Off the Beaten Track to... Aorangi Forest Park
It's well worth driving to the Aorangi Forest Park in the Wairarapa (east of Wellington on the North Island). This park features some of New Zealand's most striking landforms and spectacular views which can enjoyed after a short walk. These landforms include: the Putangirua Pinnacles, earth pillars formed by the erosive forces of rain and floods; high slabs of rock known as Kupe's Sail and the coastal Whatarangi Bluff.
The park is also of interest for its fur seal colony, historic lighthouse, archaeological sites and sites of Māori occupation - a kainga (a resting and eating place for travellers) and the Putangirua Pa site located on a steep outcrop.
About 9 million years ago, when the Aorangi Range was an island screes poured gravels onto the coast, much as they do today around Cape Palliser. The Putangirua Stream has exposed this ancient layer of gravels to the erosive forces of rain and floods. Where cemented silts or rocks within the gravel beds prove more resistant than the underlying sediments, spectacular individual pinnacles or "hoodoos" have been formed.
Places of Interest
- Putangirua Pinnacles – The Putangirua Pinnacles are one of New Zealand's most striking landforms and were used as a location for the Dimholt Road. The eerie scenes in The Lord of the Rings film: The Return of the King in which Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli ride along the Dimholt Road to meet the Army of the Dead were filmed against them. Get your cameras loaded and head 13 kilometres along Cape Palliser Road to the Pinnacles reserve, approximately one hour's drive from Martinborough.
- Cape Palliser – Cape Palliser lies about 50 minutes drive south of Martinborough and is reached by a sealed and unsealed road. It's an area with a rich history: of Māori occupation, 19th century seafaring disasters and the fishing village lifestyles of today. The Cape Palliser lighthouse was installed in 1897 and you can climb the 250 steps to take in the views. The fur seal colony at Cape Palliser is the only one in the North Island where breeding is well established (don't stand between seals and the sea!) and the area also contains breeding sites of variable oystercatcher, banded dotterel and red-billed gull.
More Off the Beaten Track Suggestions
If you want to discover some of New Zealand's hidden treasures, travel to some out-of-the-way places and see sites that many travellers and tourists miss out on, look at more of our 'Off the Beaten Track' suggestions.