Akatarawa Valley

Winding through the steep bush-clad hills north of Wellington, the narrow road to the Akatarawa Valley (in the M?ori language, Akatarawa means "place of tangled vines") requires a degree of driving care, but it leads to a number of hidden gems. About 35 minutes north of Wellington on State Highway 2, turn left at the clearly marked Brown Owl turnoff north of Upper Hutt. About two minutes after the turnoff, look for Harcourt Park, where a number of scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.

A kilometer (½1 mile) farther on, a bridge spanning the junction of the Hutt and Akatarawa rivers leads into the Akatarawa Valley proper. Drive over the bridge, go past the cemetery, and then on the left, look for the Blueberry Farm and nearby Bluebank Blueberry and Emu Farm. After picking to your heart’s content, continue uphill on the very winding road. On the right is the Staglands Wildlife Reserve. It's around 7 km (4½ miles) to the summit, then the narrow road winds downhill. Look for the tiny wooden Church of St. Andrews nearby and turn right immediately for the Reikorangi Potteries. The road continues for about 3 km (2 miles) to join State Highway 1 at the Waikanae traffic lights, where you can head back to Wellington; from here, you're about 45 minutes north of the city.

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