Masterton is the commercial heart of the Wairarapa farming area, the archetypal ‘true blue’ Kiwi sheep country.

Expansive plains and rolling grasslands curve away to the distant skyline where small, silhouetted forms stand motionless. Closer observation shows that the thousands of seemingly lifeless forms are the ubiquitous New Zealand sheep.

The town is an easy day trip from Wellington and is popular as a country escape for the capital city’s residents. It is also a good stopover point for travellers wanting to explore the rural scene. There are hotels and motels available plus farm-stays, country cottages and exclusive lodges.

The most popular attraction in town is the picturesque Queen Elizabeth Park. Take time to stroll through the grounds, which feature a lake (with boats for hire), mature trees, children’s playground, suspension bridge, miniature railway, aviary and aquarium.

Masterton was the site of New Zealand’s first sheep station. This farming heritage is celebrated with pride when the city hosts the annual Golden Shears Festival. The reputation of this event ensures that the world’s best shearers flock to this competition in droves.

North of the town is a ‘must see’ nature reserve where captive-breeding programmes are helping to save our endangered native birds. The Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre has some of the world’s rarest birds – kokako, saddleback, kea, kakapo, kiwi and takahe housed in aviaries along a one kilometre walk.

To the south you can visit a number of small Wairarapa towns which have their own distinctive features. Carterton is renowned as the ‘Daffodil Capital’ of the country.

Greytown has an outstanding main street of genuine wooden buildings of Victorian design. Featherston has two unique museums based on the railways and local heritage. Martinborough is famed for its international award-winning pinot noir wines.

If you wish to spice up your visit with a taste of excitement the Tourism Wairarapa centre in Dixon Street, Masterton can direct you to classic Kiwi adventures such as jet boating, fishing on local rivers and surfing on the untamed east coast. Or you can try hot-air ballooning – the sky’s the limit.