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Day trips

10 great short family walks in the Wairarapa: trip guide

  • 6 minutes

North Island, New Zealand

Bustle of a capital city is replaced by quiet spaces, hills, valleys, wetlands and river flats where the occasional visitor utters a friendly greeting. Wairarapa is an ideal day trip from Wellington or an opportunity for visitors to explore lesser known areas of Aotearoa NZ. For nature lovers Wairararpa’s pastoral landscapes interspersed with native bush and wetlands creates a zen moment where visitors are suspended in the cycle of seasons.

The beauty of the Wairarapa is walkers are never far from a delicious cafe and vineyard strolls are there for the taking. The ten walks are suitable for families, remember to check before departing if your pooch is allowed. And don’t forget your swimming gear, glorious river pools will tempt you to linger.

Deliverance Cove at sunset, North Wairarapa, Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand, Pacific
Deliverance Cove at sunset, North Wairarapa


  • Redwood giants in the Wairarapa
  • Family picnics in regenerating bush
  • Walks through vineyards in Martinborough
  • Heritage stories while you shop in Greytown
  • Military narratives in Featherston
  • Tararua Ranges lowland forest exploration


  1. Greytown Heritage Walk

Combining a walk with a chance to go shopping or perhaps pop into a shop to check out the goodies inside Greytown heritage trail is a perfect combination of exercising while shopping. Greytown shops are pretty restored nineteenth century strung along the main street. The town has adroitly marketed its charm as a destination for Wellingtonians. For locals Greytown is a break from Wellington’s Lambton Quay. Rural countryside peeps between shops reminding visitors of the nearby countryside. For Australians and New Zealanders the town is an excellent example of a nineteenth century shopping street that has withstood the ravages of time. Each building is marked with plaques describing the original owner and the story of occupation.

  • Location: Greytown precinct
Greytown bicycle shop front entrance, New Zealand
Greytown bicycle shop front entrance
Greytown camping ground accommodation option, Wairarapa, New Zealand
Greytown camping ground accommodation option, Wairarapa
  1. Greytown Trail

Greytown Trail is a picturesque 5km walking and cycling track connecting Greytown’s quieter streets to the historic train station at Woodside. If you’re arriving by train, why not bring your bike and ride into town? The wide limestone pathway wends its way through an avenue of mature oak trees and is surrounded by views of the Tararua Ranges and Gladstone Hills. The trail is suitable for walking, biking, prams and wheelchairs, and provides easy access to a new cycleway that runs from Udy St in Greytown to the Waiohine River.

  • Length: 4.7km
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Grade: Flat
  • Toilets: Greytown


A town with extensive parks, surrounding rural landscapes is a restful place with plenty of activities to keep families busy. Masterton is less than 15 minutes to Tararua Forest Park making the area an ideal location to introduce visitors to Aotearoa NZ’s lowland forests.

  1. Henley Lake

Planning on a few days in Masterton? Henley Lake has ideal walking and exercise tracks for all fitness levels. There are over 43 hectares of wetlands and native plantings with Henley Lake as the reflective body of water mirroring the seasons. Viewing towers over the lake and wetlands allow for a different perspective of the reserve. Henley Lake is interconnected with Queen Elizabeth Park.

Hot air balloons at Henley Lake, Masterton, New Zealand
Hot air balloons at Henley Lake, Masterton


Tararua Forest has a number of walks, tracks and trails from easy short walks to multiple day treks. A perfect introduction to lowland forest Tararua Forest offers a perfect summer day picnic destination with the Kiriwhakapapa loop track.

  1. Kiriwhakapapa loop track

Kiriwhakapapa loop track is a flat, easy wide track passing through forest that has regenerated after being logged for its rimu in the 1930s. Another attractive feature is the mature redwoods with their massive straight trucks. The walk passes through regenerating forest previously logged for rimu and other podocarp trees in the 1930s.

The walk partially follows old bush tramlines. There are signposts to the loop track’s continuation through to the Mikimiki valley and the tramping track that ascends the Blue Range to the Blue Range Hut, approximately 2–3 hours away.

  • Length: 1km
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Grade: Easy
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash

Camping is allowed beside a creek, with an old logging and exotic (redwood) forestry trial area nearby. Toilets and tap water available.


Mount Holdsworth (Tararua Forest Park) is the main entrance to the eastern side of the Tararua Forest Park. Mount Holdsworth is part of the highest peaks of the Tararua Ranges. Holdsworth tempts walkers with a range of walks from short walks and longer tramps through filtered green light of lowland forest and into the alpine environment.

The picturesque Atiwhakatu Stream invites visitors to take a cooling summer dip. The Atiwhakatu valley is a haunt of native wildlife including tui, bellbirds, fantails, kaka, tomtits and riflemen making it a favourite for bird watchers. Visitors to the area can view rare mistletoe and long tailed bats have been seen in the area.


Mount Holdsworth camping is allowed on 150 non-powered sites. Toilets: Flush.

Holdsworth Lodge provides accommodation for 28 (bookings required).


Check travel pack information for details

Donnelly Flat campsite and picnic area @DOC / Bev Bacon
Donnelly Flat campsite and picnic area @DOC / Bev Bacon
  1. Donnelly Flat Loop Walk

The track to Donnelly Flat passes through some of the best mixed podocarp/broadleaf forest in the Tararua Range – this short, easy walk with a picnic area and stream on route is a great option for kids. Visitors will cross the Atiwhakatu footbridge and follow the relatively flat track to Donnelly Flat – an attractive picnic area and campsite with access to Atiwhakatu Stream.

