Wairarapa is usually thought of as a summer destination, with its warm and settled weather, beautiful coastline and lots of summer activities and events. But Wairarapa is also a great choice of playground in winter. If you fancy a weekend hideaway with fabulous food, cosy fires, and where there’s still plenty to do during the day, or even if you’re a Wairarapa local looking for a few new ideas for activities and adventures – we’ve got you covered!
Some of the Best Pies
Mmmmm…. a delicious, piping hot pie!
Our choices of some of the best pies, lovingly made in Wairarapa (in no particular order) are:
- Cahoots Cafe in Greytown makes some of the best pies on offer. All are tasty treats, but if we had to choose – the winner would be the chicken pie.
- Cafe Mirabelle’s beef bourguignon pie is a wondrous classic. Stop off in Carterton and get one – you won’t be disappointed.
- Featherston also has its share of pie greatness, one of them is The Baker’s (beef) steak and (blue) cheese pie. Another classic pie, beautifully executed.
- Clareville Bakery’s award-winning lamb and kumara pie has legendary status. With its iconic look (the lamb bone sticks out of the top) it’s a quintessential New Zealand pie.
- Waipies are another Wairarapa tradition – made at the Village Cafe and Bakery in Kuripuni, they are available all over Wairarapa. If you like more of a kiwi classic pie, then look no further.
- Not into meat? Try Food Forest Organics’ delicious vegan pies or The French Baker’s fruit pies (they also do delicious meat ones) for a special meat-free bite.
Other Winter Eats
We’re spoilt with the wonderful food available in Wairarapa – and the chilly weather does make you extra hungry right? Here are some favourite places for winter eats.
‘All you can eat tapas’ at Salute in Greytown has become a special feature during a Wairarapa winter. It’s on for a limited time starting in May and it pays to book ahead.
Fabulous food can also be found at Greytown’s Main Street Deli. The deli stocks a delicious range of products including Cocodeli’s beautiful coconut drizzles – perfect for livening up both sweet and savoury dishes.
Not to be missed during winter is a hot chocolate from Schoc. Pick up some fabulous chocolate for good measure!
Get fish and chips at the Lake Ferry Hotel after a bracing walk beside the lake or coast (please observe the safety signs and don’t go near the water – it moves incredibly fast).
Martinborough’s In The Neighbourhood Coffee House roasts its own coffee beans. It’s the perfect place to enjoy “that moment when your hand is warmed by the mug, you bring it up to your nose, inhale deeply and then take a sip”. While at Neighbourhood, you need to try the amazing cheese scones.
For a special winter treat, the Martinborough Hotel holds a High Tea on the second Saturday afternoon every month.
The Farriers Bar and Eatery in Masterton has a huge range of food – from pizza to gastro-pub style meals. It is very handily open for brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
For those of you who love nothing more than a warming meal at home, a new authentic Italian bakery and shop, Sweet and Salty, has opened in Featherston. A variety of delicious meals (call ahead for family sized orders) are available to pick up to heat and eat. Italian classics, like parmigiana and cannelloni, feature as well as quiches and a ‘pot of the day’. And we can’t fail to mention the desserts – tiramisu, panna cotta and cheesecake! Are you hungry yet?
Warming the cockles
What’s better on a cold winter’s evening (or day for that matter) than warming yourself sitting by a fire, while having food delivered to your table! We’re lucky in Wairarapa to have many cafes, pubs and restaurants with lovely, warm, inviting fires. Some of these include Martinborough’s Medici, and Luna Kitchen with its magnificent indoor and outdoor fires. We can’t think of a better way to while away a few hours over lunch in winter, enjoying Luna’s delicious tapas perfectly matched with beautiful wine.
The White Swan in Greytown also has a crackling open fire, a perfect match with its wonderful food. Check out the Greytown Hotel, a small but very friendly local pub, or perhaps a pizza or lasagne from Cuckoo, enjoyed beside the cozy open fire.
Further north, the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka is open for lunch seven days a week in winter. On the last Sunday of the month, it has ‘Tunes Under the Tower’ with musicians playing throughout the day – a great way to spend a few hours listening to music in front of the log fire.
But if it’s not eating and drinking you enjoy by the fire, don’t forget books! If you didn’t have a chance to get to Featherston Booktown in May to stock up and get inspired, visit one of Wairarapa’s many booksellers. Loco or For the Love of Books in Featherston, Take Note in Carterton, or Hedleys in Masterton provide plenty of inspiration for your winter reading.
Keeping the balance
We all know the health benefits of regular exercise – but it can be hard to be inspired during the cold winter months. Never fear, there are lots of options for working out in Wairarapa, with everything from pilates to pole fitness training on offer.
