The district spans the administrative regions of Wellington and Hawke's Bay. Having been settled from both the north, and south and been the subject of reorganisations of local government, the district's northern borders are vague and gradually blend into southern Hawkes Bay region. The area south of Mt. Bruce is always known as Wairarapa. The area to the north of Mt. Bruce is called the Tararua or occasionally attributed to the Manawatu district, because it feeds the headwaters of the Manawatu River, which cuts throught the Tararua mountain range via the Manawatu Gorge to flow to the west coast of the North Island.
The agricultural industries, including forestry, cropping, sheep and dairy farming are major land users. The area around Martinborough, in the south, is renowned for its vineyards and wine, while beer has been made at Mangatainoka, in the north, since 1889.
Many of New Zealand's endangered native birds can be seen at the National Wildlife Centre at Mt. Bruce, which lies just south of Eketahuna, considered by some to be the epitome of rural New Zealand towns.
Famous people born in the Wairarapa include: