A rustic gem on a rugged coast
Wellington is well endowed with a wild and beautiful coastline. For Mike’s birthday recently we went to one unique part of it, out beyond Wainuiomata in the eastern suburbs.
More precisely, we went to the Orongorongo Valley to the privately owned Orongorongo Station.
This farm has a fascinating history, from the very early days when you could only access the land via canoe, and supplies from Wellington were delivered once a year. Once a year!
Managed by four generations of the Riddiford family for the best part of 145 years, some of the other challenges thrust at them were the massive earthquake of 1855, a big fire soon after that, and a huge landslide in 1939 that left three feet of mud and debris throughout the homestead.
It was no cruisy country life.
After the property left family ownership in the late ’80s, a group of businessmen turned it into a stunning lodge and function venue. Unfortunately this venture was cut short when the property was levelled by fire in 1990. I saw a copy of an old brochure and the place looked amazing.
Today the current owners offer three farm cottages as holiday accommodation and have converted the old stables into a function venue.
We booked one of the cottages, the one which didn’t mention ‘4WD advisable’. To get to a couple of the houses you have to drive across a ford. Not sure either of our cars would be up to that!
One of the big drawcards for Mike was being able to use our bikes on the old Coast Road. This was the original stock route between the Wairarapa and Wellington, a section of which is now on the private Orongorongo Station land. I obtained permission from the owner and so when the Saturday in April finally rolled round we trundled out there with a gear/bike/food-laden car.
Unfortunately, the weather gods were in a grump. It was wet and windy – an early taste of winter.
This wasn’t all bad for me. I love winter and storms and to be honest I kind of prefer the Wellington coast in wild weather.
Orongorongo Station is a rugged place, located at the end of the valley and bordering the coast. We found our cottage, tarted up a little in recent times but still a fairly original farm house. It was big – which in this weather meant difficult to heat. All heaters on deck!
Such were the conditions we ended up flagging the ride, disappointing but it would’ve been miserable. Instead we opted for walks in the afternoon and the following morning. We explored the coast and some of the other farm buildings – lots of run down stuff, which I love.
I’d like to return (in summer!) to explore more of the coast and valley. The Turakirae Scientific Reserve is home to a seal colony, at the right time of year, and beaches that were left high and dry after earthquakes a few thousand years ago. There’s also an old WW2 radar installation up on the hills somewhere.
We returned to Wellington, wet and muddy but having cleared a few cobwebs. It’s nice to know you don’t have to venture too far from home to escape the rat race.