Everyone who’s ever been to New Zealand carries on about how good it is, and for good reason. While they all have different stories with different routes travelled, plenty have one strong recommendation about how to travel our neighbouring country – and it’s by car.
Now that I too sit in this group of boasters, I’d have to agree. You don’t want to miss out on the less travelled, tucked away towns just because you wanted to get somewhere quicker or more conveniently, do you?
Rhetorical question but moving on – Martinborough, in the region of Wairarapa, is one of these places. It’s only an hour-or-so drive (and a pretty one at that) from Wellington, and it’s also en route to Lake Taupo and Rotorua, so it can fit into your existing plans quite seamlessly. Just make sure you stay overnight as once you arrive, you’ll be having a few vinos.
Below’s a few reasons why you should squeeze it in.
Cycle through the cute wineries
The word “flat” tends to have negative connotations thanks to 13-year-old heathens who are boob-obsessed, however, the level roads of Martinborough are a real drawcard to the quaint town. Why?
You can visit all of its wineries by bike (simply hire from Green Jersey Cycle Tours) and hardly break a sweat thanks to its non-existent hills. We all know riding a bike is all fun and games until there’s an incline, right?
So if you’ve ever wanted to live your best Now & Then life, only with a wine in hand instead (and actually being above the legal age to do so), get around this home of over 30 wineries. Below are the Crème de la Crème, if you ask me.
- Cambridge Road Vineyard: 32 Cambridge Road
- Luna Estate: 133 Puruatanga Rd
- On Giants’ Shoulders: 31 Princess Street
Wine, food and music festival Toast Martinborough is also on November 17, if you’re keen.
Pre-game or kick on in Memorial Square
Given you need to pick up or return your bikes here anyway, I’d highly recommend starting or finishing your day in the town centre. To ease in or out of tastings, I’d recommend a visit to The Wine Bank, which is open 10am-7.30pm daily. They have wine dispensers powered by tabbed cards, meaning you can help yourself to your wine and size. It’s a dangerous concept but a clever one at that.
The French-influenced Union Square on the corner, which will make you feel right at home with its stunning, yet welcoming, interiors adorned with chandeliers and kitschy wallpaper, is a great choice for lunch or dinner (or brunch on weekends). Mesita is also a goer, offering up a Latin-inspired menu, and the outdoor secondhand furniture setup outside of Cool Change Bar & Eatery shouldn’t be missed.
Kick back in boujee accommodation
I usually couldn’t care less about bells and whistles when it comes to travel accommodation, namely because you should only really be sleeping in your hotel, motel or backpackers when on vacation, but I make an exception for Martinborough. Hear me out. If you’re stopping here, you’re stopping to slow down, have a wine or seven and relax. It’s not the kind of place that caters itself to a jam-packed itinerary, which is a good thing when it’s a pitstop between a bustling city like Wellington and an activity-packed place like Rotorua.
Peppers Parehua country estate features all the charm and invites plenty of relaxation. The villa interiors make you feel right at home, complete with windows and balconies overlooking Martinborough’s rolling green hills so you can kick back and take in the serenity. Live your most boujee life with a hit at the tennis court and a dip in the pool with a vineyard backdrop (before the grog, of course).
Stop into the cute lil’ towns on your way in and out
Featherston, the gateway into Martinborough from Wellington, is home to a range of book stores, cafes and C’est Cheese on the main street – an artisan deli owned by Paul Broughton. If you thought you were a cheese advocate, you ain’t seen nothing. If you’re going to stay at Peppers, I’d recommend stopping in for some picnic supplied, which dips, salamis and more on offer.
Greytown, your gateway out of Martinborough via Kitchener Street, is home to beautifully restores Victorian wooden buildings housing clothing boutiques, speciality shops and eateries. Only around a 15-minute drive out of Martinborough, places to look out for include Shoc Chocolates, Forest Food Organics and Blackwell & Sons Emporium – all on Main Street.
If you’re heading on to Rotorua, check out what to do here.
This writer travelled to Wairarapa as a guest of Wellington NZ.