Though it is Wairarapa's largest town, workaday MASTERTON, crouched at the foot of the Tararua Mountains some 30km south of Pukaha Mount Bruce, is of only passing interest outside festival time. Central Masterton is bounded on its eastern side by the large Queen Elizabeth Park, and strolling around the formal gardens is a pleasant way to pass an hour or so. Opposite, Aratoi, corner of Bruce and Dixon streets (daily 10am–4.30pm; gold coin donation; Web: www.aratoi.co.nz ), offers regularly changing insights into the history of the Wairarapa region along with some excellent art exhibitions. Shear Discovery, 12 Dixon St (daily 10am–4pm; $5) is an excellent little museum on all things woolly. Housed in two century-old shearing sheds relocated from rural Wairarapa, it's filled with everything from sheep pens and shearing handpieces to pressed bales of wool stencilled with the marks of sheep stations.
Draped over the hills to the west of town, the Tararua Forest Park, while not among New Zealand's tramping hotspots, offers some excellent walking through beech and podocarp forests to the sub alpine tops, where the notoriously fickle weather can be dangerous.