Wairarapa to Waikanae - optional Napier Getaway Detour
Itinerary kms & Travel Time
130 kms – approx 2 hours driving time (excluding Napier mini-break)
(The Napier mini-break will add another 330 kms (approx 4 hours driving time) to the trip).
N.B. This links the ‘Wellington to Wairarapa: the Beautiful Wine Region’ and ‘Wellington to Waikanae: The Nature Cost’ itineraries to form a glorious round-trip departing from and returning to Wellington.
The trip showcases the very best of the surrounding regions; starting from Greytown in the Wairarapa, and finishing in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. However, it can easily be reversed if you prefer to set out from the Kapiti Coast.
Drive north from Greytown along State Highway 2, towards the farming town of Carterton (approximately ten minutes drive). Originally called Three Mile Bush, Carterton was established in 1857 and renamed after local philanthropist Charles Rooking Carter.
The town is nestled between the Waiohine River to the south and the Waingawa River to the north, with the magnificent Tararua Ranges to the west.
Among the town’s many attractions is the quant clock tower situated in the centre of the town. You may even hear the bells as they chime every quarter hour from early morning to late evening.
Stop at Paua World
(turn left onto Kent Street) to discover how the world’s most colourful shell is crafted to manufacture an exquisite range of jewellery and souvenirs. A range of shell jewellery and other products are created on-site using Paua (a unique abalone shell that iridesces when viewed at different angles), Pink Mussel and Mother of Pearl.
Wander through the factory, watch the informative video on the life of Paua, browse the expansive shop, or simply enjoy a complimentary tea or coffee.
Foodies will also enjoy a tour of Parkvale Mushrooms
, a family business owned and operated by Clive Thompson.
Located 4 km east of Carterton, Parkvale Mushrooms are renowned for establishing the Gourmet Brown mushroom in New Zealand. These mushrooms are praised for their superior flavour, texture and quality. A favourite with the locals, many of the Wairarapa cafes and restaurants showcase the mushrooms spectacularly on their menus.
Tour the factory, growing rooms, machinery and lovely gardens (established using Parkvale’s very own mushroom compost).
Recipes are complimentary and the mushrooms are amazing. Pick up a tray of fresh-picked mushrooms to enjoy later, perhaps with a crisp rasher of Scotty’s bacon on the side? (See ‘Wellington to Wairarapa: the Beautiful Wine Region’ for more information about Scotty’s bacon).
Alternatively, take a look around Gasoline Heaven
, situated on State Highway 2, just north of Carterton. Gasoline Heaven (Carterton’s newest museum), is home to a vast collection of automotive memorabilia. From antique oil cans to enamel signs, hot rods to nostalgia dragsters, this is a truly surprising display - one of the biggest single collections of its kind in New Zealand.
Masterton, the commercial hub of the Wairarapa region, is located 15 minutes north of Carterton. Home to the iconic Golden Shears
, the premier shearing and wool-handling championships, Masterton is a perfect rural retreat in heartland New Zealand.
Take in the shops along Queens Street, let the kids unwind in the peaceful 130-year old Queen Elizabeth Park, or tour Aratoi
, the Wairarapa Museum of Art and History. Cafe Entice
is also on-site and offers a stunning range of salads, cakes, hot food and coffees.
Next stop is the National Wildlife Centre at Pukaha Mount Bruce
(a half hour drive north of Masterton along State Highway 2). Talk a wildlife walk through the ancient rimu forest, watch the monster eels feeding, or see the tuatara up close!
Then head to the Tui Brewery
, 46 kms north of Mount Bruce in Mangatainoka. You’ll pass through Eketahuna and Pahiatua on this half hour drive.
The staff will show you around the brewery so you can see how the beer is made. The tour includes beer tastings and you can even keep your glass! (Remember to make sure that you nominate a sober driver). Alternatively, have a look around their free-entry museum or stop for a bite to eat at the Kiwiana Café.
