This Wairarapa town isn't just for wine lovers and weekending Wellingtonians, writes Elisabeth Easther.
Origin of name: Named for town founder, John Martin. Patriotic to the mother country, he laid the town out like a Union Jack, naming streets for foreign cities he'd visited.
Population: 1300, give or take.
Famous for: Martinborough is home to over 20 largely family-owned wineries, most within walking or cycling distance of each other.
Town centre: The picturesque town square is a focal point of local life.
Famous locals: Actor Mark Hadlow now calls the town home and Wyatt Creech was raised round these parts.
Cellar door characters: Martinborough is not short of colourful characters. Enjoy a wine tasting with Shayne and Poppy from Poppies Martinborough, share a laugh with Toby from Tirohana Estate or hear about Project Crimson from Clive Paton at Ata Rangi.
Sign language: The local butcher is renowned for his misspelled signs — anyone fancy some "lamb lion chops"?
Big business: Largely focused on vineyards and tourism and when you head out of town, you'll find plenty of beef, lamb and dairy farms.
Source of pride: The community spirit is a powerful force and they know how to fundraise, collecting more than $600,000 to build the new medical centre in 2008. So far, they've raised $1.4 million towards the new town hall and community hub.
Town fiestas: Toast Martinborough is a huge drawcard for wine and food lovers (November), Rotary's Martinborough fairs (first Saturdays in February and March) are great fun. There's also the Midwinter Affair night market, Jazz in Martinborough (September), Cruise Martinborough muscle car and hot rod event, plus there's usually a winery concert. The Greater Wellington Brew Day (February) features local craft beer, great food and entertainment.
Here for a short time: Hire bikes and cycle round the wineries. Or, if time's on your side, take a day trip to Cape Palliser, visit Lake Ferry Hotel, the seal colony at Putangirua Pinnacles and climb the steps at the lighthouse for amazing views.
Kids love: The seal colony and the safe cycling.
Best park: Considine Park is a big open green space, with a lovely stroll that joins the vineyard walk.
Best playground: Right next to Martinborough Square, there's a flying fox, swings, climbing frame and see-saws. When the new community centre is built, there are plans for this play area to be revamped into a world-class destination playground.
Best walk: The Martinborough Vineyard Walk goes past the holiday park, down to Palliser Vineyard along the vines (40 minutes). Or check out Rapaki Hillside Walk which passes through farmland and offers sweeping views from the top of the hill (one-two hours). The walk is closed from July to August for lambing.
Best view: Coming from Wellington and Featherston, turn right onto SH53 andfrom the top of the embankment you'll find views over the valley. Best place to pull over: Hau Nui (Maori for "big wind:) is a 15-turbine wind farm, a staggering sight.
Best swim: Try Ruamahanga River on a hot sunny day or hit the town swimming pool where the giant inflatable slide keeps the kids cool over summer.
Best museum: Martinborough Museum, a former library, was built in 1894 and is furnished to replicate an early settler's cottage. It is also home to an eclectic collection of artefacts and memorabilia including ball gowns, Maori taonga, photos and books. Open weekends and public holidays, 2pm-4pm or by arrangement. Entry's by donation and it's in Martinborough Square.
Nice arts: Thrive is full of New Zealand-designed and made clothing and is the home of Thunderpants underwear. They also have an area called Backspace where local artists host exhibitions.
Top shop: Pain and Kershaw have supplied the locals since 1873. This general store stocks clothing, toys, stationery and other useful stuff, while the grocery store has a huge range of food including local products. There's even a Mitre 10 hardware store.
Cream of the coffee: Sue at Kitcheners Dairy knows how to make great coffee and handily if you're having a late night, she opens at 3am, mainly for rural workers and fishing people — it's said she does most of her business before 7am. If you're not up with the lark, Cafe Medici will see you right; their Spanish eggs are muy deliciosa.
Best food: There's lots of good food in Martinborough, Pinocchio's is one of many delicious options if you fancy going out for a duck — try their duck confit with parsnip puree, kumara gratin and duck liver parfait.
Wet your whistle: The Martinborough Brewery Tasting Room sells a range of craft beers including their own ales brewed on site. Closing time 7pm. Their brewery platters include imaginative things like homemade sausage and herb rolls and Martinborough Beer Belly Jelly and Cheese Balls. Micro Wine Bar is also awesome, they have a super wine list and craft beer too — and they stay open till late.
Best place to stay: Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park offers a range of accommodation from family cabins, tent sites, powered sites and studio motel units. Right next door to the town swimming pool and 800m from the Square, they also provide bike hire and free wifi.
Best mountain biking: There's loads of cycling round these parts. The Rimutaka Rail Trail is a doozy of a ride while Tora Tora offers 13km of trails inside 150ha of native bush — a privately owned mountain bike park, it was designed with awesome rides in mind.
And to top it off, the local Lions organise the annual Skyline Challenge, offering access to farmland and great views that are usually off-limits.
Best adventures: The Rimutaka Cycle Trail is one of the Great Rides of New Zealand, passing through nearby Featherston, along the south coast and out to Ocean Beach. Or if it's paddling you're after, take a trip up river with Kahutara Canoes. John McCosh, who runs the place, is known as the local Crocodile Dundee on account of his taxidermy museum.
Wildlife: There are seals at Cape Palliser and a local project has been successfully reintroducing karearea (native falcons) to the area.
Best kept secret: In summer, check out the Patuna Chasm at Ruakokoputuna. This is a 2km labyrinth of towering limestone caverns and tunnels. Be warned, you'll get your feet wet, so pack an extra pair of socks.
Be warned: The river can surge dramatically and flood when it's not even raining in town so don't park too close to the water.
Thanks to Lisa from the Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park for taking time out from taming her hedge to talk.