Wellington sits on the southern tip of the North Island and is surrounded by mountain ranges, rivers and a spectacular coastline that spans the Cook Strait. Life can get busy in the city, but you only need to take a short trip to experience tranquility. From Martinborough to the Wainuiomata Coast, here are Culture Trip’s best places for camping in Wellington and nearby.
The Ōtaki Forks Campsite, which is just 83km (52mi) from the city, is a great place for those keen to explore the Tararua Forest Park as it is within walking distance from your tent. The campsite itself is a large open space but there are plenty of little corners to ensure you get some privacy. There’s no power but there is running water and communal bathroom facilities. Just don’t forget to stop at the caretaker’s house on arrival so you can pay. From there, you can head to Te Horo Beach on the Kāpiti Coast, a short 23km (14mi) drive, or cool off in the clear waters of the nearby Ōtaki River. Wake up early to hear the birds calling and take a walk along the Trig K track to the highest point of the island Tuteremoana, which is 521m (1,709ft) above sea level.
If you’re looking for beach camping in Wellington’s vicinity, head northeast for around 162km (100mi) past the Hutt Valley and Masterton to the Wairarapa Coast and to Castlepoint Holiday Park. This laid-back campsite is perfect for the whole family because it faces a sandy beach and tidal lagoon. Take a walk along the Castlepoint Scenic reserve to explore the lighthouse, the fossil-rich limestone reef and the 160m (525ft) tall Castle Rock. It also has everything you need, from ablution blocks to kitchen facilities (where you can hire a secure cupboard, or use the microwave), and even a 24-hour laundry room.
A very quick drive north across Wellington harbour and you’ll soon arrive at Kaitoke Regional Park, Upper Hutt, where you can immerse yourself in nature. The best time to arrive is when the sun is setting because you’ll be blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. While there, you could go hiking along one of the many trails or take the Pakuratahi River track to visit the filming location for the fictional elven valley of Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The park is often described as one of the best in the country to visit with its peaceful atmosphere and the sound of birdsong and trees rustling in the background. You won’t be disappointed.
If you’re into food and wine, this is the campsite for you. It’s in Martinborough (famous for its wine) in the South Wairarapa district, around 79km (49mi) northeast of Wellington. It’s also close to the town centre, which you can easily walk to from the campsite. Best of all, they have a cat called Tui who is on hand to meet and greet those arriving. There’s also a free public pool right next door, especially useful if you’re there in the summer. The TOP 10 Holiday Park is also family-friendly, has a playground area, bathroom and barbecue facilities. Don’t forget to explore the region’s natural wonders such as Lake Wairarapa and Cape Palliser.
Head 35km (22mi) east from Wellington to the Catchpool Valley Campsite in the Wainuiomata Coast region of Greater Wellington. It’s worth coming here just to look at the stars. And if you want to completely escape, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no mobile phone reception – though there is an emergency phone outside the field base if you need it. Discover the Ōrongorongo Valley in Remutaka Forest Park on one of the many tracks, or spend the day exploring the Catchpool stream. The nearby Gracen Stream Campsite is another great option to explore the park’s many hidden gems.
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