Martinborough is a tiny village in New Zealand, perfect for wine-lovers and those who want a relaxing break with good food and picturesque surroundings.
Situated in the Wairarapa region, just over an hour north of Wellington, Martinborough is a popular weekend getaway for local residents. One of New Zealand’s few “wine villages”, Martinborough’s pinot noir is second only to Central Otago and the region is also known for its chardonnay, riesling and pinot gris.
A European-style village, life in Martinborough is focused around the town square which was built in the shape of a Union Jack in 1881. The village is charming and makes a lovely getaway for a few days. Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip to the Wairarapa.
Getting to Martinborough is easiest by car. It’s only 65 kilometres north-east of Wellington over the Rimutaka Range – a beautiful drive, with twisting roads. You can also do day tours from the capital.
Once you’re in Martinborough, many wineries are within walking distance, although having a car does allow you to explore the greater Wairarapa region. Cycling is also a popular way to tour the wineries, with bike hire available in town.
There are over 20 wineries in the Martinborough (most within walking or cycling distance from the town), however the broader Wairarapa wine region extends to Masterton, Gladstone and other smaller settlements. As most are small and family-owned, the entire Wairarapa region only produces around three per cent of New Zealand’s wine. If you're short on time, you can do a winery tour from Wellington, otherwise here are a few to visit during your stay:
Ata Rangi is one of New Zealand's most famous wineries and offers an excellent tasting experience in a leafy setting with friendly and extremely knowledgeable cellar-door staff. A Martinborough-style leader for 30 years. Open daily.
Martinborough Vineyard is regularly listed among New Zealand's leading producers. It has a friendly cellar door with a wide range of styles available for tastings. Platters are offered during summer. Open daily.
Palliser Estate was part of the first wave of wineries to become established in Martinborough, with first plantings in 1984, and continues to be one of the regional leaders. Open daily.
When you’ve had enough of wine, head to Martinborough Brewery to try the local beer. Beer tasting is offered and platters and sharing plates are also available.
For such a small town, Martinborough is spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Here are some of the must tries near town.
Tirohana Estate’s Restaurant for fine dining and casual meals with vineyard views
Cool Change on the main square for good food and a warm welcome.
Karahui Wine Bar for tapas-style food with an excellent wine list
Poppies Martinborough for platters on the terrace with a glass of local wine.
Union Square at the Martinborough Hotel for a drink and pub-style food
Cafe Medici for brunch
Circus, a restaurant at a boutique cinema with a seasonal menu.
Martinborough has several options for boutique accommodation as well as a number of bed and breakfasts and a couple of resorts and hotels. Here are a few popular places to stay near the village.
Parehua Resort is one of the leading resorts in the region and is just a short walk from Martinborough village. There is a range of accommodation options, including 30 suites and villas or garden and lakeside cottages. There is an on-site restaurant and each of the cottages on the property has its own sitting area with fireplace and private deck.
The Martinborough Hotel offers traditional country-style hotel accommodation in the heart of Martinborough. The verandah rooms are in the original 1882 building, while the courtyard houses seven spacious garden rooms furnished in rustic style.
Pinot Villas is just off the main square and features self-contained one- and two-bedroom villas and suites with spa baths, all recently redecorated, in a lovely garden setting.
Margrain Vineyard Villas are surrounded by vines and offer a country ambience just a stroll from downtown. Distinctive self-catering studios and villas have private balconies.
Wharekauhau Country Estate is one of New Zealand's best-known luxury lodges, overlooking Palliser Bay on a working farm on the fringe of the Martinborough vineyards. Facilities include an indoor pool, fitness centre, spa treatments, tennis, croquet, petanque and archery. Best if price isn’t an issue.
Brackenridge Country Retreat and Spa, a laid-back rural hotel set in 14 acres of farmland just five minutes’ drive from town. Stay in one of the understated studios or cottages, with a gym, spa and heated pool on site.
The are a number of good walks in the surrounding area. Some of the below are accessible by foot from town, others are a relatively short drive away.
Palliser Vineyard Walk - This walking track takes you around Palliser Vineyard towards the river and back through the centre of the vineyard.
Kahikatea Walk (30 min drive) - Walk through recovering wetland and remnant of flooded forest on this short, easy loop walk - a good option for kids.
Waiohine Gorge – Walk along the gorge with a stunning backdrop. The suspension bridge spanning the gorge forms a spectacular gateway to the Tararua Forest Park.
Featherston Reserves Walkway - A series of four short walking tracks all within an easy walk of Featherston.
Patuna Chasm - A stunning walk through the bush, limestone chasm and along Ruakokoputuna river, with fossils, ferns, stalactites, waterfall, eels, a wildlife and native birds. Cost is $42 for adults, $20 children
The Toast Martinborough wine festival is held annually on the third Sunday in November. Billed as New Zealand's premier wine, food and music festival, Martinborough’s population increases to around 10,000 during the event.
Martinborough Music Festival is a surprisingly popular chamber music event which runs in September each year.
Martinborough Fair is a huge craft market held on the first Saturdays of February and March each year. The event is a colourful and lively affair with over 500 stall holders, buskers, street performers and other entertainment.
Martinborough also makes a good base for exploring the wider Wairarapa area. The surrounding countryside is dotted with small vineyards and wineries, which are well worth exploring, and there are many things to do in the Wairarapa. Greytown is a lovely spot to stop and browse through antique stores and boutiques and is also home to the Wairarapa Wine Centre, with a wide variety of local boutique offerings. Golfing, horse trekking, boating and fishing are also popular local pastimes.
If you have the time, take the beautiful drive out to Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island, which is about an hour of out Martinborough - you can also join an organised tour if you don't have your own transport. Explore the dramatic coastline, climb to the top of the iconic 19th-century lighthouse (the spectacular views are worth the stairs) and watch fur seals frolicking in the water.
Last Updated 3 September 2023