Stay extra warm and toasty with Hot Yoga For You in Kuripuni, or try pilates at Love and Core in Martinborough or pole fitness at E-fit in Carterton. There are great gym facilities at City Fitness and CLM Health and Fitness in Masterton and Strength Nation in Greytown – to name a few. The community gyms based at Martinborough’s and Greytown’s rugby clubs provide yet more reasonably priced options.
Wairarapa has some of the best biking in the country – actually, we think it’s one of the best places to bike in the world! From mountainbike and BMX parks, to the celebrated Rimutaka Cycle Trail, to our rolling hills or flat and wide roads. There’s a terrain and biking style for everyone to enjoy during the winter season.
Don’t forget walking. There are so many wonderful walking opportunities in Wairarapa, like the Putangirua Pinnacles in Aorangi Forest Park between Martinborough and Cape Palliser, or one of the wonderful walks in the Tararua Forest Park like the Kiriwhakapapa loop track north of Masterton. Check out the Department of Conservation’s website for more information. Don’t forget to wrap up warm!
Keep winter ailments in check with the Wairarapa Natural Health Clinic in Carterton or Acupuncture and Herbology in Greytown. Both provide treatment for many health issues, so you can stay happy and healthy throughout the winter season.
Try hula hooping to get fit, build strength and confidence, and get moving to music with Coops Hoops. Regular classes are available, or you can get a group of friends together for a Hoopy Party, complete with beautiful vintage crockery, tea and cake from Alice’s Tea Party. Exercise and cake – sounds like the perfect balance to us!
It’s true that the more we take care of ourselves, the better we feel. So how about embracing winter, and treating yourself to some pampering during the chilly season?
A hot stone back massage, sauna and relaxing facial – sounds great right? Alluminus in Greytown has a variety of wonderful treatments to soothe, rejuvenate and make you feel great. Or you can try a manicure on those wintery, dry hands or a pedicure on those boot and shoe-covered feet.
Or, how about a Thai herbal compress massage that combines herbal, aromatic, thermal and massage therapies in one treatment at The Villa Beauty Therapy in Masterton?
Fancy some relaxing time out with a group of friends? The day spa at Brackenridge Country Retreat near Martinborough is great for group bookings. Enjoy luxurious treatments, a food platter, and the use of its alfresco spa and indoor, heated saltwater pool with some great company.
Planning a Special Event?
Is someone having a big birthday celebration, anniversary or perhaps a winter wedding? Want a wonderful venue with cosy fires and twinkling lights to create a warm and inviting environment for your special occasion?
Wairarapa has plenty of accommodation, catering options, and everything you need to make any occasion extra-special – from hair stylists to flowers and beauty treatments. Here are some of our venue picks for a Wairarapa winter special occasion.
Lacewood is a venue at Tuhitarata, an 1860s homestead, set in a park-like setting of old English trees and formal gardens, in South Wairarapa. It’s a secluded country spot with on-site cottages and shearers’ quarters that provide accommodation for 38, and a restored rustic barn that seats up to 200.
The new Luna Estate in Martinborough, with its beautifully designed restaurant, large terrace and landscaped gardens, provides a stunning backdrop for functions of all sorts and sizes.
Wairarapa is home to the only Relais and Chateaux accredited lodge in the Wellington region, Wharekauhau. This is an awe inspiring venue with a varied range of settings for weddings and special occasions – from the elegant and cosy lodge, through to expansive gardens and black sand beach that borders the estate.
A modern, architecturally-designed venue and the experienced team at Carterton Events Centre can transform your choice of space to a multitude of themes for any winter occasion, including weddings.
Copthorne Hotel and Resort Solway Park has great facilities for all sorts of occasions, with accommodation and eating options right on site in Masterton. Catering for events big and small, the resort has seven different rooms that can accommodate up to 500 people.
Early winter (May and June) are usually pretty good ‘birding’ (or bird watching) months, as the birds have finished nesting and rearing their young. By August, some bird species are getting ready for spring and a new nesting season. There are amazing opportunities to go birding around Wairarapa with our rivers, lakes and the coast. The Wairio Wetlands and Onoke Spit are particularly good spots for bird watching. Better still, why not take a professional birding tour? Te Rakau Birding takes half and full-day tours during most of winter (closed during July).
Winter can be a lovely time of year to go horse trekking. There are several options for trekking on large farms and stations around Wairarapa for different abilities, as well as different terrain. There are also “bring your own horse” options. Try Heavenly Horse Treks near White Rock or Gladstone Horse Treks, both of which operate through winter.
