Ten staff tips for making the most of a long weekend visit  

by Alex Wall

Photos: Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre


Long weekends are always a great chance to get outdoors and go on discovery expeditions with friends, tamariki and whānau.

If you are in the Wairarapa then a visit to Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is a must. The tourist attraction is just 20 minutes drive from Masterton and nestled directly between the Tararua and Wairarapa regions. Here we share some of the staff recommendations for visitors that you won’t always find in a guidebook. We hope you enjoy!

Chat with Kahurangi 

The friendly North Island kōkako is the only one of her species in captivity anywhere in the world and she enjoys visitors.

Move to the front of her enclosure and she should come to you. Patience is often rewarded with kahu’s array of special antics and tricks! She may even ‘speak’ to you,




Look up at the Redwoods 

Some of the reserves tallest trees are our Redwoods. They are majestic to behold and speak to the power of nature that is all around us.

Pick out a tree and stand at it’s base. When you are ready, look directly skywards towards the tree canopy and marvel at the grand sight that beholds you.


Greet the gods & ancestors

Throughout the reserve are colourful pou (signposts) that mark key locations and whakapapa (link through genealogy and sprituality) to gods (atua), ancestors and the creatures in the ngahere (forest).

Often people will acknowledge them and show their respect by touching them or through hongi (traditional greeting of rubbing noses).

Explore the wētā hotels 

Some of our greatest creatures are our smallest. Wētā are nocturnal and often like to rest up in dark places during the daytime.  

Have fun exploring the hotels but if you can’t find a wētā, ask one of our rangers. They often know which hotels are occupied!



Picnic in the Reserve 

Not everyone knows that you can bring kai (food) into the reserve and picnic on the tables. Just don’t bring alcohol or pets.

One of our favourite tables is the shaded round one that seats 8 people in a private corner of Te Wāhi Wĕtā. It’s surrounded by native trees and is a nice relaxing spot to enjoy some lunch.

Read a book at the summit

If you have time, the 2-hour Loop Track (Te Arapiki o Tawhaki) has some stunning vistas. Rangers that walk it regularly say you’ll want to spend time at the top.

The view is beyond stunning and there are plenty of spots for a family picnic. You’ll often have the summit to yourself and it’s a beaut spot to rest up, do some writing or read the next chapter of your current novel.

Order the French Toast Bake

It’s available from the Kākā Café and you won’t regret it!  Baked sourdough French toast square, served with crispy bacon, caramelised banana, maple syrup and cream.

It’s ohh-la-la alright and worth every cent of the $18 pricetag. Trust us, this dish will earn you brownie points with the loved one(s) in your life.  

Rongo te mauri

Feel life’s essence as you disconnect from the fast pace of daily life and reconnect to the forest.

Slow down, breathe, relax and make a conscious effort to reach out to nature both mentally and physically. ‘Sense’ your wellbeing shift as you attune to the forest through all of your senses and feel life’s worries drift away.

Long weekend’s are all about relaxing and there’s no better medicine than a dose of nature.

Find a special tree 

Connect with it and designate it to you or your family as a special indigenous tree that you can come back to and visit.

Overtime you’ll see how your tree is growing and changing with the seasons. It’s a lovely way to help educate young tamariki (children) and keep them entertained and engaged with nature.




Keep exploring!

Why stop at just Pūkaha? Make a day of it and visit the many special places in the district that are nearby. Take in some of the unique shops at Eketāhuna or do the Eketāhuna Cliff Walk.

A visit to ANZAC Memorial Bridge just north of Pūkaha is a poignant way to remember the past and reflect on the sacrifices that others have made for us.

But if you have to, explore the giftshop on your way out. There’s usually something for everybody!