Masterton hasn’t always been known as a destination town but over the last few years, they’ve worked hard to make it a safer, more beautiful community through a range of environmental and heritage conservation projects.
Located an hour and half north of Wellington, the city (part of the Wairarapa region) hosts a number of iconic national events throughout the year including Wings over Wairarapa, the Wairarapa Balloon Festival, the Masterton A&P Show and the Golden Shears, which see thousands of people flood the area to enjoy these spectacles with the locals.
Masterton’s Queen Elizabeth Park is a major attraction for families with a kids playground, mini putt, pedal boats, miniature train, aviary and gardens. If a picnic isn’t your thing, there are some fantastic vineyards, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.
Pukaha National Wildlife Centre is also a big draw for visitors. Get up close to native birds, feed the eels and observe the tuatara. And if you’re very lucky, you might just see Manukura, the little white kiwi.
Whether you’re here for a day or the weekend, this city has plenty to offer.
Things to Do
Animals - take a short drive out to Alpaca Place, one of the top attractions in Masterton. Book an interactive, fully narrated tour where you can cuddle the alpaca, walk with them, touch their fleece and hear stories about the animals and the region.
Art - art lovers will enjoy the ConArt (Container Art) Gallery, showcasing a selection of Wairarapa art. It’s just around the corner from Aratoi - Wairarapa’s Museum of Art & History where you can see national and local displays, Māori treasures, ceramics, paintings and much more.
Parks - pedal boats, kayaks, a miniature train, mini putt, duck feeding and a kids playground, Queen Elizabeth Park will be a winner for the family. Grab some deer feed from the pedal boat kiosk and head over the swing bridge to treat the deer to a tasty snack.
Walk - a walk around the spectacular Henley Lake will certainly have you at one with nature. Boasting 43 hectares of wetlands and an array of birdlife, climb one of the viewing towers to get a real sense of how vast it really is. Dogs are welcome at Henley Lake, which makes it a popular spot for the locals too.
Wine - sample locally made wine at Paper Road Winery & Bistro. Located just north of Masterton, Paper Road offers a wine tasting tray as well as an à la carte and kid’s menu, set in a beautiful spot overlooking the vineyard. Try the Pinot Noir.
Where to Eat
Don Luciano - a mix of Central American street food and Kiwi classics on the menu. Enjoy coffee, roasted in a handcrafted Italian coffee machine located right in the cafe. Owner Marvin Guerrero created his very own blend, inspired by his grandfather, Don Luciano who was a coffee farmer in Honduras.
The Screening Room - the eatery serves small tasting plates ‘tapas-style’. These internationally inspired dishes with seasonal ingredients are made to share. If you’re not in for a meal, their cabinet is packed with lots of sweet and savoury treats. They also have an extensive range of wines and craft beers.
Koi Spice Craft & Whiskey - an Indian and Malaysian inspired restaurant. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, recommending dishes for the adventurous, or the classics for those who just love their favourites. Try the whiskey lounge - the leather couches and low lighting make this a perfect way to end your meal.
Where to Stay
Copthorne Hotel & Resort Solway Park Wairarapa - this four star luxury retreat set among native bush, parklands and gardens is a great getaway option. With 102 rooms, and onsite restaurant and bar, a pool, golf driving range, tennis court and kids playground to use at your leisure, the Copthorne caters for all needs. Located at the southern end of Masterton, its location makes it handy to town and to state highway two. Standard rooms, executive suites or family apartments are available.
The Highwayman Motel - a short walk to Kuripuni Village, this motel offers reasonably priced accommodation, in a handy location. Choose from a studio unit or a one, two or three bedroom apartment and enjoy landscaped gardens with barbecue facilities, outdoor seating, a swimming pool, spa and children’s play area. There is free wi-fi available too. Hosts Kylie and Mark will make sure your stay is a comfortable one, striving to make it feel like your home away from home.
Mawley Holiday Park - if you want to be near all the family fun Masterton has to offer, Mawley is a great choice for the family. Just two minutes from Queen Elizabeth Park, the skate park, swimming pool, shops, cafes and Saturday farmer’s market, this holiday park offers a range of quality accommodation,. There are self-contained units, cabins, powered and unpowered sites available. The kids will be entertained by the onsite playground and there are cooking facilities for those summer barbecues.
There are many day trips on offer from Masterton to various parts of the Wairarapa region. Favourites include seaside town like Castlepoint and Riversdale, cool little towns like Greytown, and Martinborough and the entire South Wairarapa Coast is full of rugged beauty.