With just a hill range between Wellington and the Wairarapa, it is an easy destination for a day or two away from the city. Leaving Wellington you head north, through Upper Hutt, past Kaitoke Regional Park (another of our favourite spots), then up and over the Rimutaka range. As you descend from the range, you come into Featherstone, the first little town of the Wairarapa. Featherstone is a cute little town with the campers essential petrol station and a small supermarket. There are also a number of cute little cafes and second hand shops.
Over Labour weekend Featherstone became our hub as we checked out three different camping spots, all found with Rankers*. Our first location was Lake Wairarapa, a regular spot for us. If you wind down a number of rural roads you will find a large, well maintained, free campground, about 10 minutes outside of Featherstone. The campground is basically a big field on the lake edge. It is quite exposed and the wind often howls through so its lovely to have a sturdy van to snuggle up in at night. There is a long drop toilet that is cleaned regularly so is not too bad to use. For those who aren’t well acquainted with the kiwi long drop, its basically a big hole in the ground with an open toilet over the top. Everything drops down into the pit and slowly rots away. Not to everyone’s taste but way better than making a mess in our beautiful environment. Some highlights of staying at Lake Wairarapa are:
-Beautiful scenery. Sit back in a camping chair and enjoy the large open lake and surrounding hills.
-Watch the sunset over the hills making beautiful light over the lake.
-falling asleep listening to the lap of the lake.
-STARS! You are far from the light pollution of the city so on a clear night you can see the brightest night sky.
-Fishing. But you can’t eat the fish because the lake is a bit mucky, also it is not legal to ‘bag’ Perch and Tench.
On our second day we headed back to Featherstone to buy the salt we had forgotten to pack and a few treats for the road. We then hit the road and headed for the sea, to a location we had never tried before, Te Awaiti. It’s about 1.5 hours from Featherstone and you have to drive down 16km of gravel roads. When you get out to the coast you can either camp at Tora or Te Awaiti, both have long drop toilets. We spent two days (1 night) here. The weather was stunning to begin with but had howling wind to contend with for most of the stay. Our battle with trying to cook in the wind ended up with being invited to use the stove of some guys who regularly visited the site. They also gave us Paua and then took us diving the following day. Highlights of Te Awaiti:
-Scenery. This is raw New Zealand north island coast, battered by all sorts of weather so is a stark rugged landscape.
-Kai Moana. —We had great sea food while we were there, gifted and caught by us. Daniel caught a few small Tarakihi and a large Trevally (Araara). The Trevally could have fed a large family but we had it as two indulgent meals. —Our new buddies took us to their favourite diving spot where we found lots of legal sized Paua.
-Hills to climb. We didn’t on account of the wind but the views would be amazing.
-Safe swimming in the lagoon.
We didn’t leave Te Awaiti until the afternoon but probably should have headed off sooner to make the most of our final long weekend destination. We drove back to Featherstone to fill the chilly bin with ice and then on to Bucks Road Campground on the Tuaherenikau River. It’s about 10 minutes from Featherstone and will likely become our new regular campground. It’s just a short drive from the main road with a short section of gravel. At the end of the road the road loops, there is grass in the middle and around the edge for people to park up. There is a long drop toilet and fresh drinking water from the river. Highlights of Bucks Road:
-The River. The river was absolutely pristine and would be perfect for swimming and sunbathing in the summer.
-Fishing in the beautiful river. With a fishing licence you can fish for trout, though we had no luck.
-Being surrounded by New Zealand bush. The campground is on the edge of Tararua Forest Park, a large reserve that takes up a large portion of the lower North Island.
-Surrounding bush walks. We didn’t have time but will definitely explore some of the walks that go from here another time.
We had a wonderful long weekend and feel ready and rejuvenated to make the final home run to Christmas and our wedding! It was great to see more of our great country and we’re already raring to see more. Time to get planning!
Chloe and Daniel
*We use the Rankers camping app to find all of our campsites. We decide where we want to go and then find a campsite nearby. You can use the app to find campsites with toilets and ones that allow for non-self contained vehicles (avoiding fines!). Also, all spots a okayed by locals so you are unlikely to be asked to move on.