trying to find a car park on the weekend in Greytown is manic!
Don’t forget to bring your manners. When hiking or doing walks it’s always nice to say thank you if someone has let you pass or even say a friendly hello.
Don’t drop your rubbish. New Zealands landscape is impeccably clean compared to most other destinations I have visited. Lets keep it that way!
Other fun facts about the Wairarapa
- In the summer (December- February) the Wairarapa is usually in drought season. Be conservative with water and please DO NOT chuck your cigarette out of the window. Remember, don’t start an open fire in the campsites in drought season, it’s a huge fire risk!
- The national sheep shearing competition (Golden shears) is held in Masterton every year in March. The fastest time to shear a sheep was 39.31 seconds!
- If you want to go to a traditional ‘old school’ movie theatre then head to the Regent 3 in Masterton. The building is amazing and very traditional. You have to have popcorn as well – it is the tastiest in all the land! Don’t forget to look up when you first walk in, the ceiling is amazingly decorated
- Extra fact! 3 of the biggest Hollywood directors live in the Wairarapa! Peter Jackson lives in Masterton (down Upper Plain Road if you want to stalk his amazing entrance), Vincent Ward who lives somewhere in Greytown and James Cameron who lives just out of Featherston. James Cameron also just opened up a Vegan shop in Greytown called Food Forest Organics.
- Ngawi is a rugged coastline in the Wairarapa, just an hour and a half drive from Carterton. It is home to the largest seal colony in the North Island! Make sure you block your nose when you stop over to see them.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide on the beautiful Wairarapa! You must visit if you are heading to NZ. If you are needing some more recommendations then check out Trip Advisor, I use them all the time! Confused about travel insurance? Read my article on ‘How to choose travel insurance’. I always have used World Nomads as my trusted insurance company.