Sober driver behind the wheel, head north to Woodville (only ten minutes away on State Highway 2).
Woodville is positioned at the intersection of State Highways 2 and 3, between Wellington, Napier and Palmerston North. A peaceful town of green horizons, mountain ranges and country roads, Woodville also offers a wide variety of shops, windfarms
, and the renowned Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecakes
Stop for a spot of trout fishing
in one of the nearby rivers, where experienced local anglers have been known to land up to fifteen fish a day! The Manawatu in particular has one of the highest fish populations of any river in New Zealand, and the fishing is good all year round.
Optional Napier Mini-Break Detour starts from and returns to here, or you can simply continue on to Palmerston North!
Cheesecakes devoured and fresh fish in tow, it is time to head northwest along State Highway 3 to Palmerston North (“Palmy”).
Palmy, a thriving city with a vibrant student population, is only a short twenty-five minute drive from Woodville. With a beautiful park in the centre, the inner-city is compact – making it a shopper’s paradise
. Clothing boutiques, outlet shops, pre-loved-clothing stores, restaurants and cafes
abound, with many of the shopping destinations and malls within easy walking distance of the city centre.Local accommodation
is also superb – you may wish to stay longer to truly appreciate the effervescent culture of this student city
Shopping done, Owlcatraz
, is just a 25 minute drive along State Highways 56/57 to Shannon. Here you can meet native New Zealand owls as you walk through magnificent native bush. Get to know Moppy, the Jerusalem donkey and check out Big Snow, one of the world’s largest cattle beasts – you won’t believe your eyes!
When you hit the road again, it should only take half an hour to get to Waikanae. Book a place to stay
and settle down for the night, ready to wake up to a stunning Kapiti Coast sunrise tomorrow.
N.B. To continue along the Kapiti Coast and back to Wellington, please refer to the ‘Wellington to Waikanae: The Nature Coast’ itinerary. Simply start at the end of the itinerary, and work your way to the beginning – you’ll love it!Napier Getaway (Detour)
From Woodville, head north along State Highway 2 through Dannevirke and Norsewood, then onto State Highway 50 towards Napier.
The vineyards of the country’s oldest wine-growing region spread out their tendrils to greet you as you whistle through this spectacular countryside. With boutique bed and breakfast accommodation
nestled amongst the vines, fabulous places to eat and drink and cellar door sales, you may well be tempted to stop along the way.
Napier, the city by the sea, is just under two hours drive from Woodville. Renowned for its stunning Mediterranean climate, Art Deco architecture
and gourmet regional produce, this popular destination also boasts a vibrant café culture.
Drop off your bags at your lodgings, then head to the award-winning restaurant
at Mission Estate Winery
in the nearby Taradale hills for dinner.
Drenched in summer sun, the vista from the outdoor dining terrace is unparalleled – the perfect accompaniment to their exquisite cuisine and flawless local wines. A romantic stroll through the beautifully manicured lawns and fragrant gardens after your meal is also highly recommended!
After a good night’s sleep, why not browse the vintage shops, explore the National Aquarium
, and then head to Splash Planet
– the number one family attraction in the Hawkes Bay? Or simply relax and enjoy the panoramic views from the beachfront pools at Ocean Spa
Whatever you do, don’t miss The Farmers’ Market
, (held on Sundays at the Hawkes Bay Showgrounds). Wander at leisure, tasting hand-made cheeses, ice creams and seasonal produce. Get a coffee from one of the carts, grab some brunch, and even learn how to grow your own mushrooms!
Organise a visit to the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony – the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, swim at the beach or follow a food, art or wine trail to really make the most of this stunning, diverse region.
Waving goodbye to the sunny Hawkes Bay, drive south along State Highway 2 (turning onto State Highway 3 at Woodville) for the two hour drive to Palmerston North.
Your Napier Mini-Break Detour is over - resume your trip to Palmerston North and on to Waikanae (above)!
Photo: credit Rademacher Andre, SXC