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Weekend escape: the delights of Martinborough

Being a Hawke’s Bay girl, Martinborough was right in my playground – but it’s been a while since I’ve visited and I felt it was high time to head back and sample some of the delicious pinot noir coming out of the region. Here’s my research in case you are also contemplating a winery visit to New Zealand or a meandering road trip (if you’re already here) to enjoy what this region has to offer.

What used to be a little colonial town built to service the surrounding farms about 65km north of Wellington and only 35km west of Masterton, is now a hub for the booming wine scene that has splashed into glasses here and around the country for the last 30 years.

The charming colonial Martinborough Hotel is still the centrepiece of the town and pinot noir is the main drop, thanks to the dry river beds that many of the vineyards stretch their roots into.

Martinborough vines

A little slice of heaven

What to do in Martinborough:

Toast Martinborough

With about 30 vineyards, this region is never short of a splash and they celebrate their wines at the annual Toast Martinborough in November. The one-day festival costs $70 and you get your tickets through Ticketek. Then off you go between 10am and 6pm and enjoy live music, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, shuttle buses to take you around the circuit, and a tasting glass (unfilled!) for you to fill and empty all day – if you have the stamina!

Martinborough festival

Fun and frivolity at Toast Martinborough! (Pic from Toast Martinborough Facebook)

Wine tasting

Of course, you don’t have to come here on one day of the year to try their wines! Pick out two or three of your favourites and tootle along for a tasting. Many are within walking or cycling distance from the village square. Some have restaurants and you can buy a bottle at most of them to take back to your hot tub (more on that below).

Click on this link for a list of wineries in Martinborough >>


Be’spoke’ touring

Cycling trails zig zag through the village and surrounding countryside, so if you’re feeling energetic, hire a bike and wobble off with the wind in your hair and your thumb on the bell. Check out Green Jersey Cycle Tours for bike hire and tours.

Jazz in Martinborough

Each September this three-day jazz event features live gigs each night and jazz musicians in cafes by day. A nice time to visit for a little toe tapping, mellow mood accompaniment to your holiday.

Martinborough Fair

I love a good fair, especially when there’s less tat and more beautifully handmade items for me to crow over like a magpie. The first Saturday of both February and March sees more than 25,000 people come from all over the lower North Island to browse the locally made goodies at around 450 stalls. It’s run by the South Wairarapa Rotary club and all proceeds go to supporting their work in the region.

Wharekauhau Markets

On the first Sunday of every summer month (until April), Te Kairanga Vineyard (TK, for short) hosts the The Wharekauhau Wine + Food Society Farmers Market. Tents are set up on the lawn and music will keep you entertained while you browse the stalls, sample the food, have a coffee – or taste the wines in the TK tasting room!

Wairarapa Farmers Market

Every Saturday the local farmer’s market is a veritable fruit bowl in Masterton. Grab a picnic table under the willow trees, a coffee and something to savour from the many sellers to listen to the love music. Come hungry because you can breakfast, lunch or brunch here then take something home to nibble on later.

farmers market

Wairarapa farmer’s market (Pic from the farmer’s market Facebook page)


Where to stay in Martinborough

Peppers Parehua is a stunning property on a private lake with its own jetty. They have individually designed villas and cottages, each with a cosy fireplace (I would fling open my veranda door in the middle of summer just to have the fire roaring) and two of the villas have a private hot tub to soak after a busy day visiting local wineries.

Set amongst the vineyards, the romantic among us can organise a picnic hamper from the kitchen and set off with a basket, a rug and a book of poetry (ok, I don’t know anyone who would do that, but what a way to propose!)

Speaking of which, weddings are very popular here, so if impending nuptials are on your calendar put this at the top of your list…

Peppers hotel

Peppers cottages

Peppers cottage

Put the fire and pour yourself a local drop

Peppers Martinborough

Peppers’ spa villa!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!