Sitting at the southernmost point of the North Island, Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’ this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.
Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay – the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city’s best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber. Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. If you’re a foodie at heart, a two hour round trip to Martinborough (mentioned below) is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand’s native species at Zealandia – the world’s first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds. Finally before you collapse in bed, search metro eats for some gourmet dinner inspiration.
Tucked into the south-eastern corner of the North Island, the Wairarapa region is known for its wineries and rural charm. Slightly off-the-beaten-track, it begins an hour from Wellington and continues 130 kilometers North – traversing winding bush country, grassy plains and a rugged coastline. The area encompasses several small towns, including Martinborough, Masterton and historic Greytown.
Whether you’re standing at the very bottom of the North at Cape Palliser, trying the wine in Martinborough, stargazing at Castlepoint, or visiting world war one planes in Masterton, this area of New Zealand has something for everyone. Start by heading inland to colonial Martinborough. This quaint town is laid out like a Union Jack, and along with it’s 30 plus wineries features organic local produce, boutique stores and heritage shops. Take one of the daily Martinborough Wine tours or go self guided – and walk or cycle through the vast fields of vineyards and olive groves. If you’re really short on time go to the Martinborough Wine Centre where you can taste all of the wines produced in the area and even get your favourite shipped home. Visit in November for the renowned Toast Martinborough to experience premier food, wine and local music.
Head through featherston and discover New Zealand’s first inland settlement, historic Greytown. Established in 1854, this victorian town is an eclectic mix of antique stores, boutique galleries and cafes. Walk the length of the main road to experience New Zealand’s most complete street of wooden victorian dwellings. Try the handmade treats at Schoc Chocolate and sample authentic pastries at The French Bakery. Continue on to Masterton, the largest town in the Wairarapa, and an vital service area to the surrounding farms. While you’re here visit the Hood Aerodrome to see one of the largest collections of WWI planes in the world. Drive east to the beautiful and rugged beach of Castlepoint, and climb the 162m high Castle Rock to spot dolphins or fur seal that often frequent the area. See one of the only manned lighthouses in New Zealand, Castlepoint Lighthouse.