When I first arrived in Wellington it’s safe to say it felt slightly anti-climatic. I’d just lived in the vibrant city of Sydney for six months and Wellington certainly felt like everything Sydney wasn’t. I also noted the sudden pang of homesicknesses. As I continually observed Wellington I soon realised it wasn’t that I wanted to go home at all. It was that Wellington reminded me of my home city Sheffield, a LOT! Over time I’ve come to believe that it isn’t just the city that makes Wellington a wonderful place to live, it’s everything around it. I’ve come to love taking day trips from Wellington to some beautiful destinations like Castlepoint. Castlepoint is a locally treasured spot on the east coast of the North Island and is truly awe-inspiring. Home to a working Lighthouse and stunning rugged coastline, here are some of the wonderful things to do at Castlepoint!
Where is Castlepoint?
Located on the edge of the Wairarapa coast Castlepoint is a much-loved spot in New Zealand. I’m yet to meet a Kiwi who hasn’t recommended that I check this place out. So as part of our bid to explore as much of New Zealand as possible during our Working Holiday Visa one gorgeous Thursday afternoon, we jumped in the car and headed for the coast! Before we went to Castlepoint I didn’t particularly know what there was to do in the area except visit the lighthouse but there is so much to explore around this gorgeous landscape.
If you’re road-tripping the North Island then you have to squeeze Castlepoint into your itinerary along with all of these spots too! But if you’re based in Wellington then a trip to Castlepoint makes for the perfect day out. From Wellington the drive is so easy, you’re literally following State Highway 2 from the city all the way to Masterton. From there it’s only another hour until you reach this perfect seaside town. I’ve left a driving map with instructions on how to get to Castlepoint from Wellington by car. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any public transport linking Castlepoint to Wellington.
Things to Do at Castlepoint, New Zealand
Visit the Lighthouse
When you arrive at Castlepoint the first thing that’ll catch your eye is, of course, the lighthouse. It’s definitely the main attraction on this rugged peninsula! Parking is available on the beach right next to lighthouse. As you drive into Castlepoint you’ll see a car park next to the public toilets. You can park here and walk along the beach to the lighthouse or keep driving until you meet the other carpark. Don’t worry about taking a wrong turn because the road comes to an end at the carpark.
Once you arrive on the beach take the very obvious path that leads you to the lighthouse. This lighthouse walk is super easy and only a 30-minute return. There are some stairs and the track can be exposed to high winds but other than that it’s a gorgeous walk that isn’t too strenuous. The views back over the town of Castlepoint are stunning as is the lighthouse stood before you.
The Castle Point lighthouse first shone its light in 1913 and still beams every night to this day. The light beams for 3 times every 30 seconds and is one of the two-beam lighthouses still functioning in New Zealand today. The lighthouse is fully automated and has been since 1988. I love lighthouses and think they have such a special purpose still to this day! Whilst you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of this lighthouse there is no public access inside. The lighthouse will and should be at the top of your list of things to do at Castlepoint!
Photograph the Views from the Lighthouse
As well as exploring the lighthouse you’re going to want to take your camera. Castlepoint is every photographer’s dream, I honestly could’ve sat there all day snapping away. The landscape is gorgeous from every angle. The cliff edges have been carved by the ocean over the years creating an irregular rocky coastline – it’s perfect for those leading lines! As you look back on the lighthouse you’ll also see Castlepoint Rock in the distance making for more great photography and a wonderful hike which I’ll mention further down!
Watch for Marine Life
As you reach the Castlepoint Lighthouse you need to keep your eyes peeled. There is so much marine life hanging around nearby. Look out into the ocean and see if you can spot some whales, they get both Humpback and Orcas in this area of New Zealand! You might also be lucky enough to see a pod of Dolphins or some fur seals!
We saw 10 fur seals during our day trip to Castlepoint! The seals tend to hang out near rocks so as you start the walk up to lighthouse make sure to keep having a look off to the left beside you. There’s a collection of rocks from where the ocean has battered away against the land and that’s where the seals will most likely be hanging out! We watched a little seal head back into the ocean from the beach and it was so beautiful to watch it’s moments like that that remind me how lucky I am to be in such an amazing country! If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll have probably seen the video, make sure you are following along so you don’t miss any more of my travel moments!
