Wellington to Wairarapa

Called the world’s ‘coolest little capital’, Wellington is known for its vibrant arts scene, world class café and restaurant culture, and active outdoor lifestyle. An easily walkable downtown area is set around an attractive waterfront, and an abundance of walking and biking tracks thread the surrounding hills. A foodie haven, Wellington enjoys more cafes, bars and restaurants than New York City, and its coffee and craft beer producers are internationally recognised. Movie magic comes to life in Wellington, with film locations just around the corner and award-winning Weta Workshop open for a visit. A creative, cosmopolitan city, Wellington combines the sophistication of a capital with the warmth and personality of a village.

  • Wellington to Wairarapa

    You can easily get to the Wairarapa from Wellington in under a couple of hours, but to best experience this part of the region you should try spend the whole day exploring!

  • Best time of year

    An enjoyable trip any time of the year.

  • Highlights

    Wellington: A creative, cosmopolitan city, Wellington combines the sophistication of a capital with the warmth and personality of a village

    Wairarapa: The perfect blend of country charm with luxury retreats, boutique vineyards, award-winning restaurants and unique shopping.

  • More highlights

    Film Locations: Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film locations in Wellington and Upper Hutt

    Vinyards & Wineries: Exquisite vineyards and wineries in the delightful town of Martinborough

Planning Tips

  • Leg one

Head down to Wellington’s waterfront to enjoy the sparkling harbour and make your way down to Te Papa, the National museum of New Zealand. A trip to the suburb of Miramar to visit the Weta Cave is also recommended, as you’ll get a behind the scenes look into the workshop with props and collectibles from some of the biggest blockbuster movies. Mt Victoria lookout has the best view of the city and some film locations from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Before you head off on your road trip, fill up on the gastronomical goodness Wellington has to offer in one of the many cafes and restaurants around the city.

  •  Leg Two Wellington to Petone

Distance: 14 km
Driving time: 15 minutes

Head out of the city on State Highway 1 (which continues onto State Highway 2), and about 15 minutes later you’ll find yourself in the charming suburb of Petone. Head to Jackson Street where you’ll find boutique, designer and vintage shops stretching both sides of the street. Jackson Street is also famed for its collection of top notch cafes and restaurants, and antique stores. Fill your water bottle with pure artesian water at Te Puna Wai Ora, The Spring of Life, on the corner of Jackson and Buick Streets.

SIDE TRIP: Eastbourne

A short 10 minute drive from Petone sits the quaint seaside community of Eastbourne. Join the locals jumping off the wharf into the harbour, grab yourself an ice-cream and have a picnic on the beach.

  • Leg Three Petone to Lower Hutt

Distance: 3 km
Driving time: 7 minutes

Continue on to Lower Hutt, home to many art galleries and family friendly activities. Check out cutting-edge art at The Dowse Art Museum with world-class exhibits, or dip your toes in the Hutt River or taking a relaxing stroll on the many walking tracks around the river and surrounding hills.

  • Leg Four Lower Hutt to Upper Hutt

Distance: 19 km
Driving time: 20 minutes

Head back onto State Highway 2, and drive north to Upper Hutt. Visit the many film locations for Lord of the Rings such as the gardens of Isengard filmed at Harcourt Park and Rivendell filmed at Kaitoke Regional Park. Take the family out to Staglands Wildlife Reserve where you can freely interact with wildlife in a natural environment.

  • Leg Five Upper Hutt to Featherston

Distance: 30 km
Driving time: 35 minutes

Continue on State Highway 2 over the Rimutaka Ranges (take this road slowly as it can be very narrow in some places), and you’ll soon arrive in Featherston, the gateway to the Wairarapa. Visit the Fell Locomotive Museum which houses the only Fell engine in the world, or make your way to the Tauherenikau Raceway for fun family horse racing events.

  • Leg Six Featherston to Martinborough

Distance: 18 km
Driving time: 15 minutes

Take a right turn on to State Highway 53 to head towards your next destination. After 15 minutes you’ll arrive in the wine village of Martinborough. Featuring over 20 wineries, most within walking distance of the quaint village square, Martinborough is the perfect place for those with a palate for fine wine, food, exploring and relaxing.

  • Leg Seven Martinborough to Greytown

Distance: 18 km
Driving time: 15 minutes

Head back onto State Highway 53, and continue on through Bidwell’s Cutting Road to get to Greytown. A country village with metropolitan style and sophisticated boutique shopping, Greytown is a picturesque location for some retail therapy. Indulge in art galleries and antique stores, or grab a pastry from the French Baker and hand-made chocolates from Schoc Chocolates.

  • Leg Eight Greytown to Carterton

Distance: 9 km
Driving time: 10 minutes

Carterton is a hot bed of sculptors, textile artists and painters creating unique works – many in their own studios. Be sure to pay a visit to The Clareville Bakery, the home of the best pies in New Zealand.

  • Leg Nine Carterton to Masterton

Distance: 24 km
Driving time: 25 minutes

Carry on along State Highway 2 to reach the town of Masterton, a great spot to enjoy a fun, family day out. Walk through Queen Elizabeth Park, enjoy the arts and history at Aratoi and see the national museum of sheep and shearing, The Wool Shed. Pay a visit to Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre to see New Zealand’s rare white kiwi, Manukura, and other beautiful native birds.

Where to from here?

It’s less than an hour’s drive east to either Riversdale or to Castlepoint, two beachside communities popular with families wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Both are popular spots for swimming, surfing and fishing. A walk up to Castlepoint’s lighthouse is a must-do. It’s also just over 2 hours’ drive to the Hawke’s Bay along State Highway 2.