  • Length: 2.5km (loop)
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Toilets: Yes

Check DOC resource for up to date information.

  1. Rocky Lookout walk

Rocky Lookout walk is for families with energetic members follow the well-graded Gentle Annie Track to a viewing platform with extensive views of Powell Hut, Mt Holdsworth, Jumbo Hut, Mitre Flat, Atiwhakatu valley and the plains out east.

  • Length: 1.9km
  • Duration: 1 hr 30 min
  • Grade: Easy
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash

Check DOC resource for up to date information.

Rocky Lookout walk, New Zealand @DOC / Bev Bacon
Rocky Lookout walk @DOC / Bev Bacon


  1. Palliser Vineyard Walk

The walking track takes you around Palliser Vineyard towards the river and back through the centre of the vineyard. Start the walk at Considine Park. The walk is open weekends only, or weekdays after 5pm, depending on the lambing season. It is closed in March and April during harvest. You have sweeping views of farmland and vineyard.

  • Length: 2km
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Grade: Easy
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Toilets: Considine Park


  1. Waiohine Gorge

Waiohine Gorge near Carterton is a spectacular gorge carved by the Waiohine River. The suspension bridge is the largest bridge of its type in New Zealand crosses the gorge and makes for a spectacular start and finish to any walk. The walks are another gateway into the Tararua Forest Park. The Gorge is the south eastern entrance to the Tararua Forest Park. Day visitors will be passed by trampers embarking on the two day Totara Flats route which takes you to a beautiful setting where the Waiohine River meets Totara Creek.

Waiohine Gorge entrance: 1km from car park

NOTE: A high clearance car is best for driving into the parking area.

The town clock of Carterton, New Zealand
The town clock of Carterton
  1. Carter Scenic Reserve

Carter Scenic Reserve near Carterton follows a boardwalk through a recovering wetland and remnant of flooded forest, returning via a loop track through the drier forest section. The easy stroll across the boardwalk brings you into contact with some uncommon and interesting native flora, including swamp maire and small leafed hoheria.

Carter Scenic Reserve, New Zealand @Carter Reserve15
@Carter Scenic Reserve

Brown mudfish and banded kokopu may be hiding beneath the vegetation. Dominating the forest, Kahikatea trees are the dominant trees. Look closely at the root system which extends coiling over the surface of the swamp. The trees are sucking nutrients from the rich vegetation swamp.

  • Length: 1km
  • Duration: 25 minutes
  • Grade: Easy
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Toilets: Featherston / Carterton


  1. Featherston heritage walk

A heritage walk (described by Wairarapa visitor online resource). The story of the Wishaw family is personal and brings home the impact of outside events on a small rural community. Below is a verbatim description of a military heritage walk.

A Family at War

This is the story of the Wishaw family – Mabel, Harry and Bernard. Allow about an hour for the full tour. Mabel, Bernard and Harry Whishaw were three of Catherine and John Whishaw’s eight children, from Stoneridge, Featherston. Mabel, the eldest of the three siblings, was born in 1883 in Kakaramea, South Taranaki. Harry was born in 1885 in Wellington and Bernard, the youngest, in 1893. In 1914 at the start of WWI, Mabel was 31 years old, Harry was 29 and Bernard 21.

@Featherston Heritage Museum
@Featherston Heritage Museum

START: Featherston Heritage Museum

Before you follow Whishaw’s story, stop at the Featherston Heritage Museum. Here you’ll get a feel for the layout and environment of the Featherston Military Camp and other aspects of training life through the photographs and memorabilia on display. Your walk will include Featherston Military Camp, Tauherenikau Camp and Featherston War Memorial.

Featherston Heritage Museum (a vehicle is required to connect to various sites included in the walk.


Getting there


  • The Wairarapa is one of the longest-settled regions of New Zealand, and the southern coastline has the remnants of once extensive Maori garden plots. European settlers established the first New Zealand sheep station on the plains south of Martinborough, and the townships of Greytown and Masterton were the first planned inland towns in the country. Lake Wairarapa, in the south of the region, is referred to as one of the eyes of Maui’s fish in Maori mythology while its surrounding land has a fascinating and complex history:
  • Wairarapa Archive, The Masterton District Library heritage collection is housed in the Wairarapa Archive, and is dedicated to collecting and preserving Wairarapa’s unique heritage, and presenting back to the community. It includes a comprehensive reference collection of printed material relating to Wairarapa, both nonfiction and fiction.

The collection of archives and manuscripts is unrivalled in any similarly sized town, and is the envy of many cities. It contains the records of many important local institutions, including schools, churches, lodges and agricultural societies, as well many personal papers. These can be searched on the online catalogue.

The archive also stores the archived records of the Masterton District Council from the 1860s until 1989. These records can be searched at the Wairarapa Archive.

Masterton Recreational Trails map
Masterton Recreational Trails map

The Heritage collection includes over two million photographs, of which nearly 20,000 have been digitised and can be seen online in the Picture Wairarapa component of the website.

  • Stay safe when you’re swiming – always check the mountain forecast, as rain can make river levels rise suddenly
  • Further information on Department of Conservation walks and tracks

Kiriwhakapapa Loop: Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa region

Tararua Forest Park: Wairarapa places to visit

Tararua Forest Park location of easy walks

For holiday inspiration check out Wellington City Guide.

The journey is worth it.


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