Martinborough offers 25 wineries, good tucker and a buzzy nightlife, discovers Shandelle Battersby.
The charming Wairarapa town of Martinborough, just over an hour's drive from Wellington via the Rimutaka Hill, is an easy and fun destination for a weekend getaway. Here are five reasons ...
1. RED, RED WINE
Central Otago gets a lot of the attention when it comes to pinot noir, but this part of the country also produces outstanding drops thanks to a similar climate of hot sunny days, cool nights and low rainfall. There are nearly 25 wineries in the area, mainly boutique family-owned operations, and most have cellar doors you can visit. Several also serve food. Of particular note are Poppies Martinborough, Palliser Estate, Margrain Vineyard, Tirohana Estate and Ata Rangi. If the tasty brown stuff is more your style, the new Martinborough Brewery batch brews on site or, if you're short of time, go straight to the Martinborough Wine Centre and let its friendly staff guide you.
2. ON YER BIKE
Here's the great thing about all those wineries — they're really close to each other and they're on wide, flat roads. This lends itself to biking your way around them. Because Martinborough isn't on the main state highways, the traffic isn't too daunting and the locals are respectful of cyclists. You'll find Green Jersey Cycle Tours next to the i-Site in the main street and Stuart Edwards and his team will sort you out with a bike with a handy basket, and a helmet. Green Jersey has a big fleet of bikes, including several with child-friendly attachments, or if you prefer to let someone else do the work, there are rickshaws. Various tours are also available.
3. CHOW DOWN
Where you find great wine you tend to find good tucker and Martinborough won't let you down. A few local specialties are worth seeking out: Olivio has been growing olives at Hinakura Rd for more than 20 years and is the region's oldest olive grove. Owners John and Helen Meehan are happy to take visitors on a short property tour of the 1200 trees, then you can do a tasting. As well as its award-winning extra virgin blend, Olivio is known for its infused oils, with flavours including fennel, porcini, orange and smoked chilli. In nearby Greytown, visit Schoc which makes 85 flavours of gourmet chocolate, and in Featherston check out C'est Cheese, which stocks artisan New Zealand cheeses alongside cured meats, olive oil, chutneys, relishes, breads and more.
4. TAKE HOME SOME TREASURE
On Kansas St just off the square is the Old Postmaster's House, which has been repurposed into a second-hand shopper's delight. Every room of Vintage Treasure is bursting with antiques and collectables, and one section is devoted to upcycled treasures. More goodies can be found at Chambers on Main and The Retro Room in Greytown. Clothing-wise, Thrive in Martinborough is the home of "Thunderpants" — the super-comfy quirky underwear — and also stocks Kate Sylvester, Standard Issue, Sonny Knitwear, Metalicus, Birkenstock and more. For skincare, go across the road to Fox Organics, which sells its own brand of organic products for men, women and babies, candles, soaps and more.
5. HIT THE TOWN
Yep, you read that right - there is a buzzy little nightlife scene in Martinborough, and it is super cool. Micro Wine Bar on Ohio St, a cosy space with a great drinks list, hosts Bring Your Vinyl nights, while Cool Change on Memorial Square is decked out with retro and pop culture decor. Over the road is the historic Martinborough Hotel, which serves up excellent seasonal fare at its bar and grill. Enjoy a steak or fresh salmon before heading next door to its bar area to watch some footy or kick on.
The writer travelled courtesy of Heritage Hotel Group.