Wairarapa Travel Guide
A little more than 100 kilometres north of Wellington, the Wairarapa region is in the south-east of the North Island and south-west of Hawke’s Bay. Like Hawke’s Bay, it as a formidable reputation for wine-making, as well as small town charms, fantastic beaches and captivating wildlife. The region’s population is focussed on Masterton.
Wairarapa only contributes about two per cent of the country’s wine output, but it sees a large amount of attention given to its premium boutique wine, particularly its pinot noirs. Martinborough is the best-known town for food and wine in the region, with 30 or so vineyards. The Martinborough Wine Centre showcases all of the local wines, and is a good first port of call for visitors before setting off to visit individual local cellar doors. The region is on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail.
For those wishing to sample a little from four different local wineries, the Martinborough Gourmet Wine Tour is worth considering (it departs from Wellington).
Every Saturday Masterton holds the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market, from 9 am - 12:30 pm, at the Solway Showgrounds. This is an excellent chance to sample local fruit and vegetables, artisan products, meat, wine, beer and more.
The tiny village of Mangatainoka hosts the brewery for one of New Zealand’s biggest beer brands, Tui, which has a history going back to 1889. The brewery has a museum (free entry), the Kiwiana Cafe, and group tours, which include three beers in the ticket price (booking ahead is advised).
Another local highlight is the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, a sanctuary for endangered native birds 30 kilometres north of Masterton. There are forest trails and a chance to get near birds including the kaka, takahe and kokako. The daily feeding sessions are entertaining (check website for times).
Two annual events to be considered are the Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival (in March) and Toast Martinborough Wine, Food and Music Festival (in November)
Masterton’s climate is mild temperate, with average maximum and minimum temperatures of 24.3 and 11.8 degrees Celsius in January, and 12.1 and 7.6 in July.
The nearest airport is Wellington, served by Air New Zealand and Jetstar.