The Tararua Range 
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Introduction

The Tararua Range provides the people of Wellington, Wairarapa, Horowhenua and Manawatu with an outstanding variety of tramping, hunting and walking opportunities in a wild, natural landscape at their back door.

Highlights

At 116,535 ha it is the largest conservation park managed by DOC in the North Island.

The main entrances are:

  • Holdsworth on the Wairarapa/eastern side
  • Otaki Forks on the Kapiti/western side
  • Waiohine Gorge on the Wairarapa/southeastern side

Place overview

Activities

  • Camping
  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Mountain biking
  • Walking and tramping

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Find things to do and places to stay Tararua Forest Park

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Fishing

Trout fishing licenses are necessary and can be obtained from any Fish and Game Council office or sports equipment store. The fishing season is from 1 October to 30 April.

Most rivers and streams in the Tararua Range contain brown trout. The best fishing is considered to be on the eastern side of the range where anglers can have a very satisfying back-country fishing experience. The Waingawa River has a maximum size limit of 550 mm to protect large old trout that would otherwise be easily depleted.

Climbing

At Waiohine Gorge there are two abseiling platforms with secure anchor points situated near the shelter at the entrance to the park. Wairarapa Outdoor Pursuits (WOP) is approved to use the platforms. Anyone else who wishes to abseil must seek approval from DOC Masterton Office.

Kayaking and canoeing

River trips

Pack-floating is the traditional method of travel down the many gorged rivers in the park in summer during times of low flow. Several of the rivers are particularly suited to the use of flotation equipment such as ‘li-los’ and inner tubes. Popular full day trips are the lower Tauherenikau and Hutt gorges, the Ohau River below Blackwater Stream, the Waingawa River below Mitre Flats and the Waiohine River from Totara Flats to the end of Waiohine Gorge Road. However, the mid-Otaki Gorge, from Waitewaewae Hut to Otaki Forks, is a demanding river trip and usually requires an overnight camp.

Rafters and canoeists can run the easier waters of the lower Otaki and Waiohine gorges. The Mangahao Gorge is subject to alternating low flows and flooding due to power generation activities and should only be attempted by parties with knowledge of the weather and intended power generation actions.

The Hutt River Gorge between Pakuratahi Forks and Te Marua in Kaitoke Regional Park is suitable for whitewater rafting and kayaking during times of moderate flow. The gorge can be dangerous and extreme care is needed as grade 3+ rapids will be encountered. Experience is necessary since the trip can vary from 2 - 6 hours depending on the craft and water flow, so it is advisable to start no later than 10:00 am.

River levels are recorded at various points along the main Tararua Range rivers by Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils. You can also call their Freephone on 0800 496 734.

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    About this place

    Getting there

    Via Holdsworth

    Holdsworth is the main eastern entrance to the forest park.

    Turn off SH2 into Norfolk Road, 2 km south of Masterton. Follow signs to Tararua Forest Park, approximately 15 km from SH2.

    There is a daily rail connection and regular bus service between Wellington and Masterton (17 km from Holdsworth). Taxis or, for large parties, pre-booked buses, can be hired for travel between Masterton and Holdsworth.

    Via Waiohine Gorge

    Waiohine Gorge is a popular southeastern entrance to the forest park.

    Turn off State Highway 2 just south of Carterton into Dalefield Road. Follow the road signs indicating Tararua Forest Park. The road-end car park is approximately 15 km from State Highway 2. Waiohine Gorge Road is a winding, narrow gravel road with one ford crossing a stream.

    Via Otaki Forks

    Otaki Forks is the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park. 

    It is 19 km inland from Otaki township – approx. 1½ hour drive from Wellington or Palmerston North.

    Due to a slip, Otaki Forks is currently best accessed via the Otaki Forks emergency track. The track starts from the Shields Flat Historic Reserve carpark.

    Know before you go

    Weather

    The Tararua Forest Park is often plagued by bad weather, and especially the open tops are exposed to cold southerlies, the cause of several fatalities over the years. Weather conditions can change very quickly, and trampers always need to be prepared for the worst conditions.

    Routes across the tops are recommended for experienced trampers only. Good navigation skills are required, as particularly in misty conditions route finding can be difficult. Always carry a map and compass and know how to use them or ensure you have at least one experienced person in your party.

    Weather for the Tararua Forest Park.

    Contacts

    Kapiti Wellington Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 4 384 7770
    Address:   18 Manners Street
    Wellington
    Email:   wellingtonvc@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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