Masterton promotes itself as being a ‘World Away Over the Hill’ but still offers all the amenities for a perfect holiday retreat.
The 32 hectare Queen Elizabeth Park is perhaps its most endearing asset for families. Attractions include a superbly designed lake, an aviary, children’s playground, mini-golf, swing bridge, glorious gardens and a deer park. The lake draws young and old alike with paddle boats for hire, a miniature train and resident ducks that must be the best-fed canards on the planet.
The popular Genesis Energy Recreation Centre features a hydro slide, lazy river and an extensive outdoor pool with a slide. The Museum of Early Childhood has a fine collection of antique dolls, toys, games, books and clothing plus enough timorous and tactile teddy bears to make a pretty rowdy picnic. The Aratoi Museum of Art and History is well worth a visit and the Henley Lake Park has a variety of family friendly walking trails.
Wairarapa’s extraordinary geographic diversity makes the region a mecca for nature walkers and trampers. Within easy driving distance from Masterton are three forest parks, several lakes, numerous rivers and some of New Zealand’s most remote and isolated coastline. A ‘Wairarapa Walks’ booklet is available at Visitor Centres listing 62 walks. The Rimutaka Incline Track explores the route of New Zealand’s onetime steepest railway. Uncrowded roads lead you down to Palliser Bay where wonderful bird-watching, fishing and diving trails can be followed for hours. There is the added delight of a seal colony at Cape Palliser and the amazing Putangirua Pinnacles can be seen en route. Mount Holdsworth is the often snow-capped backdrop to Masterton offering a wide range of tracks. In an intimate bush setting 30 km north of Masterton is a renowned conservation centre called Mount Bruce, where you can witness the recovery of rare endangered birds such as kiwi, kakapo, kea, kokako, saddleback and takahe.
Outdoor activities are on offer to challenge soft adventurers and extreme thrill seekers alike; ecotours, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, sky diving, rafting, abseiling, caving, bridge-swinging, ballooning, quad biking, jet boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, scuba diving, clay-bird shooting, horse trekking and flying should all get the adrenaline flowing. More leisurely activities include guided farm tours, golf, garden visits, heritage walks and art and craft trails incorporating around 30 galleries and outlets.