Beyond the Rimutaka Hills and the town of Featherston is lovely Lake Wairarapa, which gives its name to the whole sub-region. It’s an undeveloped area with fields full of sheep and cows, almost no people, and of course the wonderful lake.
Down one side of the lake is a lovely little church – All Saints, Wairongomai. There’s nothing like a town around it, so I guess Wairongomai is just a gathering point; but the church is beautifully cared-for and is a real treat to visit.
The town of Martinborough used to be just a farming centre, but about 30 years ago it was discovered this was another part of New Zealand that could be used for growing grapes. Nowadays there are about 20 wineries in the area, making a good contribution to the New Zealand wine industry. It’s not a huge industry and it’s all a bit of a niche activity – but that justifies all kinds of stuff like wine trips from Wellington, a trendy cafe culture, etc etc. Personally I find it all a bit tedious, but that may be because it’s difficult to drive a car and do a wine crawl at the same time.
They all look much the same, but here are two of the better-known wineries: Palliser Estate and Te Kairanga.