Whilst searching for marine life with the naked eye can be fun but if you really want to spot some of those whales then pack a pair of binoculars!
Walk the Deliverance Cove Track
The Deliverance Cove Track is one of the best things to do in Castlepoint. The lighthouse may be the star but this walk offers breathtaking views of the lighthouse and beaches that line the coast. This walk is a 1.5-hour return and really easy. As you leave the carpark, follow the track into the forest, through the pine trees and onto a track high above the beach. Follow the weaving footpath through the grassland whilst taking in the views! This walk shows off the lighthouse and beach from a different angle and takes you right up to the foot of Castle Rock!
The walk has 2 route options. You can walk to the bottom of Castle Rock and turn around following the same track back to the carpark. Or follow the track down onto the beach walking along the sand and back to the carpark. There’s then the option to climb Castle Rock even though I personally do not think it’s wise nor do I think it’s necessary.
Climbing Castle Rock
Castle Rock is that flat looking hill you can see in all the photographs of Castlepoint. It certainly makes up a part of this unique landscape and there is an option to climb it at your own risk! I only recommend it if you have climbing experience. By that, I mean experience with steep climbing and scrabbling. The hill is extremely steep and the footpath that you see leading to the top isn’t maintained by the Department of Conservation. There’s a warning sign at the foot of the rock so if you do carry on it’s at your own risk.
We personally didn’t climb the rock even as avid rock climbers. New Zealand is windy and I did not fancy being flung off the hill. The track is poor and you can see just by looking that there is really no grip nor is there any kind of ledge. You are fully exposed. I personally don’t think you need to climb Castle Rock because the view is going to be the same as at the foot just slightly more elevated! I thought it was worth a mention because in the distance there looks like there’s a clear path to the top. Whilst there is a track the conditions are poor.
Stroll on the Beach
Castlepoint beach has been voted by New Zealanders as one of the top 10 beaches in the country and I can see why. The landscape is incredible and so different at every angle! You’ve got the rocks creating the barrier between land and sea. The lush green hills in the distance and golden sand lined with sand dunes! I can imagine this beach really coming to life in the summertime. We visited Castlepoint in Spring but there was already plenty of fishermen, locals walking on the beach and visitors taking it all in. You can stroll down the beach from the main carpark in Castlepoint.
No matter what time of year you visit Castlepoint you’ll soon see that fishing is amongst the local’s favourite things to do in Castlepoint. We saw fishermen on every section of the beach trying out their luck in catching their supper!
Best Time of Year to Visit Castlepoint
Any time of the year! Honestly, Castlepoint will be beautiful in summer and winter. We visited in Spring and it was perfect. The sun was shining so we made the most of every minute exploring the area. In summer I imagine this spot will get very busy so spring is a great shout if you like to avoid the crowds! The only thing I’d say is to try to get a clear/dry day at least! There isn’t much else to do in Castlepoint except explore the outdoors so if it rains it could turn into a miserable day out!
Freedom Camping at Castlepoint
What I love about New Zealand is the freedom camping culture. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world that allows freedom camping and there’s a designated spot at Castlepoint for it! Located in the carpark nearest to the lighthouse is the freedom camping carpark. There are toilets but the water isn’t to be drunk unless boiled first! The views onto the beach will be incredible from the back of your van, as will the sunrise at Castlepoint in the morning – I’ve heard that it’s simply spectacular! Of course, like all the freedom camping spots in New Zealand, make sure you leave no trace. There are rubbish bins in the town so use them. We are so lucky to be able to freedom in New Zealand so respect it and look after our beautiful shores.
I hope that this post has given you a little insight into some of the things you can do at Castlepoint New Zealand. It’s a beautiful day trip from Wellington and a must-see for your North Island itinerary! If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends – I would be so grateful! Where’s your next adventure? Let me know in the comments below! If you want a monthly dose of wanderlust straight into your inbox then subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar!