Wellington and the Wairarapa Feature

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Akatarawa Valley

Winding through the steep bush-clad hills north of Wellington, the narrow road to the Akatarawa Valley (in the Māori language, Akatarawa means "place of tangled vines") requires a degree of driving care, but it leads to a number of hidden gems. About 35 minutes out of Wellington on State Highway 2, turn left at the clearly marked Brown Owl turnoff north of Upper Hutt. About two minutes after the turnoff, look for Harcourt Park, where a number of scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.

Half a mile farther on, a bridge at the junction of the Hutt and Akatarawa rivers leads into the Akatarawa Valley proper. Drive over the bridge, go past the cemetery, and then on the left, look for the Blueberry Farm and nearby Bluebank Blueberry and Emu Farm. After picking to your heart's content, continue to Efil Doog Garden of Art; from there the windy road goes over wonderful old trestle bridges that cross the Akatarawa River to the Staglands Wildlife Reserve. Look for the tiny wooden Church of St. Andrews nearby and turn right immediately for the Reikorangi Potteries. The road continues for about 3 km (2 mi) to join State Highway 1 at the Waikanae traffic lights, where you can head back to Wellington; from here, you're about 45 minutes north of the city.

Exploring

Bluebank Blueberry and Emu Farm. This farm produces delicious blue berries and raises the large flightless emus. 1301 Akatarawa Road, Upper Hutt. 04/526–9540.

Blueberry Farm. Pick your own blueberries (January to March), or go for a swim in the river. 1229 Akatarawa Road, Upper Hutt. 04/526–6788.

Staglands Wildlife Reserve. Staglands offers visitors the opportunity to feed and freely interact with wildlife in a beautiful natural environment. As you wander through these peaceful 25 acres enjoy the walk-through aviaries, with kea, kaka, and numerous brilliantly colored birds. At the stables you'll meet the native kune kune pig and impressive Clydesdale horse. Watch rainbow and brown trout fighting over their dinner at the Trout and Eel Pool. Have fun exploring the nooks and crannies of the recreated Old Bush Settlement. Climb to the Deer Park lookout for a stunning view of Staglands. Enjoy a picnic on the banks of the beautiful Akatarawa river, alternatively there is scrumptious food on offer at the log cabin café. 2362 Akatarawa Road, Upper Hutt. 04/526–7529. www.staglands.co.nz. NZ$20. Daily 9:30–5.

Reikorangi Potteries. Wilf and Jan Wright display local handicrafts and paintings, plus their own pottery. Wander around the small animal park to view rabbits, llamas, wallabies, and a host of different birds, or stroll along the riverbank and take a swim. The café is a delightful spot for lunch. 27 Ngatiawa Road. 04/293–5146. www.reikorangi.com. NZ$8. Wed.–Sun.

Visitor Information

Upper Hutt Information Centre. Get more information on local attractions and the Akatarawa Valley here. 836 Fergusson Dr., Upper Hutt, 5018. 04/527–2168. www.upperhuttcity.com.

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