An interesting and intimate forest range hugs the southerly tip of the North Island around storm-battered Cape Palliser. This miniature neighbour of the formidable Tararua Range is so remote and dissected by waterways that it presents an intriguing challenge for experienced trampers and hunters.
Aorangi Forest Park (also known as ‘The Haurangis’) lies between Martinborough and the southern Wairarapa Coast, two hours drive from Wellington. The main mountain system is the Aorangi Range with Mt Ross (983m) in the northern block as the highest point. Aorangi means ‘cloudy skies’ alluding to frequent southerly squalls that assail the bleak Wairarapa Coast. The sea’s influence keeps the range relatively free of fog and rain.
Access to the Aorangi Forest Park is from Martinborough following the Pirinoa Road towards Lake Ferry, which leads to the village of Whangamoana and nearby Putangirua Pinnacles. These statuesque pillars of rock resemble a jumbled profusion of giant organ pipes rising out of the gravels of an ancient riverbed. They rise 40 metres in narrow canyons forming artistic shapes etched by the forces of erosion.
The coast offers superlative views of the South Island mountains as you drive past lonely baches and the quaint fishing village of Ngawi. Further on is Cape Palliser seal colony, the North Island’s largest breeding area. Along this coast there is foot access up several of the streams that flow out of the park. A 3-4 day tramping route starts at the Mangatoetoe Stream and heads across the range to the Te Kopi ranger station. Experience is needed here, as there are a high number of river crossings.
The northern block is accessed from Turanganui Road, just south of Pirinoa, and tracks lead into the main catchment of the Tauanui River. From the east the narrow, winding Ruakokoputuna Road provides a link to old logging skid tracks in the forest.
After visiting the park stay over in Martinborough and visit the celebrated Wine Village. There are 20 vineyards close by and the salubrious wine trail walk is a civilized way to cap off your visit to the forest park.
Savour the southern Wairarapa lifestyle. Boutique wines compliment the beautiful Aorangi Forest Park.