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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrJust a short drive from the capital of Wellington, Martinborough makes for a perfect weekend escape from the city. Offering high sunshine hours and a plethora of vineyards for visiting, transport yourself to another world in the Wairarapa region.
HistoryJohn Martin was the founder of Martinborough, and designed the town’s street in the pattern of the Union Flag.
Before the proliferation of viticulture in the town, Martinborough was largely a rural service town for nearby farms.
Although viticulture is the town’s main lifeblood, other industries around Martinborough include beef and sheep farming, olives, lavender and nuts, and fishing at the nearby coastal settlements of Ngawi and Cape Palliser. Tourism is also an important industry.
ActivitiesThe main reason for visiting Martinborough is to sample the region’s famous wines at their source. The region is most famous for its pinot noir variety. Most vineyards are in the northern and eastern sides of the town. Notable wineries include:
- Schubert Wines
- Te Kairanga
- Tirohana Estate
- Pallister Estate Wines
- Dry River
- Martinborough Vineyard
- Murdoch James
- Ata Rangi
- Harvest Estate
A fun way to see the region’s wineries is via bicycle. A variety of companies offer both bicycle hire and tours. Take a guided tour, or hire a bike and make your way around the wineries at your own pace. The town is relatively flat and the distances between wineries are short, making for easy biking and a lovely way to spend a sunny day!
Some of the companies offering cycle hire include:
- Green Jersey Cycle Tours
- Bike Hire Martinborough
- Martinborough Bicycle Hire
- Indi Bikes
If you fancy cycling further afield, check out the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, a beautiful scenic ride.
You are spoilt for choice when dining in Martinborough. Team a wine tasting with lunch or dinner at a winery, or try one of the cafés or restaurants around the village square in the center of town. Boutique shops in the town center also offer a chance for some retail therapy.
Toast Martinborough FestivalToast Martinborough is an annual festival celebrating the region’s wines. Celebrated in November each year, around 10,000 festivalgoers converge on the town’s wineries for a day of wine tasting, fine food, and music.
Tickets inevitably sell out within a few minutes of going on sale online, so be quick! Tickets entitle you to entry, a free tasting glass, a festival program, and free transport between the vineyards on the day.
Live music from top national acts is hosted by the wineries throughout the day. Individual wineries also offer special courses, food tastings and activities throughout the day, so check out this website for the most up-to-date itinerary.
Accommodation is under heavy demand during the festival weekend, so be sure to book well ahead (some options are booked out over a year in advance).
If you miss out on accommodation in town, don’t fret! It’s just a short trip from Wellington. Transport to the festival from Wellington is available by train, public buses, official Toast Buses, or via private transport.
Upon entry, you can buy “Festival Francs”, the official currency of the festival. Use the francs to buy tasting amounts of wine, and delicious food at the participating wineries. If you have any francs leftover at the end of the day, you can exchange them for wine vouchers at the vineyard of your choice.
The Martinborough FairThe Martinborough Fair is a biannual occasion that draws over 25,000 people each year. Focused on providing high quality, New Zealand made goods, the fair is a perfect way to spend a weekend morning or afternoon. Based in the town square, come early for the best bargains. Grab a coffee and make your way around the variety of stalls.
Check out this website for upcoming Fair dates.
Jazz in MartinboroughHeld the first weekend of September each year, kick back in a café with a glass of wine in hand, and enjoy some relaxing jazz. Spanning four days, local and national jazz artists offer a wide variety of gigs and events. Cafés host a variety of artists during the day, and each night there is a headline act. Street musicians are also out in force during the weekend, adding some color to a stroll around the town.
Getting ThereComing from Wellington, follow State Highway 2 north of the town and simply follow the signs for Martinborough. Forming part of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, the route is well-marked.
It is also possible to take the train from Wellington, check out this website for timetables. Hop off in the town of Featherston, and catch the Featherston to Martinborough bus, which meets most trains.
Once in town, the Martinborough i-SITE Visitor Center is a good source of advice about accommodation, activities, wineries and where to eat. Open 9AM to 5PM Tuesday to Saturday, and 10AM – 4PM Sunday, Monday and public holidays. The center is located at 18 Kitchener Street.
Where to StayA range of accommodation is available in the town, from bed and breakfast and house rentals, to a five-star hotel.
Check out this link for lodging options.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Mar 17, 2016