The Wairarapa is the large tract of land east and northeast of Wellington, beyond the Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges. It is named after Wairarapa Moana – otherwise known as Lake Wairarapa, translating as 'sea of glistening waters'. This shallow 80-sq-km lake and the surrounding wetland is the focus of much-needed ecological restoration, redressing generations of livestock grazing. Fields of fluffy sheep still abound, as do vineyards and the associated hospitality that have turned the region into a decadent weekend retreat.
In recent years this picturesque slice of New Zealand's rural heartland has gained an unlikely Hollywood connection, with blockbuster movie directors Sir Peter Jackson and James Cameron both putting down roots here.