Wellington and the Wairarapa Feature
- Places to Explore
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Winding through the steep bush-clad hills north of Wellington, the narrow road to the Akatarawa Valley (in the Maori 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.
Bluebank Blueberry and Emu Farm. This farm produces delicious blueberries and raises the large flightless emus. 04/526-9540.
Blueberry Farm. Pick your own blueberries (January), or go for a swim in the river. 04/526-6788.
Efil Doog Garden of Art. Shirley and Ernest Cosgrove tend a stunning 11-acre garden and sculpture display. They also have an art gallery exhibiting some fine early-New Zealand paintings. The grounds are magnificent at rhododendron time, October-early December. 04/526-7924. www.efildoog-nz.com. NZ$14. Open Oct.-Mar., Wed.-Sun.
Staglands Wildlife Reserve. This park is filled with friendly animals and birds that will eat out of your hand. As you wander through these peaceful 25 acres, meet the kea, kune-kune pigs (a native variety), deer, peacocks, and feed trout. Stop by the falcon aviary before picnicking by the river or enjoy some refreshment at the log-cabin café. The reserve is open daily. 04/526-7529. www.staglands.co.nz. NZ$16.
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. If you haven't eaten yet, the café is a delightful stop. 04/293-5146. www.reikorangi.com. NZ$7. Open Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun, and Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Sun.
Upper Hutt Information Centre. Get more information on the Akatarawa Valley here. 90 Main St., Upper Hutt, 5018. 04/527-2141. www.upperhuttcity.com.
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