If you travel a couple of kilometres south from Masterton, you will find, on the right, a well-signposted road that takes you about 15km up the valley to the Mt Holdsworth campground, part of the Tararua National Park.
Stop off at Paul Melser's Pottery on the way up. He makes some wonderful domestic ware. I have one of his mugs filled with tea beside me as I write.
They possess that admirable quality that often characterised Len Castle's work, of looking rough but feeling smooth.
I discovered this jewel of a park last November, 2007, and went back again at the end of February, 2008, for some further exploration. Among DOC-administered parks it has the rare distinction of being dog-friendly, or, at least, dog-neutral. It also boasts a local DOC staff who have made a real vocation out of caring for the track and facilities. A demanding track is one thing. A neglected track is quite another, and Mt Holdsworth in a thousand ways demonstrates the thoughtful approach of those looking after it. Those of you accustomed to my somewhat crusty approach to many DOC policies and behaviours may be surprised at my effusiveness, but, hey, check it out for yourselves.
These pages deal with day trips but there are a number of huts within relatively easy reach of the campground if you want a night out. Campground "facilities" are minimal, which is great — plenty of room, no showers or laundry or kitchen, blah di blah, no store, no cell phone access, though you can ask the caretaker if you can use his landline in an emergency.
A tap provides water and there are toilets in the parking area at the start of the track, and some at the bottom of the campground, I believe. Park your overnight van or tent north of the road in, especially in summer. The prevailing wind then takes the road dust away from you, and there's plenty of it. Schools are frequent users of the site and the happy sound of young voices can often be heard well into the night. The van is almost soundproof. Wake to early bird songs and the early cicada, hoping to beat the early bird. (Interesting, there was a lot of cicada song at the campground but very little up the tracks.)
Tararua weather is notoriously changeable so do take wet and cold weather gear, even on day trips. Even on a hot day in February, nights can be chilly, so take that into account, too.