European settlement dates back to the 1840s, but archaeological research has shown that parts of the Wairarapa have been occupied for at least 800 years.
Wairarapa History Overview
Wind your way over the Rimutaka hills and along the route trodden by early European settlers 150 years ago to Wairarapa, known by Maori as the "Land of Glistening Waters".
European settlement dates back to the 1840s, but Maori history is much older. Archaeological research has shown that parts of the Wairarapa coast have been occupied for at least 800 years.
Established in 1854, Greytown is New Zealand's first planned town. The historical town shows evidence of both early European settlement as well as Maori culture.
Castlepoint was named in 1770 by Captain Cook, who thought the rock formations in the area resembled the battlements of a castle.
Built in 1912, it was one of the last lighthouses to be automated in New Zealand.
From the beach you can walk along a reef to this cast iron lighthouse.
Greytown was New Zealand's first planned inland town. It was established in 1854 by a group of settlers from Wellington who were looking for small, affordable portions of land to farm. They established Greytown with the assistance of Sir George Grey, the Governor of New Zealand at the time.
Today Greytown has New Zealand's most complete main street of wooden Victorian buildings. The town's historic walk is shown on the map situated outside the bibrary, or you can pick up the Historic Greytown pamphlet from the information centre.
Maori culture is also evident in Greytown. Papawai Marae—the site of the first Maori Parliament—has a wharenui (meeting house) dating back to 1888. In the 1890s, 18 large carved figures were erected representing famous tipuna (ancestors). These have been restored with help from the Historic Places Trust.
Cobblestones, the Wairarapa Early Settlers Museum, has an interesting collection of historic buildings and early technology. The museum is open every day.
Many artists, artisans and antique dealers live and work in Greytown. A short stroll down the main street will reveal a fascinating range of galleries and shops.
When it was built in 1882, developer Edmund Buckeridge described the Martinborough Hotel as "one of the finest hostelries ever erected in any inland town in New Zealand".
Today the charm of historic Martinborough Hotel remains intact and the hospitality is distinctly five star.
From here you can walk to the vineyards that have helped to put Martinborough on the gourmet map of New Zealand.
Gardens - Grand Historic Homesteads
The Wairarapa is the place to appreciate gardens and the passion of New Zealand gardeners—either on your own or with a local garden tour guide.
Wander the spacious landscaped grounds of grand historical homesteads or enjoy the unstructured prettiness of country cottage gardens.
The best times to visit are September to April, but some gardens are open all year.
Useful Wairarapa Links
To help plan your Wairarapa holiday choose from the main categories below
- Wairarapa Accommodation
- Wairarapa Tours
- Wairarapa Attractions
- Wairarapa Transport
- Wairarapa Cuisine and Dining
- Wairarapa Shopping
- Wairarapa Visitor Information
Wairarapa Region Information
Key information and facts about the Wairarapa region.
Major activities and attractions in the Wairarapa region.