When the weather is not so great, there’s Aratoi in Masterton to delight and amaze you. We’re very lucky to have such a great resource in the Wairarapa, so why not use and take advantage of it on one of those cold murky days? Explore with the kids, appreciate art and have a cultural experience while you’re there. It’s usually free (koha is sometimes asked for), and the exhibitions are changed regularly.
Don’t forget the movies. Circus in Martinborough is open right through the winter – and check out the new boutique theatre in Kuripuni, set to open mid-winter, for your winter movie-watching pleasure. Sunset Cinema at Carterton Events Centre screens a film once a month with a hand-selected mix of drama, comedy and documentary movies, from around the world and right here in New Zealand.
How about some shopping? There are lots of great spots for different types of retail therapy – with each town offering its own unique shopping experiences. One shopping spot is Kuripuni, with its range of boutique stores stocking everything from shoes, clothing and jewelry to homewares and furniture. Visit The Whole Nine Yards in Kuripuni, which can help with interior decorating and design, renovating, furniture, drapery – the lot!
Greytown is well known for its clothing stores but, if you’re after a huge selection of recycled designer clothes, you can’t go past Encore. Greytown is also home to The Lolly Jar for the ultimate pick and mix lolly experience, beautiful linen and lifestyle store Linarte (linarte.co.nz), Medina Organic Skin Care, and Blackwell & Sons, which stocks beautiful hand-built Pashley Cycles. Still in Greytown, The Design Library has an amazing range of modern homeware and furniture. If rustic or antique furniture is your thing, visit Country Trader Antiques and Interiors in its new premises.
If you’re fond of a bit of ‘active relaxing’, you won’t be surprised that being creative and learning new skills brings many benefits – from tangible physical health advantages such as lowering blood pressure, to meeting new people and finding a sense of community. Here’s a small taste of what’s on offer in Wairarapa over winter.
The Village Art Shop in Greytown stocks a large range of artists supplies and holds regular art workshops for adults. Past themes have included Wairarapa clouds, rural landscapes and painting flowers.
Learn the tricks of the upholstery trade at Graham & Sons in Martinborough. Monthly one-day workshops give an introduction to the basic skills and techniques of upholstery.
Ventana Creative Collective in Martinborough hold workshops most weekends and regular classes during the week. With everything from ceramics to sandal making, there’s bound to be something you’ve not tried before!
One-day cooking classes at The Country Cooking School near Featherston are held throughout winter. With innovative food and recipes that feature fresh, seasonal ingredients grown on the farm, it’s a wonderful way to spend the day.
For the Love of Wine and Food
There’s a choice of vineyards and cafes that are open during the weekends in winter, with a few open on some weekdays, too. Try Martinborough’s Luna Estate for wine-matched tapas, a vineyard platter of local produce at Poppies, or the tasting plates and wine tours at Aurelia Restaurant at Murdoch James.
Take a Martinborough Gourmet wine tour with Tranzit. This tour includes a local guide, food and wine, and, with all your transport handily taken care of, you can relax and enjoy your day! How about a wine tour by bike? Indi Bikes, has a selection of bikes, trikes, four and six seaters for hire. Or you can try Green Jersey Cycle Tours for a guided ‘wine and vine’ tour or bike hire.
The beginning of winter is a special time for olive production, as it’s harvest and pressing time. An olive grove tour at the award-winning Juno Olives near Greytown or Olivo near Martinborough is a great winter experience. See how olives are grown and taste a beautiful Wairarapa product.
It always pays to check opening hours and book ahead.
You NEED to get the Kids Outside
For all ages, flying a kite on a blustery winter day is one of the simplest and most fun activities out there. Bundle up, and go find one of the many wide open spaces (without power lines and too many trees). Beaches, parks, school and sports fields are good places to fly kites, and there are plenty to choose from all over Wairarapa.
It’s a wonderful, universe-connecting thing to go outside and look up at the winter night sky. Dress warmly, brave the cold on a clear night and spend some time gazing at the stars. We’re lucky in Wairarapa, as there’s very little light pollution compared to larger urban areas. See the Milky Way directly overhead in winter and try to spot Matariki, which is visible from early June. Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster also known as Pleiades, and it signals the start of the Māori New Year. This year, Matariki is due to begin on June 25.
Go to the snow! Snow usually falls on the Rimutaka Hill a few times in winter and, if we’re lucky enough, it’ll stay around long enough to have a play in! If the road’s open and conditions are safe for driving (check the conditions first), why not stop in a safe place for a snow fight at the top of the hill?