Things to do in the Wairarapa, New Zealand + Food, Accommodation & More!

Last Updated on February 5, 2024

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As I have lived in the Wairarapa, New Zealand, most of my life I have some great tips on the best things to do in the Wairarapa for visitors.

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 – there’s so much to see and do here!

The best things to do in the Wairarapa, tall white lighthouse standing on hillside with path lined with wooden fence leading up to it next to a clear sky at dusk

Whether you’re looking for things to do in Greytown, places to eat in Masterton or some Mt Bruce accommodation, this article has got you covered on what to do in Wairarapa.

Here are some great things to do in the Wairarapa New Zealand to have an amazing visit!

🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. My #1 recommendation is SafetyWing!

Where to Stay in the Wairarapa, New Zealand

Before evening looking into what to do in Wairarapa, first things first: when considering your Wairarapa accommodation, have you thought about sleeping in the great outdoors?

Seriously, 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 – way more unique than staying in a Wairarapa hotel!

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 get away 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 – it’s one of the best things about accommodation in Wairarapa!

Mt Holdsworth is located about 20-minute drive from Masterton, which is where you’re most likely to find indoor accommodation.

There aren’t that many Wairarapa hotels, but there is one great backpacker option in Masterton if you want to be close to town. It’s called Chanel Court Motel. Prices start from around $30 NZD.

It’s some of the best cheap accommodation Wairarapa has to offer, and a great way to meet like-minded Masterton backpackers and explore all the fun things to do in Masterton and nearby.

If you’re after some local housing for your accommodation in Masterton, there are also some great options on Airbnb. Click here to get your free $35 voucher!

And, of course, Masterton is just the beginning of all the amazing things to do in the Wairarapa that you must explore from whatever Wairarapa accommodation you choose!

Note: The Wairarapa has a bad 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.

🛌🏼 Check out more accommodation options here

Find your favourite free things to do in Wairarapa, two pictures with wooden plates filled with different tapaz dishes and finger foods on one side and a bottle of Poppies brand wine and a wine glass on the other
Visiting Poppies is one of the best things to do in the Wairarapa

Where to Eat in the Wairarapa

1. Martinborough

If you’re on the North Island and wondering about things to do in Wairarapa this weekend, 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 highlights of the place though, tell them Anita says hello!

If you are looking for a quick snack then pop into Kitchener’s in Martinborough for a bacon buttie; it’s $5 and is where the locals get cheap grub on the go!

A wine tasting in Martinborough is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the Wairarapa and shouldn’t be missed when you visit.

2. Masterton

Cafe Strada in Masterton is also an excellent option and one of the top things to do in Masterton. 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!

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!

3. Greytown

When you’re not enjoying your Greytown accommodation and attractions, it’s time to make the most of the Greytown eateries!

Eating your way through Greytown is one of my top things to do in the Wairarapa for anyone who loves food as much as I do.

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.

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.

As you can see, there are many delicious things to do Greytown offers foodie visitors!

🗺 TOUR RECOMMENDATION: Looking to do a tour to discover the best of New Zealand? Join a Haka tour and see some of the most beautiful spots NZ has to offer!

Discover what to do in the Wairarapa, close up picture of wooden carved sign with "Rocky Lookout" written on it in front of area of dense green foliage
Make an itinerary of things to do in Wairarapa this weekend, view looking out across vast area of rolling green hills covered in trees and plants stretching off into the distance under a cloudy blue sky

What to Do 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 Pukaha 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! This is one of my favourite things to do in the Wairarapa.

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.

What to do in Greytown NZ, dog on wooden viewing platform view views of mountains in the Wairarapa

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!

When you’re done exploring what to do in Greytown, Castlepoint Beach is less than a 90 minute drive away. It’s one of the best free things to do in Wairarapa!

There is a pub just outside of the town at the Castlepoint Hotel. It’s pretty cheap and good for decent pub food.

💡PACKING TIP: Make sure you bring a good snorkel, water shoes and a fast-drying towel for all of the beach-going you’re about to do!

What Not to Do in the Wairarapa

There’s what to do in the Wairarapa, and then there’s what NOT to do in the Wairarapa. Here are a few things to keep in mind when explore all the things to do in the Wairarapa.

  • Don’t 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 Zealand’s landscape is impeccably clean compared to most other destinations I have visited. Lets keep it that way!
Explore the best things to do in the Wairarapa, close up of dark brown bird sitting on a wooden table in front of an area of dense green foliage and bracken

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. It’s a top things to do in the Masterton guide!
  • 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.

📸 PRO TIP: My go-to camera for all my travels is the Sony A7iii – I highly recommend it!

I hope you enjoyed this travel guide on the best fun things to do in the Wairarapa! You must visit if you are heading to NZ.

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What is the Wairarapa known for?

This rural region is one of the main farming locations of the North Island. Lots of meat, butter, olives and wine are produced here.

✅ What does Wairarapa mean in Māori?

Wairarapa means “glistening waters” in te reo Māori.

✅ Can you swim in Lake Wairarapa?

The water in Lake Wairarapa is very murky because of the sediment levels. But swimming in Lake Wairarapa is usually safe and one of the best things to do in the Wairarapa!

✅ Is Wairarapa a city?

No, the Wairarapa is a geographical region in the southeastern corner of New Zealand’s North Island. It is just an hour’s drive from Wellington.

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