Wairarapa is a region in the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand. East of the nations capital Wellington, the region extends north up to Woodville and borders the Hawkes Bay Region. The District is named after Lake Wairarapa at the southern end of the region.
Every 2 years the valley is home to the Wings over Wairarapa airshow. In a similar vein to the Warbirds over Wanaka show in the South Island, this one doesn't disappoint. The show attracts pilots, enthusiasts and onlookers from New Zealand and around the world. A popular tourist attraction is the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre. Home to dozens of New Zealand native plants and animals, the centre is a popular stop on the way through the Wairarapa.
One thing that can be said about the Wairarapa is that you'll never be short of a place to stay. While the majority of the towns are small and rural, the quantity of accommodation is simply staggering. Greytown has over 20 accommodation options when there are less than 700 houses in the town. Its a similar story in Martinborough as well. Wherever you choose to stay the best place to see all options for all budgets is TravelBug, where you can also book instantly online.
Towns in the Wairarapa
The main city in Wairarapa is Masterton. Settled in 1854 Masterton has the largest population of any Wairarapa town with 20,000 residents. Highlights include the Aratoi Museum of Art and history in its fantastic new building. Queen Elizabeth II Park has been delighting families for over 130 years. You'll find the pace is slower in Masterton compared to other NZ towns.
Martinborough is a popular tourist destination, well known for its wine. Martinborough only produces 2% of the country's wine, but its layout is unique. there are 30 vineyards within walking distance from the main street. This in of itself is a draw-card, but every year another 10,000 converge on the tiny town for the Toast Martinborough festival.
Greytown is New Zealand's oldest surviving Victorian style town. The main street is something to behold, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were back on the 1800s. The architecture is the focal point of the town, and is not just 'old' but has been restored to its original glory. Don't forget to stop in at the Cobblestones Museum, a blast from the past showing you how New Zealanders lived back then.
Featherston and Carterton are the other main towns in the Wairarapa region. Featherston is home to the Fell Locomotive Museum, and Carterton has Paua World. Woodville, Pahiatua, Eketahuna and many more towns are sparsely populated, and act as rural service towns. Life is simpler and more relaxed in the Wairarapa, yet only 1.5 hours drive from New Zealand's capital city.
More Wairarapa Information
The first European settlement in the Wairarapa was in the 1840s. At this time Maori still owned the majority of the land, but it was leased to European farmers. The Wairarapa experienced the largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand history with an 8.5 on the Richter scale in 1855. Obviously the low level of buildings at that time meant there wasn't significant damage, however there were 5 deaths. The two councils administering the region nowadays are the South Wairarapa District Council and the Masterton District Council. The main local publication is the Wairarapa Times Age, and the largest secondary school in the region is Wairarapa College.