This is the first time I’ve been in the Wairarapa region and it’s much more interesting than the other side of the Tararua Ranges. The east coast at the bottom of the North Island still feels remote as people only drive this way if they’re going to Hawkes Bay. All other destinations are mainly reached along Highway 1 on the west coast.
My highlights have been exploring Castlepoint beach and lighthouse, enjoying sunsets from my caravan at Lake Ferry, climbing the 252 steps to the lighthouse at Cape Palliser and exploring the strange rock formations at Putangirua Pinnacles.
I had an unplanned stop in Masterton for a few days after getting a shredded tyre.
But I’ve been surprised and impressed by the town after imagining a slightly rough place. There are beautiful large wooden houses and plenty of shops.
The showgrounds in Masterton was the perfect place to relax for a few days. It’s only $5 per person for non-power or $15 if you plug in and there’s a huge grassy area with only 4 other vehicles staying while I was there. There are some beautiful big trees and the odd horse riding past. The toilets and showers are old but work well and just require a gold coin donation. You’re left on your own and they assume you’ll honestly leave the right amount of money. I already know I’ll be back!
It seems like Masterton previously had a booming wool industry which would explain the richly decorative old wooden buildings. I went to the wool shed museum for $8 and found it surprisingly interesting. I think my favourite part was a video about a country event involving competitions with work dogs. If I can find the event I want to go!
I’d initially planned to stay out here for a couple of nights, but decided not to risk it on my only spare tyre. Instead I did a day trip from Masterton. I was wondering if it was worth a visit but the information lady said it was one of the top beaches.
It’s more populated than I expected as I was imagining a place similar to the sparsely populated Herbertville further north. There are plenty of carparks along the beach so I’m assuming it can get busy. I visited on a blustery day with stormy clouds in the distance.
There is a loop walk up around the lighthouse with some amazing views. You can also walk (or drive in a 4×4) along the beach to the right. There’s some interesting rock formations with waves crashing over them. I’ve since learnt you can climb to the top of castle rock at the end of the beach for more views, there’s even a walk that I missed… next time.
Further down the coast at the bottom of the North Island is Lake Ferry. It’s a tiny little town by the ocean with an inlet and only has a few houses including the campground and hotel / restaurant. I stayed at the campground for three nights to work from the caravan and explore the area.
From my caravan I could look out to the inlet and enjoy some sunsets and sunrises. There are quite a few permanent holiday sites but the strip along the front of the water is for the temporary travellers. It’s a pricey campground compared to others, but I think you’re paying for the view and the isolated location. Toilets are run down, the showers were $1 per three minutes and they discouraged you from leaving your rubbish with them.
The first night, I was asked if I wanted to join three other RVing couples for a drink. I’m so glad I joined as they were all lovely. Two couples were travelling from the South Island in beautiful NZ made caravans that were a lot wider than mine. The other couple were from Whanganui and funnily enough know the one person I know in their town…. NZ is a small place.
The wind picked up on the last two nights with even a wind warning. I didn’t sleep at all well with the caravan swaying.
The lowest point on the North Island with a road that is partly washed away and becomes gravel. There’s a great looking freedom camping spot at Ngawi. I wouldn’t take a caravan all the way to the end as the road gets very narrow and bumpy.
Ngawi has a couple of quirks… a golf course with electric fencing around the putting green and sheep everywhere. I did see one couple playing.
The other interesting aspect is all the fishing ships on the gravel beach are attached to long metal bars with a bulldozer! I’m guessing the shoreline is always changing and needs smoothing out.
The coast is wild with a lighthouse at the top of 252 steps. The view from the top makes the climb worth it.
I finally managed to get my drone out again for a fly. The weather was good and I’m pretty sure there are no restrictions in the area. I’ve recently learnt there are a surprising amount of areas that you can’t fly a drone or need permits or permission first. Completely different to a camera.
If you are in the area, seeing the pinnacles is a must as they are the strangest rock formations.
It has a DoC campground with plenty of flat space and a long drop toilet. There were a couple of buses and motorhomes staying.
The walk is about 1.5-2 hours to the pinnacles following a small stream. Tips are to wear long trousers as there’s plenty of gorse and to wear waterproof shoes as you’re jumping the stream back and forth. I also found it easier walking on the gravel with my hard hiking boots.
The pinnacles are fascinating. There are three main forks that you can walk into and be surrounded by these pillars. I’ve heard it was a setting for Lord of the Rings and I can see why.
There is a longer route uphill that gives you a birds-eye view of the pinnacles, but I was having a lazy day…
There are lots of cute towns in the area. If I’d had the time, I would have explored Greytown and Martinborough. I’ll just have to visit again…
Have you been to the Wairarapa region? What would you recommend?
If you like learning about out of the way New Zealand destinations or campgrounds you might like to learn about the Gisborne Region.