Featherston, Cape Palliser & Wairarapa Moana
Featherston was a staging post when the Rimutaka Hill Road was a track, then became an important railway town. During World War I an army training camp was built nearby; this was converted into a Japanese POW camp in World War II.
Featherston’s the closest town to Wellington and gateway to the wild stretch of cliffs, rocks and water that is Palliser Bay. Lake Wairarapa, famous for its birdlife, is five minutes drive away.
- Veteran of the days when trains traveled over, not under the Rimutakas, the world’s one and only Fell engine is at the Fell Locomotive Museum.
- Take a glimpse at the history of the rugged Rimutaka Range here.
- See the history of the town and military camps at the Heritage Museum complex on the main highway./
- Find out about the history of the military camps here.
- There’s horse racing and plenty of family entertainment at the Tauherenikau Races.
- The road to Cape Palliser is one of the region’s highlights. The shoreline was settled by Maori about 800 years ago and traces of their occupation can still be seen.
- Make a detour to the Lake Ferry Hotel for sea views and seafood.
- About 20 minutes drive along the road to Cape Palliser, you can walk up to weird and wonderful Putangirua Pinnacles, formed by 120,000 years of erosion.
- Other sights along the coast road include Ngawi, a rugged fishing village. Keep an eye out for native fur seals – there’s a permanent colony just before you come to Cape Palliser. The lighthouse was built in 1897 and the view is worth the hike up 258 steps.
- Find out about the history of the Lighthouse here
- For a serious treat, book lunch at the opulent Wharekauhau Country Estate.
- Featherston has two gateways into the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Park, the unique wetlands between SH2 and the coast.
Take the Western Lake Road toward Lake Onoke, and picnic in the Wairarapa Lake Shore Reserve, the only remaining area where native forest still reaches the lake shore. Walk along Onoke Spit, and look across the sea channel toward Lake Ferry.
Stay on the central highest strip of the narrow spit, as the adjacent area is habitat for rare species of plants, birds, and insects-rare Caspian tern breed on the spit. Look for banded dotterel, albatross and penguins, or check out to sea-dolphins, seals, and whales are sometimes visible.
- Or take the Kahutara Road and enjoy a short walk around Matthews and Boggy Pond Wildlife Reserve. Use the new viewing hide to look for white herons, stilts, bitterns and royal spoonbills, as well as ducks and swans.
- The Department of Conservation, iwi, local and regional councils, local farmers and the wider community, are all working together to restore the balance of nature in the wetlands around Lake Wairarapa. And to create a special place for visitors.