Castlepoint is a remote and ruggedly beautiful area on the east end of New Zealand’s Wairarapa region. While it’s only about two and a half hours from the country’s bustling capital, it feels like an entirely different world out in Castlepoint.
The area is known for its landmark lighthouse and an abundance of ocean fishing and shellfish-collecting opportunities (and surfing, too). Golden-green rolling hills meet the wild ocean here in a stunning show of natural beauty. It’s a bit out-of-the-way to get there—but that’s partly what makes it so special.
Read our guide below to discover what to do over a day or two in Castlepoint!
WHERE TO CAMP
This no-frills holiday park offers tent camping, powered van sites, and cabins, all situated close to the beach and surrounded by the scent of the sea. Our absolute favourite spot here is Cabin #9: this sweet little bare-bones cabin sleeps two and has epic ocean views.
Bring your own blankets or sleeping bags, but pillows and cooking tools (pots, pans, water boiler, etc.) are provided. It has a two-burner cooktop inside, or use the shared barbecues at the camp kitchen. Bathrooms are shared but are clean and a quick walk from the cabin’s front door. Leave your windows open at night and listen to the lull of the waves crashing, and drink your evening wine and morning coffee on the private picnic table… pure bliss.
If you have a self-contained campervan, you can also stay for free at the Castlepoint Beach carpark. There is a bathroom nearby and picnic tables aplenty, but bring your own drinking water.
WHAT TO EXPLORE
Meander up to the lighthouse and walk all around the surrounding area, which is characterised by limestone cliffs studded with fossilized shells, thunderous blowholes and gorgeous ocean views (look out for whales, dolphins and seals!). There is also a sea cave to explore on the left side of the lighthouse path. After dark, bring a can of beer or two and sit on the stair-steps above the brightly lit lighthouse while watching the starry sky.
Top tip: The lighthouse is THE place to be at sunrise—on a clear morning, you’ll get to watch the sun rise over the ocean, and the lighthouse will likely be bathed in beautiful lighting.
Take the Deliverance Cove Track to the top of Castle Rock for 360˚ amazing views over the sea and rolling pastures. You can start the walk on the beach and climb up to the top and then head back to the carpark through the hills and forest, or vice versa. If it’s been rainy, it’d be best to just do an out-and-back hike from the beach side as the hilly loop trail can get quite muddy.
Top tip: Make it up to the top of Castle Rock for a sunset. You’ll likely be rewarded with the most beautiful show of light and colors from a place that feels like you’re right up in the sky. The last time we were there, we caught a sunset with a rising full moon coming up over the ocean. It was so beautiful! With a blanket to lounge on and a bit of wine, it made for an unforgettable evening.
TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP
There is a small dairy/market in the township (with fish ‘n chips, snacks and beers) and a pub on the outskirts of town, but the best idea is to grab supplies on the way in to Castlepoint.
We recommend a stop at Moore Wilson’s in Masterton, which you’ll drive through whether you’re coming from Wellington or up north. This awesome local supermarket chain is New Zealand’s answer to a European-esque open-air market: think tons of fresh produce, local breads and a divine meat & cheese selection. They also have heaps of good beer and wine options. Pick up picnic and dinner supplies here, then make your way to Castlepoint (about another hour’s drive).
A barbecue dinner and some local Wairarapa wine make for the perfect end to a day of soaking in the fresh sea air.
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
Looking for more ruggedly beautiful coastline to explore on the North Island? Read our guide to Raglan!