About 27km (17 miles) north of Masterton on State Highway 2, Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre (tel. 06/375-8004; www.pukaha.org.nz) is New Zealand's main center for the captive breeding of endangered species. Wheelchair-accessible walkways wind through rainforest and aviaries where threatened birds such as the kiwi and stitchbird are making a comeback. Make your first stop the excellent audiovisual display, which will help you understand what the center is all about, and then pick up the free walkway guide. Make sure you see the live nest-cam film. Admission is NZ$20 for adults, NZ$6 for children 5 to 15, and NZ$50 for a family. It's open daily from 9am to 4:30pm (closed Dec 25); the monster eels are fed at 1:30pm and the kaka (native parrots) at 3pm.
The artistically minded might like to investigate Aratoi-Wairarapa Museum of Art & History, Bruce and Dixon streets, Masterton (tel. 06/370-0001; www.aratoi.co.nz), which is open daily from 10am to 4:30pm, showcasing local talent.
Heading south toward Cape Palliser, look out for Putangirua Pinnacles, a world-class example of badlands erosion. The pinnacles were formed in the past 120,000 years by heavy rain eroding an ancient gravel deposit, and it's worth the 30-minute walk off the road to see these spectacular formations. Quite eerie, and great photographic material. Farther around the coast, you'll find the cute fishing village of Ngawi and the country's largest breeding area for New Zealand fur seals.
The Hau Nui Wind Farm, New Zealand's first commercial wind farm, is 21km (13 miles) southeast of Martinborough on White Rock Road. Huge turbines are spaced along a 540m (1,770-ft.) ridge and make a dramatic silhouette against the skyline. The site itself is not open to the public, but you can check out a viewing area with information about the project.
If walking is your thing, consider the 3-day Tora Coastal Walk (tel. 06/307-8115 or 06/307-8862; www.toracoastalwalk.co.nz), which takes you through native bush and river valleys, staying at a different hill-country farm each night. It costs NZ$415 per person, and includes accommodations and luggage cartage. It's open from October through April and bookings are essential.
Fine gardens abound in the Wairarapa. The visitor center's Wairarapa Escape Planner lists great gardens along with other attractions of the region. The Garden Trails brochure lists 10 South Wairarapa gardens. The daily Wairarapa Garden Escape (tel. 0800/471-227 in NZ; www.tranzit.co.nz) is a good value; the tour takes you from Wellington or Lower Hutt by train to the Wairarapa, where you join a coach and visit two extraordinary gardens, the very formal Richmond (www.boxwood.co.nz) in Carterton (a Garden of National Significance), and the hillside garden of Assisi (www.assisigardens.co.nz). Lunch, wine tasting, and a wander though the village of Greytown are included. The package costs NZ$182 for adults (NZ$213 with Wellington hotel transfers), and NZ$115 for children 5 to 15 (NZ$138 with transfers).
There's no shortage of museums in the Wairarapa. The Fell Locomotive Museum, State Highway 2 & Lyon Street, Featherston (tel. 06/308-9379; www.fellmuseum.org.nz; open daily 10am-4pm), houses the only remaining Fell engine in the world. Admission is NZ$7 adults, NZ$4 children, NZ$15 family. Next door, the Featherston Heritage Complex (tel. 06/308-9517), displays early settler memorabilia and Japanese POW camp history. It's open Thursday and Friday 10am to 1pm, weekends 10am to 4pm, or by arrangement. Admission is NZ$2 per adult.
Shear Discovery, The National Museum of Sheep and Shearing, 12 Dixon St. Masterton (tel. 06/378-8008; www.sheardiscovery.co.nz), is the place to find out about the Wairarapa's sheep farming history and the amazing success story of the Golden Shears shearing competition. It's open daily from 10am to 4pm and admission is NZ$8 for adults, $2 children ages 5 to 15, and NZ$15 for families. Cobblestones Museum, 169 Main St., Greytown (tel. 06/304-9687; www.cobblestonesmuseum.org.nz), has historic displays and a blacksmith's shop. It's open daily from 9am to 4:30pm. Admission is NZ$6 for adults, NZ$4 for kids 5 to 15. Martinborough Colonial Museum, the Square, Martinborough (tel. 06/306-9736), is open Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4pm. Admission is by donation. Mount Bruce Pioneer Museum, 18km (11 miles) north of Masterton on State Highway 2 (tel. 06/372-5859; email@example.com), is Wairarapa's largest working museum with over 3,000 items on display. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm; admission is NZ$3 for adults, NZ$1 for children 5 to 12.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.